[members-announce] South African Guitar Legend Johnny Fourie Dies

Eric Alan @ Jazz Rendezvous eric at jazzrendezvous.co.za
Thu Aug 23 07:29:25 EDT 2007


Hi, Some sad news to all jazz lovers a moving written tribute by bassist
Carlo Mombelli


Johnny Fourie, my Guru and friend left this planet on Sunday afternoon 19
August 2007.

Johnny, never interested in fame but dedicated to playing pure music has
gone virtually unnoticed by this industry. Johnny lived music. He was a
musician on the stage, wherever he was, at the dinner table, in his sleep,
everywhere. He played music uncompromisingly, and maybe that¹s why only a
select few know who he is.
 
Born in a little dorp in the Karoo in 1937 he played his first professional
gig at the age of 15 in a boere-orkes, being self taught he went on to do a
three-year stint in the house band of Europe¹s most famous jazz club, ŒThe
Ronnie Scott's¹, in London. There he played with all the international
greats. He work with the London Symphony Orchestra, worked in New York with
Billy Cobham and Hubert Laws, and on a recommendation by his friend John
McLaughlin he was one of two guitarist to audition for Chick Corea's new
band ŒReturn to Forever¹. And yet in South Africa he is virtually unknown.
He has battled to get a chance to play on festivals and was not commercial
enough for the record companies. Thanks to Shifty records that recorded
Abstractions in Œ87 and the label Instinct Africaine that released Johnny¹s
trio recording in 2000 (which was disqualified from the SAMA¹s because there
wasn¹t enough original music on it). - But a part of being a jazz musician
is the art form of interpreting standards in your own personal way. If you
want to know a little about Johnny get hold of that recording. Melt 2000
have just released a recording that Sean, Johnny¹s son made of Johnny
playing solo guitar. It¹s beautiful. I hope that The SAMA committee come to
their senses and don¹t disqualify this release as well. This has been the
story of Johnny¹s life in South Africa. Yet he gave us so much music.
 
25 years ago I got a call to join his band when he had a 6 month jazz gig at
the Sandton Sun hotel in Joburg, 6 nights a week. At first I turned it down
telling him that I was not good enough to play in his band. He called me
back and warned me that you only get one chance and that I must dive in at
the deep end. Fortunately I took the gig, and it was those 6 months where I
learnt to play jazz. All the musicians used to practice in the breaks and he
would advise us where we went wrong, give us tips and teach and inspire us.
That was my university. The Johnny Fourie School of the Arts, live on stage,
and every musician that has played with Johnny received something like this
from him. A Guru. He was a generous spirit and extremely honest. If you
played badly that¹s what he would tell you, and if you played great he let
you know. Johnny loved the way I played and he loved my compositions. He
booked me for me. So often do I play in groups and they want me to play or
sound like someone else. Johnny taught me to play with musicians because I
like what they do. I have learnt from Johnny that as a bandleader, one must
be an inspiration and challenge your musicians to push the boundaries but
recognise and appreciate the art and beauty that each musician has to offer.
He taught me that you get band-leaders and you get band-rulers. He was an
artist and a bandleader.
 
When will this music industry wake up? How could they have let Johnny Fourie
slip by? He should have been playing at all the festivals here. Every time
we have a great jazz hour on radio it gets taken off the air and replaced by
two hours of smooth jazz. Metro, Khaya and SAFm what happened? The one good
DJ told me once that they replaced her show because she played "that strange
funny jazz music". 

My deepest condolences to Val, Johnny¹s wife, and to Sean, his son who both
loved him and supported every note he played. Also my condolences to rest of
his family and everyone that will miss him.
 
JOHNNY I LOVE YOU AND THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING THAT YOU GAVE ME. I WILL
CHERISH IT FOR LIFE AND YOU WILL ALWAYS BE IN MY HEART AND MY MUSIC.
 

Carlo Mombelli


Regards,
See it Š with your own ears
Yours in Music
 
Eric Alan
 
RADIO SHOW HOST of ERIC ALAN¹S JAZZ RENDEZVOUS on Radio 2000 - 97.2 to
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EDITOR: JAZZ RENDEZVOUS WEBSITE: www.jazzrendezvous.co.za
<http://www.jazzrendezvous.co.za/>
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