ArtSpoken & Reviews

Kyle Shepherd hits the high notes

Peter Feldman
09/22/2014 10:21:18

Peter Feldman: Cape Town musician Kyle Shepherd, the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the music industry.

This dynamic young pianist, saxophonist, composer and band leader has just launched his new 21-track double album, Dream State.

He also undertook a short a solo piano tour of Japan earlier this month, a highlight which was his performance at the prestigious Tokyo Jazz Festival.

It’s certainly exciting times for this prodigious talent who a decade ago performed in Grahamstown as a member of the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band and now stands on the brink of international fame.

Shepherd is one of the home-grown attractions at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz which takes place at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 25 to 27.

He will perform with his Trio, featuring Shane Cooper on bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums.

This year’s event also showcases the six other Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners who have also achieved great things since winning the accolade. They are Sibongile Khumalo, Gloria Bosman, Tutu Puoane, Kesivan Naidoo, Melanie Scholtz and Shane Cooper.

Shepherd said he felt honoured to be playing at the Festival for the second time. “The previous occasion was in 2010 with my Quartet. I really enjoy playing at home in South Africa.”

Winning the award has been a significant milestone in his burgeoning career because it enabled him to record, publish and release his CD, Dream State.

“I am grateful that we have the Standard Bank Young Artists Award because it serves to recognise the creative work done by artists like me and the other award recipients over the years.”

To record an album like Dream State at this stage of his career would not have been possible financially. “It was a huge project,” he said, “and had to be delivered with the highest level of production quality. So I'm very grateful that the award has created this opportunity for me. I also think that the award cannot be seen as an end in itself - and has made me more determined to continue to achieve my goals.”

It’s been full steam ahead for Shepherd over the past months with a number of musical projects, including co-writing with Shane Cooper the soundtrack to a movie, and performing in Zimbabwe at the Harare International Festival of the Arts. He is also set to perform with Kesivan Naidoo & the Lights at Carnegie Hall, New York, in October.

He’s inspired as much by art, music, reading, poetry as he is by great people such as Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Steve Biko and Desmond Tutu. “I also draw much inspiration from just being a South African, from our history and from our ability to rise above almost anything. The rich and colourful mix of languages, cultures, creeds and people, as well as the musicians I work with inspire me.”

Shepherd has toured the world, including China and India, and believes that being exposed to so many different cultures and experiences has had an impact on him. “I am being inspired on so many different levels, physically, spiritually and mentally, and this can only help my humanity and spirit.”

Asked how he relaxed, Shepherd said: “During my free time I tend to read, listen to music, which never stops, watching movies and going for walks. I enjoy being surrounded by nature, whether in the forest, on the mountain or on the beach and I like to spend time in silent meditation. I also find playing games on my Play station quite stimulating and relaxing.”

On the state of music in South Africa, especially in the jazz field, Shepherd commented: “Creatively I believe that the state of music including Jazz and improvised music is in a very, progressive and creative space at the moment. This is largely due to many musicians like me who are not sitting back and waiting for major record labels to sign them up and record it. More and more of us are seeing the value in recording ourselves with total artistic freedom and integrity.

“However, we need to work more closely with other like-minded industry players and parties to develop a much stronger and sustainable live music circuit with venues and sponsors that appreciate good music - especially more creative, original music to appreciative, listening audiences.”

He feels the music industry needs to do more to get the music and the musicians onto the international stage – which is his big focus at the moment.

He adds: “There's been some success but there's still a lot of work ahead. In countries like Belgium and Norway, the government understands the tremendous value of the arts and culture and give enormous support, including financial assistance, to artists, arts organisations and live music venues. We need the same to happen in South Africa.”

Kyle Shepherd performs on the Conga Stage on Saturday, September 27, at 19h15.

He also performs with The Carlo Mombelli Quartet on the Diphala Stage on Friday, September 26, at 20h45.

Tickets for Standard Bank Joy of Jazz are available through Computicket and Shoprite Checkers.

Peter Feldman has been a journalist and arts critic for almost 50 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He is active in the freelance field and his work has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He writes regularly for, The Citizen, Saturday Star and The Sunday Independent. He has also worked on TV in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988.
Related Event:
Standard Bank Joy of Jazz
Dates: Thursday, 26th September 2019 - Sunday, 29th September 2019
Related Venue:
Sandton Convention Centre, Maude Street Sandown Sandton Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa