Self-taught jazz maestro dies

JAZZMAN Robbie Jansen died this week of respiratory failure.

JAZZMAN Robbie Jansen died this week of respiratory failure.

Born Robert Edward Jansen in July 1949 in Cape Town, Jansen gained recognition late in life for his consummate skill on alto saxophone and flute, and as a band leader, composer and arranger. He was self-taught.

Cape arts and culture MEC Sakkie Jenner paid tribute to him: "A leading figure in the Cape Town jazz fraternity, Jansen has left an indelible mark on the musical landscape of the Western Cape and South Africa.

"During his career Jansen received numerous awards from the provincial government, including a Lifetime Achiever Award in 2006."

Starting out in the 1970s with Abdullah Ibrahim (then Dollar Brand), Pacific Express and Spirits Rejoice, Jansen worked tirelessly throughout the turbulent 1980s with Basil "Manenberg" Coetzee and various ensembles.

Their performances across the country played a key role in cementing the central role of culture in the anti-apartheid struggle. In the early 1980s Jansen joined Workforce, which featured Duke Makasi on tenor saxophone and Stompie Manana on trumpet.

This collaboration culminated in the recording of Sabenza in 1988.

In 1989 Jansen released his debut solo album Vastrap Island.

In 2001 Robbie Jansen & the Sons of Table Mountain (Hilton Schilder, Jack Momple and Steven Erasmus) released The Cape Doctor.

Jansen became ill in July 2005 and the regional government of the Western Cape announced that his medical bills would be paid by the state.

In 2006 his album Nomad Jazz was nominated Sama's best jazz album of the year. In March 2007 he was declared too ill to undertake a European tour.

"Jansen was as synonymous with the Western Cape as Table Mountain, the southeaster blowing, the minstrels and the flower sellers, the snoek runs and the diverse, rich cultural sounds of the people of the Western Cape," Jenner said.