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Dan Shout: In With a Shout

Seton Hawkins By

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DS: That's a long story, but I'll try to keep it short. About ten years ago, I turned on my Mac, and on the Apple homepage it said "The year was 1959, one of the most influential years in Jazz history. Click on this for a free podcast." I thought, "Oh great, this is awesome." The guy who presented the podcast was Gordon Vernick. I listened to these Jazz history podcasts of his. They were about fifteen minutes each, and they were awesome. I started to look him up online, but I couldn't find any way to contact him except for a form on his website. So I filled out the form really casually, like "Hey Gordon, my name is Dan Shout, I'm from Cape Town. I Love Jazz, I love your podcast. I'm associated with UCT, and next year is the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. If you're ever thinking about coming this way, give me a shout. Would be great to have you." Done. About two, three months later I get this inbox in my mail: "Hey Dan, this is Gordon Vernick. I'd love to come to South Africa. I'm the coordinator of Jazz Studies at Georgia State University, and I've got funding to bring myself. All I need is an official invite, and I'm there." Boom. Cool. So I sent him an invite through Mike Rossi at the University of Cape Town. Next thing, Gordon was an on an airplane, and we just hit it off.

He just did his tenth trip to South Africa this year, where he conducted the South African National Schools Big Band at Grahamstown, which he had also helped me with two years ago. He's also the guy who gave Darren English a scholarship to Georgia State and he's just given two more kids scholarships to come to the States. We've just had this great relationship between Atlanta and Cape Town, and I went over to visit him last year. He's basically become part of the family. You know, since I met Gordon, I've had two little kids and they call him "Bad Grandpa" because he's a bad trumpet player, and he likes whiskey and cigars! He's a really close friend and a mentor to me nowadays.

Gordon was out while I was recording that album, and I said, "Hey man, it would be a great honor if you would blow some changes." To have somebody who has had nine million downloads of his Jazz history lectures on iTunes now play on my album is a fairy tale story for me, coming from Zimbabwe and Namibia. And then again, tying in with Secret Weapons, he's another one of my secret weapons. He's a world-class trumpet player, and a really good friend. We actually recorded another track together, by the way. It's not released yet, but I did my own arrangement of "Angola" by Bheki Mseleku. It has a re-harmonization at the top and at the coda, with trumpet and tenor, and also using Kevin Gibson, Andrew Ford and Dave Ridgeway. We are still figuring out what we're going to do with that, but we've slowly started to record a couple of tracks together to celebrate the sort of Cape Town-Atlanta relationship that we've had.

I've learned a hell of a lot since I've met Gordon. He's taken me under his wing and spoken to me about things I need to work on. I've been hugely grateful for that, so it was just great to have him on the album.

AAJ: It's a fantastic track, and it does jump out quite a bit, given the woodwind frontline on the rest of the album.

DS: I was thinking about putting sax on it. But Andrew Ford, the pianist who recorded the album and did a lot of the mixing and mastering, said to me, "You know, let's not put sax on here. It'll be so refreshing to just have trumpet." I think he nailed it.

AAJ: You've already referenced coming to Jazz via a circuitous route, and indeed your compositions reflect that. When we think about your career, you have a substantial track record as a session musician. You had long musical association with Johnny Clegg. Can you talk a bit about some of those professional experiences prior to your solo records?

DS: While I was studying at UCT, I was very lucky to be there in this sort of golden age of the brand new South Africa. I began high school in 1994, which is the year of the New South Africa, and I found myself at UCT in 1999. That was pretty much a fresh start in a way, and a lot of the Jazz that was happening in Cape Town with some of the names that I mentioned earlier was just so exciting. A lot of the legends were still alive, your Winston Mankunkus and your Robbie Jansens. You could still see them at jam sessions and play with them.


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