Jazz fraternity mourns as bassist succumbs to Covid

Alistair Andrews, 61, passed away on June 23
Bassist Alistair Andrews worked with many local and international artists.

The local jazz scene has lost a bit of its rhythm with the death of Alistair Andrews, a prolific bassist, composer and music teacher.

Mr Andrews, 61, who used to live in Rondebosch but more recently lived in Plumstead with his wife Michelle and son Verdine, died on Wednesday June 23 after contracting Covid-19.

He had been in Groote Schuur Hospital since Thursday May 27.

As news of his death spread last week, those who had known him and worked with him, recalled his generosity of spirit and how he had touched many lives through his involvement in the jazz scene.

Mr Andrews started playing the violin and classical guitar at a very young age and had made his name as a professional bass player who had worked with many local and international artists.

He had also lectured music technology part-time at the University of Cape Town for about eight years before moving to to Paul Bothner Music’s Education and Music Tech wing, where he was still employed before he passed away.

Ms Andrews said she and Mr Andrews had met at university and had been married for 35 years.

“It takes someone very strong to understand the life of a musician,” she said.

“We had a very good understanding with each other when it came to many things, including money. He was an outdoors person that thoroughly enjoyed growing Bonsai and his own vegetables.”

She said Mr Andrews was always composing in his home studio and joked that she knew what it felt like to hear a song being played at least 100 times.

“His creation of music was our bread and butter so I would never question him about his gigs and events,” she said.

“He would often play unusual instruments and always wanted people to be able to groove to the sound of his music.”

Dylan Roman, Mr Andrews’ colleague and friend of 17 years, spoke of his friend’s kind personality and sense of humour.

“His personality and humour always stood out for me, especially his willingness to go out of his way to help someone even if they were complete strangers. He had a wealth of musical knowledge and he was a technical wizard.”

Mr Roman said that Mr Andrews loved to share information and always encouraged people to have their own voice musically.

“His music connected to a much broader audience and I feel like when he wrote, he wrote stories and painted pictures,” Mr Roman said.

“His songs were very artistic and he never wanted to conform to conventional rules. That is what makes his music unique and refreshing.

“He loved his family, his ’Mich’ and Verdine.

“In my mind there was a beautiful balance between music and family which is not an easy thing to have, because creative music will always tug on your soul and sometimes you lose yourself and disconnect from your loved ones, which was not the case with him,” said Mr Roman.

Mark Johnstone who became very good friends with Mr Andrews after they met at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival said: “He has truly impacted my life by showing me exactly what’s happening in the music world, especially when I needed guidance. He has taught me about how to conduct oneself on stage and that has helped me in my professional life.”

Mr Johnstone said Mr Andrews had always “’put himself out there“ and would share his knowledge freely.

“He was always the one to spur me on to take the risk with my music when I didn’t have the confidence,” said Mr Johnstone.

Friend and fellow musician Benedict de Maar said he and Mr Andrews had collaborated on a number of studio projects. “When busy with a project, he always gave it everything he had, never holding back anything.”

Mr Andrews, he said, had been “proud of his family and gave them priority, always making sure that their needs were met”.

“They also supported his career every step of the way. His family were truly an inspiration and a stepping stone in his career.

“He was a dedicated family man who wrote music depicting his love and appreciation for them,” he said.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival project manager Craig Parks said: “The thing that stood out for me was that Mr Andrews was always interested in infusing South African music with African Culture and technology. He stuck to his roots and loved musical gadgets.”

Jazz musician and UCT’s senior lecturer and head of jazz studies, Amanda Tiffin said she and Mr Andrews had met about 15 years ago. “What stood out about Mr Andrews was his enormous kindness and generosity of spirit. I think you’ll hear story after story of how he has helped musicians with technology, with lessons and with assistance with musical equipment.”

Ms Tiffin said Mr Andrews was always exploring ways to incorporate his own heritage in the music he made and tried to incorporate musical sounds from all over the world.

“He loved to play music at any and every opportunity. If there was any chance to play, he was there, ready with one of his many basses,” she said.

Mrs Tiffin said Mr Andrews being a Bonsai hobbyist was testament to his gentle spirit and love of beautiful art forms.