SA jazz legend’s albums reissued

22 June 2007

The long out-of-print recordings of South African vocalist Sathima Bea Benjamin, a key link between the American and South African jazz traditions, will be re-issued digitally throughout the upcoming year, along with never-before-released material.

Originally from Cape Town, Benjamin is one of South Africa’s musical treasures, having established herself as a master interpreter of American jazz standards.

Currently living in New York, she recorded 11 albums throughout her career, earning a Grammy nomination and recording with legendary figures such as Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, and her husband, Abdullah Ibrahim.

Benjamin’s interpretations earned her a devoted audience and the highest praise of critics, with Jules Epstein of the Philadelphia Tribune writing: “There may be 10 great jazz singers alive today, and Sathima Bea Benjamin is unquestionably one.”

In Jazztimes, Robin Kelley describes Benjamin as “South Africa’s greatest jazz singer and one of the best the world has ever known.”

Her work in jazz and in support of the exiled African National Congress (ANC) during apartheid earned her the Order of Ikhamanga, South Africa’s highest civilian honour in the creative and performing arts, in 2004.

This week, Benjamin digitally released Cape Town Love. The album, recorded during a return trip to her native South Africa, showcases Benjamin’s ability to infuse American jazz standards with Cape Town rhythms and scales.

Cape Town Love features the pianistic talents of Henry February, a pioneer in the early Cape Jazz scene and mentor to major South African jazz figures, including Abdullah Ibrahim, Chris McGregor, and Benjamin herself.

In October, Benjamin will celebrate her 71st birthday by digitally re-issuing A Morning in Paris, her long-lost 1963 recording with Duke Ellington, featuring Billy Strayhorn and Abdullah Ibrahim as pianists.

The remainder of Benjamin’s catalogue, including the Grammy-nominated album Dedications, will be released by mid-2008.

SouthAfrica.info reporter

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