Maximum Jazz celebrates Ella Fitzgerald this Sunday with concert, stage play


The exploration of jazz culture in Ghana has been limited, primarily appealing to the elderly and is confined to a few jazz bars. However, thanks to the efforts of Yomi Sower, Founder and Host of Maximum Jazz, this scenario is undergoing great changes. Yomi is a passionate jazz singer, scriptwriter and director, and she is determined to awaken Ghana’s jazz scene.

She has worked tirelessly to promote jazz and create a buzz about this beautiful genre of music. One such programme is ‘For Ella & Jazz’, a captivating concert-stage play, scheduled for July 30 at the Accra City Hotel. “The truth is, I felt that the way jazz is being expressed in Ghana does not express it to the fullest, so I wanted something that would show people how jazz ought to be done,” she told the B&FT ahead of the show.

She spoke further about the event, stating that it marks 27 years since Ella Fitzgerald’s passing and her profound influence on the world of jazz that continues to this day.

“The event’s purpose is to showcase the evolution of Jazz in over two decades since her demise, reminding today’s musicians of the importance of hard work, discipline and constant honing of musical skills. It is also tied to a vocal jazz workshop; so I also try to discover new jazz singers, two of whom I will be featuring and have been training in the programme.”

The event’s significance extends beyond its musical showcase, Ms. Sower says, adding that it is not just an opportunity to find new talent, but a new generation of Ghanaian audiences and enthusiasts.

“The stage play beautifully transports us back to the racially segregated USA of the 1950s, where Black musicians – including Ella Fitzgerald – displayed unwavering hard work, resilience and commitment to quality musicianship despite discrimination and unfair treatment,” Yomi emphasised.

As an advocate for authenticity in jazz, Yomi revealed that the concert will feature an acoustic jazz quintet with grand piano, double bass, drums, and horns, being able to bring out “the true authentic flavour” of jazz that way, and reflecting the true essence of jazz during Ella’s time when Bebop, Swing, and big band styles were played acoustically.

‘For Ella & Jazz’ promises to transport them back in time. Presenting jazz as it once was and showing its evolution over the years. It is a journey of rediscovery for some and an introduction to the magic of jazz for others.

“I don’t want people thinking jazz is only for a certain demographic, jazz has evolved and there are all sorts of jazz styles – African jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz… those other styles will also be featured. We’re making sure the music can also cater for the younger generation.”

She emphasised that the programme was open to all ages and that jazz can be experienced no matter the age. With this, she expects to bring more people into the world of jazz, the new variations and new talents and experiences they won’t forget.

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