Thursday, October 21, 2010

Jazz at Razzmatazz, Walmer Gardens

As I noted earlier, in the late-1980s South Africans were starting to openly flout apartheid segregation laws. One key area where this happened was at jazz concerts. Music knows no colour boundaries, and jazz appeals to all races equally. Thus it was that I often found myself at an upstairs jazz venue, Razzmatazz, off the then Main Street in Port Elizabeth on a Saturday afternoon/evening, or on a Sunday evening at the historic Walmer Gardens Hotel, which sadly is no longer a hotel. Anyway, the following sketches were probably done at both venues - on tiny slivers of paper the size of a Post-it.

I seemed to be working with a very fine felt-tip pen, or fine-liner, though sometimes the lines even look like I was using an old fashioned dipping pen. I think this is a black guy playing bass. Key for me here is the shading on that left hand, which gives the whole thing structure.

Because the bits of paper were basically square, for elongated drawings - usually involving saxophones - I simply drew them diagonally. This is another township saxophonist who joined white musos from PE to great acclaim from the largely white audience at Walmer Garderns. (In fact, I'm not sure what the liquor laws were at the time, but black people were probably not legally allowed to be in such places, though by then I think the cops turned a blind eye, as they had more serious worries - like the growing UDF-led insurrection.)

I enjoy the way the guy's face and hand are distorted, capturing something of the vibe of a jazz session.

His head turned to the side, this rhythm guitarist keeps the beat.

This guy seems to be playing a clarinet.

This guy I remember well. A British expat who apparently was a senior executive at a PE firm, he was also a mean trumpet player. Every time he let loose a bit of improvisation, the crowd rippled with enthusiasm and excitement.

This guy's head is awfully distorted, but that's the nature of sketching from life in just a few seconds.

Funny how often great guitarists have not the classical long fingers one associates with the instrument, but rather short, fat, practical fingers which still get the job done admirably.

It wasn't often I was able to do as complete a sketch as this one.

There was always a vocalist. I remember one Dutch guy, a rather unkempt older guy, who nevertheless did a sterling job behind the mic.

Another angled sax player in action.

And that dynamic trumpeter again.

This might have been at the other place, Razzamatazz, since we now have a stand-up bassist.

This is that trumpeter again. When he placed that mute into the end of the instrument - often he would remove and reintroduce it for effect - he caused an even greater stir.

I can almost feel the energy this guy generated.

Another angular bit of jazz-making.

Another seated stand-up bassist.

And another angled saxophonist.

And what of the patrons - like this one, contemplating the sound.

Razzmatazz (or razzamatazz), according to my Concise Oxford, means the same as razzle-dazzle, which is "glamorous excitement; bustle". There was certainly excitement aplenty at this club, particularly for us young whiteys as we experienced something of what a future non-racial society might be like. I have other drawings, including a large one of keyboard-player Errol Cuddemby, stashed away somewhere, but the above one is probably the only which contains the word, possibly misspelt.

I had moved into a flat in Lawrence Street, Central, thanks to the generosity of a colleague, Michel, who just happened to be a lesbian. Anyway, I came to grips with a whole sub-culture I had been largely unaware of - and this was one of the young women who were part of it.

The "coloured" community in PE is large, and Razzmatazz was a favoured haunt for many.

I can't recall doing this - remember the beers would have been flowing - but rather like the squiggly lines which form the face of an older man.

This is probably another patron at one of those shows.

And this guy, I think, was one of the musos.

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