David Alston reviews Tony Yoko’s Seventh Annual Jazz & Blues Weekend.
‘Zingg went the strings of my piano’
Billed as ‘The Boogie Woogie Piano Ambassador from Switzerland’, Silvan Zingg threatened to take the roof off The Theatre on the Square (TOTS) in Sandton last weekend with two rousing concerts that must have converted many a listener to one of the lesser-known genres of jazz. In essence, says Wikipedia: “Boogie-woogie is characterized by a regular left-hand bass figure … for the most part tunes are twelve-bar blues… mainly associated with dancing.” Indeed, the lyrics of ‘Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie’ – Silvan’s opening number dating back to 1928 – consist entirely of instructions to dancers. But who cares? In a little over two hours, the audience were treated to a virtuoso display of piano playing which demonstrated that Silvan was at ease not only with boogie-woogie but also the blues – surely the essence of jazz – and standards such as Duke Ellington’s ‘Caravan’ and Les Brown and Ben Homer’s ‘Sentimental Journey’.
Following two other classics: Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis’ ‘Honky Tonk Train Blues’ (recorded just a year before ‘Pinetop’s’) and ‘Cow Cow Boogie’ — written though not used in a 1942 film but subsequently a huge hit for Ella Mae Morse — Silvan was joined by Marc Duby on bass, Tony on drums, saxophonist Phil Holder (a dead ringer for Elwood Blues in the iconic cult film ‘The Blues Brothers’ – but without the dark glasses), guitarist Mike Slavin and vocalist Wendy Twyford, who all demonstrated their affinity for the blues with foot-stomping performances of ‘Watermelon Man’, Bonnie Rait’s ‘Love me like a man’ and a swinging encore of Bobby Troup’s ‘Route 66’, written in 1946 but best remembered for Nat ‘King’ Cole’s version in his classic ‘After Midnight’ album recorded in 1957.
It was more of the same after the interval, highlights being Silvan’s tribute to legendary American guitarist BB King (one of the many ‘greats’ with whom he played over the years), a funky ‘Night Train’ which segued into ‘The Hucklebuck’ and a no-holds barred ‘Got my Mojo Workin’, written by Preston Smith in the fifties and made famous by Muddy Waters and Jimmy Smith in subsequent versions. That all the musicians were having a ball was evident throughout, with Silvan holding it all together at the piano and showing incidentally, that a second career as a stand-up comedian awaits him if he ever decides to give up his day job. A standing ovation at the end showed that good jazz has no boundaries, and does indeed ‘wash the dust of everyday life from off one’s feet’ as Jazz Messengers’ leader and drummer Art Blakey once told his audience.
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