June 2011

Review by Zina Mae Titus

by Zina Mae Titus - Whats on in Cape Town

Cape Town was suffering from the winter blues on Wednesday and most people had already made the slow, rain-splashed trek from the city to the suburbs after a day at the office. But for a few young and old Jazz-lovers, the Jason Reolon Trio had something very special in store at the ultra-chic Freeworld Design Centre in Waterkant St on the Fan Walk. Even the brooding clouds held back as a warm, balmy night materialised for the crowd clad in serious hues – black, grey, brown – bustling around with champagne and wine in anticipation of the mini concert.

If there’s one word to describe this performance, it’s ‘clean’. From their suave suits and polished looks, to the cobweb-like black and white motion monographs splattered across the stage by Artist Marcii Goosen, everything was immaculately presented. Jason Reolon on the piano, Wesley Rustin (Double Bass), and Heinrich Goosen (Drums) are known to be great musicians individually, but together they create a sound that is not only soulful but is uncluttered by unnecessary ornamentation. And that’s exactly the type of Jazz I like - clean. No glitter, no theatrics, just music stripped down to its purest form. The trio steered well clear of the often frantic displays of virtuosity, providing a mature and emotionally textured performance – a finely woven tapestry that was never too hard on the ear or too soft to fade into background music. The middle of the week met its match in this performance that transported the crowd from the concrete jungle to a classy bar in the 1950s. And while the music was reminiscent of cool jazz (a la Miles Davis) it was not a mere photocopy. The repertoire was jewelled by pieces that were overtly South African-influenced but respectful of the classic American greats.

The two featured guests, Buddy Wells (Tenor Saxophone) and Tony Paco (Percussion) each deserve their own mention. Wells added an element of mystery with his delicate treatment of the tenor saxophone. Musicians love to show off their virtuosity, but it’s often more challenging to take a slow piece and create a nuanced and emotionally stimulating performance. Wells achieved this without fault, drawing the audience into deeply coloured and sentimental soaring solos. Tony Paco is highly entertaining to listen to – and to watch. The man is meant for the stage. He used not only hands but his elbows, his mouth and even his forehead to create sounds that were technically on point but often also comical, adding a dynamic that was a nice balance for the earnest sincerity of the other musicians.

Sitting snugly in the striped cushioned seats (definitely the most comfortable in a while) and sipping on a glass of cabernet, I started thinking how well red wine and jazz go together. But, just like good wine, jazz has to be finely crafted to be properly enjoyed. The album is well-made, unique, and definitely worth a listen. Take a sneak peek on www.jasonreolon.com and be sure to catch them in action next time.

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Outline Review by Waldo Muller

by Waldo Muller - Die Burger

Although his latest album is fully in a jazz mode, Jason Reolon, lecturer in jazz piano at the University of Cape Town and member of the award-winning groups Breakfast Included and Restless Natives, is not a musician who is limited by genre or context.
Reolon (34) can boast music partnerships (from Vicky Sampson to Goldfish) as varied as the events he has performed at: from serious jazz concerts to World Cup soccer matches, fashion shows, horse races and comedy festivals.

He plays keyboards (including grand piano, Fender Rhodes electric piano and Wurlitzer and Hammond organs) in a variety of styles, from traditional jazz to funk, lounge and electronic dance music, even rock. However, judging by ‘Outline’ – the trio album of piano, bass and drums that Reolon recently launched in Cape Town – his first love is jazz.

With Wesley Rustin on double bass and Heinrich Goosen on drums, Reolon the jazz pianist has first-rate co-explorers of the musical routes his compositions map. ‘Outline’ is the trio’s second album. Its debut, ‘Off the record’, was released in 2007.
The nine tracks on ‘Outline’, all Reolon compositions, were recorded in October 2010 at the SAE Institute in Cape Town. The album was mixed and mastered at Sear Sound and Sterling Sound in New York. It was launched in June 2011 at the Freeworld Design Centre Auditorium in the Cape Waters Building, 71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town.

For the live performance at the launch of the album, Reolon’s trio sound was expanded with the addition of guest musicians Buddy Wells (sax), Tony Paco (percussion) and Ariella Reolon (cello). The result was riveting. Doubling the size of the group doubled the scope to appreciate the high quality of Reolon’s compositions and arrangements. The music was visually complimented by a backdrop of digital art in motion, created by Marcii Goose, designer of the striking CD cover.

The tracks on ‘Outline’ are often melodious with fragments of catchy tunes between more complicated jazz improvisations. The piano playing is lyrical rather than aggressive. The bass and drums are lively but the piano stays unhurried. This has a relaxing effect on the listener while simultaneously being musically interesting. Reolon and his fellow musicians show that accessible jazz does not have to be boring.

The title track is the opener and it is a winner on which the trio creates a sound that seems bigger than that of a three-piece band. It is unpredictable and slyly rolls along, lazy and passionate at the same time. The next few tracks are more tranquil, but calm with pep and oomph: an energetic calmness.

Reolon’s sound is often not identifiable as specifically South African, but has a more global character – with echoes of Cape Town and Africa and Cuba and New York and Europe. Nevertheless, shortly after halfway through the album, on ‘New Moon’, the music subtly yet unmistakably evokes something of the South African jazz canon.

On the seventh and eight tracks, ‘Glass Roots’ and ‘Mother City Blues’, the album breaths the South African jazz spirit further and more fully, more directly.

It is always remarkable when good musicians channel an indigenous jazz sound through the discipline and minimalism of only piano, bass and drums. Reolon and his two colleagues do the same with the Latin American approach to jazz on the album’s last track, ‘Heinsight’ – and thereby celebrate their musical freedom and versatility.

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