Robbie Jansen PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 03 August 2010 09:30

Robert Edward Jansen

Born: 1949

Died: July 7, 2010, Kuils River Hospital, Cape Town.

Age: 61

Cause of death: Emphysema.

Notable because: Genre defining sax and flute player. Appears on the seminal Cape Jazz track 'Mannenburg.'

Robbie Jansen was a South African musician and a folk hero in the Western Cape. He was born in Cape Town, South Africa.

Jansen began his musical journey in pop bands such as The Rockets, performing music made popular by the South African radio stations such as Springbok Radio. The first instruments he played were the concertina and the mouth organ. The repertoire of the first bands he played with was comprised of British pop of the hippie era. But after a trip to London, which was part of a prize in a band competition, he soon discovered black music from the USA and in particular the groups with brass sections and he decided he wanted to be a brass instrument player. Brass instrument bands were not new to Robbie as his father was associated with the Salvation Army bands, but he chose the rock and jazz genre for himself. He played in the brass section of Cape Town's cult jazz/rock group Pacific Express from where he went solo as an alto-sax player and singer.Robbie Jansen 03

His former bands were all in some way ground breakers. Such groups as Oswietie, The Hearthrob and Sons of Table Mountain all offered original music.

South African duo Johnny Clegg and Sipho Mchunu brought Jansen on board to play flute and saxophone on Juluka's debut album, Universal Men. Jansen joined the growing band for their next two albums, but departed between African Litany and Scatterlings to resume his solo career.

His history in music reflects the history of the Coloured People under apartheid. Jansen was self taught. His work with Dollar Brand and Basil Coetzee in the 1970s introduced him to jazz audiences in many countries, and he became leading figure in Cape Jazz.

He was considered by many to be the guru of Cape Jazz, and affectionately knows as the Cape Doctor - after the south-easter - for his blowing skills. Jansen was one of a group of musicians who played on the jazz classic Mannenberg with Dollar Brand, now Abdullah Ibrahim, in 1974.Robbie Jansen 02

He played with the bands Pacific Express, Spirits Rejoice, and Workforce and had a stint with fellow musician Basil Coetzee and his band Sabenza. His debut solo was Vastrap Island.

He collapsed into a coma at his Elsies River home in April 2005, but made a "miraculous" recovery almost a month later.Jansen became very ill in July 2005 and the provincial government of the Western Cape announced that his medical bills would be met by the state. This was immensely popular with Capetonians and when Jansen returned to performing, usually with his band Sons of the Table Mountain, he was always met with affection, love and respect. Unlike many of his fellow jazz musicians from the apartheid years he welcomed all into his musical experience.

In 2006 his album, Nomad Jazz, was finalist for a SAMA Award, as best Jazz album of the year. He has two other solo albums, Vastrap Island and The Cape Doctor. The albums were produced by Patrick Lee-Thorp for the Mountain Records label.

A blow to his career came in March 2007 when his doctors said that he could no longer travel long distances by air due to his respiratory condition. This forced the cancellation of his 2007 European tour and put an end to his international performances.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 August 2010 09:43
 

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