From train to Trane, with love

CityPress - - News - NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA ntombizodwa@city­press.co.za

The life of Amer­i­can sax­o­phon­ist and com­poser John Coltrane, af­fec­tion­ately nick­named Trane, was cel­e­brated on board South Africa’s lux­u­ri­ous Blue Train, which trav­elled from Pre­to­ria to Cape Town this week­end.

South African jazz icons such as Don Laka were roped in to cel­e­brate his legacy on the five-star ho­tel on wheels, with the coun­try’s crème de la crème in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try also grac­ing the oc­ca­sion.

Coltrane died 50 years ago of liver can­cer on July 17 1967, aged 40.

One of his most suc­cess­ful hits, re­leased in 1958, was Blue Train – hence the event on South Africa’s iconic train.

US mu­sic and me­dia pro­ducer Spencer Prof­fer hit upon the idea to part­ner with the Blue Train to launch the South African pre­miere of a doc­u­men­tary, ti­tled Chas­ing Trane, about the leg­endary jazz muso. Local busi­ness­man Papi Molot­sane was a co-ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer.

Be­sides telling Coltrane’s life story, the doc­u­men­tary ex­am­ines the so­cio­cul­tural ef­fect of his mu­sic on the world and is nar­rated by ac­claimed ac­tor Den­zel Wash­ing­ton. It also fea­tures for­mer US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, rap­per Com­mon, Car­los San­tana and Wyn­ton Marsalis, as well as mem­bers of Coltrane’s fam­ily and many of the mu­si­cians, still liv­ing, who per­formed with Trane.

The lux­u­ri­ous two-day Blue Train jour­ney was only part of Prof­fer’s plan. He also wanted to “cel­e­brate the diver­sity of jazz cur­rently em­a­nat­ing from South Africa while ex­pand­ing the foot­print of our doc­u­men­tary film”.

Ac­cord­ingly, a hand­ful of some of the coun­try’s most renowned jazz mu­si­cians were on board. Pi­anist Don Laka per­formed Coltrane’s orig­i­nal com­po­si­tions at key des­ti­na­tions, such as the beau­ti­ful De­laire Graff Es­tate win­ery in Stel­len­bosch.

Laka said: “I was ex­cited be­cause I have al­ways been a Coltrane fan. Fun­nily enough, in 2006, I com­posed an al­bum ded­i­cated to Coltrane.”

He said there were more mile­stones ahead in cel­e­bra­tion of the jazz le­gend’s legacy and sin­gled out the song Blue Train’s 60th an­niver­sary next year. Laka, too, will turn 60 in 2018.

Also on board the train was sax­o­phon­ist McCoy Mru­bata, who joined famed US sax­o­phon­ist Ron­nie Laws and his sis­ter, singer Eloise Laws, as well as singer Lita Gaithers Owens in a fab­u­lous mu­sic jam.

Busi­ness­man Romeo Ku­malo and his wife, me­dia per­son­al­ity Baset­sana, were on board, along with ac­tress Terry Pheto and pro­ducer Lebo M.

Renowned de­signer Ole Led­imo, the founder of House of Ole, show­cased African fash­ion de­signs in­spired by Coltrane’s life­style.

“Mu­sic and fash­ion go to­gether. I will be nar­rat­ing his story through fash­ion,” Led­imo said, adding that the train ex­pe­ri­ence served to show­case how jazz meets fash­ion.

Prof­fer was all praises for the Blue Train, call­ing it “the most beau­ti­ful train in Africa”.

He said screen­ing the film in this un­usual way would ex­pose South Africa in a good way in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“I am very proud and grate­ful to have put it all to­gether. I didn’t know that there was a Blue Train in South Africa,” Prof­fer said. On find­ing out about it some months ago, he was in­spired to use it as a, ahem, plat­form, to launch the doc­u­men­tary here.

Prof­fer said the time was long over­due for Coltrane’s mu­sic to be cel­e­brated all over the world.

Vin­cent Monyake, man­ager at the Blue Train, said the Stel­len­bosch pri­vate con­cert was ar­ranged for his guests as a cherry on top. On of­fer, along with the mu­sic, were good food, great wine and fan­tas­tic views.

On the train, his guests were treated to un­sur­passed lux­ury travel, five-star ac­com­mo­da­tion and fine cui­sine, ac­com­pa­nied by the best wines sourced from the best South African vine­yards. They also had a per­son­alised but­ler service as the train made its way through breath­tak­ing views of the coun­try­side.

“This is his­tory in the mak­ing. We are cel­e­brat­ing an icon in a jazz mu­sic genre,” said Monyake.

Don Laka and John Coltrane

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