Bänz Oester and The Rainmakers @Chorus Club

Bass maestro, Bänz Oester and his friends The Rainmakers are a joyful union of Swiss and South African musicians who grouped together after a chance encounter at the Grahamstown National Arts festival in 2011. Rainmakers_photo 1Spontaneous cameraderie and a deeply felt musical intention are what unite this group and deliver an immediate, powerful jazz punch. Tonight at Lausanne’s Chorus Club they perform the final date of their 2 week tour, show-casing their first LP, Bänz Oester and The Rainmakers ‘Playing at the Bird’s Eye’ – an album that took just four days to put down and that captures an intimate sense of wonderment, spirituality and emotion.

Only two days of rehearsals

Live, their style and content vary from the languid jazz standard, African polyrhythms, seductive funky blues, obscure Swiss and Bulgarian folklore to blinding improvisation. Whether introspective or gregarious, all styles are drenched in emotional depth and meaningful purpose. This is a band who describe themselves as playing “the music of intention” after only two days of rehearsals.

Spectacularly lithe piano playing

Afrika Mkhize’s spectacularly lithe piano playing is a constant joy, over-brimming with the gospel, blues and afro-jazz colours you’d expect after 10 years on the road as Myriam Makeba’s musical director. His instrument is cropped-DSC01181jumping as he scats, sings and cajoles it into action, rolling out the pretty melodies and interplaying beautifully with the often darker hues of the sax. Shame there’s no microphone, I’m curious to hear more of his singing voice but am later informed that his vocalese is not an imitation of Keith Jarrett, just a special way of entering into communication with a foreign piano that is ever-changing whilst on tour.

It’s a miracle we don’t all start stripping

The track “The Rainmakers” is a wonderfully sunshiny example of lilting African rhythms, dynamic and strong, rising and falling with a jovial ambiance that has the band and entire audience smiling from ear to ear. Similarly heart-warming is “Land’s End”, a silky smooth and teasingly bluesy number, full of such playful sexy pacing it’s a miracle we don’t all start stripping. Between the achingly seductive beats, drummer Ayanda Siukande amuses us with his larking about while pianist continues to speak Ray Charles-inspired volumes. There is joy on stage and in the room!

A weight of emotion

From the Swiss camp is Ganesh Geymeier on the saxophone with a style uncontainable as it is delicate, full of DSC6546-189x126emotional fire as well as delicate spaciouness. Whether building up a frantic storm as in “The Elevator” à la 60s Blue Note soundtrack or hinting at the sinister grey fog in the traditional Swiss-German folksong ‘Wie di graue Näbel schlyche”, his sound carries a weight of emotion and accompanies the listener into a spiritual musical dimension.

Bänz, looking splendid in his African shirt and red pixie shoes, is by no means the understated member of the band. His presence is, as usual, smilingly masterful and his exhuberant musical creativity proving  once again that he’s not considered “one of Europe’s leading jazz-bassists” for nothing.

Bänz Oester & The Rainmakers, « Playing at The Bird’s Eye » (Unit Records)

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