Ask any jazz head of their favourite jazz musician and the name Charles Mingus is very unlikely to pop up. Sure, names such as Parker, Davis, and Ellington will appear as recurring features on everyone’s list, but one will be lucky to have ‘The Angry Man of Jazz‘ featuring. Yet Mingus had a chance to play with the best of them during his lifetime; Parker, Armstrong, Ellington, Davis…these are but some of the greats with whom Charles Mingus was on an equal footing.
I cannot recall exactly when it was that I became exposed to the music of Sakumzi Qumana, the Mdantsane, Eastern Cape-born vocalist/producer better known by his on-stage persona, Johnny Cradle. It could have been at a park jam in Gugs following the 2008 xenophobic attacks, or alongside Pravda 23, Eavesdrop, and Fungus the Mutated Lung in Observatory, Cape Town, at a weekly gathering known as TPDK Circuitry.
Their stage act resembles an inside joke; they play tricks on the audience, a wry sense of humour underlying the whole scenario. The guitarist will sommer play a lick off of a well-known song of theirs (‘76’ and ‘People of the light‘ come to mind) before bouncing right back into material from their most recent offering – Pick a Dream. The tightness of this four-man troupe pokes fun in the face of criticism, and casts all doubts of how capable they are of delivering good music aside.
My interview with Ill Skillz was supposed to be a cosy affair, devoid of adjunct implements such as cheap microphones and below-average computer cameras. Due to artistic obligations on their part, a change of plan was in order; we had to do the ‘on-line thing’ Skype all over the Internet. I had known about their trip to lands far away a month prior to the fact; its immediacy was only brought to my attention during the brief exchange of words I had with one-third of the whole: ‘We are leaving tomorrow morning fam‘, declared Uno, the rather petite-sized emcee who can also pass as the group’s official spokesman.