Born: November 2, 1976 Primary Instrument: Piano
Jason Reolon, celebrated South African-born jazz pianist and composer, has a solid reputation as one of the country’s finest talents. In all his musical undertakings, Reolon never fails to move, inspire and challenge audiences with his fresh and dynamic approach to his art. Complex, groovy, soulful, his music transcends the boundaries of jazz to reach new and exciting realms in the world of sound.
As the son of jazz songbird, Josie Gien and the South African drumming legend Bobby Gien, who performed with the famous Ronnie Scott Trio for half a decade, Reolon’s world has always been centered around music. Reolon’s love of and exposure to jazz throughout his life led him to complete his BMus Degree in Jazz Performance and Composition studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2001, the same internationally esteemed institution at which he currently holds a permanent lecturing post.
In his final year of study, Reolon won the South African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) National Overseas Scholarship Competition for Jazz Piano, an honour which took him to New York in 2004 to further his studies and career. This experience had a great impact on Reolon as he immersed himself in all that the New York jazz scene had to offer. Brad Mehldau, Sonny Rollins, Monty Alexander, Diana Krall, Richard Bona, Mulgrew Miller, Bob Mintzer and Chic Corea were just a few of the greats whose live performances had a lasting effect on Reolon and his playing style. Returning to South Africa, Reolon put his newfound inspiration into practice, collaborating extensively with local and international artists alike over the next 7 years.
During his career, Reolon has formed and been part of numerous notable groups:
The Jason Reolon Trio, featuring Wesley Rustin on bass and Heinrich Goosen on drums, truly reflects the complexity and diversity of Reolon’s musical influences. African flavours, montuno rhythms and lyrical melodies culminate in an eclectic fusion, forming a rich and cohesive music style which takes audiences on a spell-binding journey. The trio released its first album “Off the Record” in 2007 followed by a second, all- original album entitled “Outline” in 2011. The trio also recently collaborated with renowned South African jazz pianist Andrew Ford and his trio in the live DVD recording of their show “Double Standards” for the 10th anniversary of the Jazz at the Nassau concert series.
Similarly, Breakfast Included, which Reolon currently manages together with drummer Shaun Michau, is a highly sought after and popular South African Jazz band that performs extensively across the country. Co-founded by Reolon in 1999, this celebrated ensemble has enjoyed extensive media coverage as well as its fair share of awards over the years, including the Old Mutual Encounters trophy for Best Jazz Band in the Western Cape in 2000 and 2001. The band has recorded two albums, namely “Breakfast Included” (2001) and “Nightwork Ahead” (2005). www.breakfastincluded.co.za
Reolon is also a permanent member of the highly acclaimed jazz outfit Restless Natives which recorded its debut triple disc album Restless Natives Acoustic and Electronic. This is due for release in October 2011. Music from this album has been recently awarded the prestigious 2011 SAFTA (South Africa Film & Television Industry) Award for ‘Best Feature Film Music Composition’, for the film Visa Vie.
In 2009, Reolon was commissioned as musical director to form the band The Mannenberg All Stars and arranged the music which was subsequently performed by the group at the prestigious Loerie Advertising Awards that same year. 2008 and 2009, Reolon worked as the pianist for South African singing legend Vicky Sampson and also as the keyboardist, percussionist and co-composer for Electro House sensation group, Iridium Project, and a groove lounge project Magic Carpet Ride alongside renowned DJ artists Craig De Souza and Nick Matthews.
More recently, Reolon has been performing as keyboardist for singer/songwriter Justin Bergh. In July 2010 they toured South Africa as the opening support act for Bryan Adams. He is also a permanent member in a Cape Town jazz quartet Search Party as well as the popular local quintet, The Hot Shots.
He has recorded and featured on various albums for bands and projects such as Goldfish, Magic Carpet Ride, Jacsharp, Ginsberg & Herman, Claire Phillips, Shen Winberg and Merseystate on acoustic piano, fender rhodes, wurlitzer and hammond organ. Furthermore, Reolon has collaborated with bands and artists from various genres, including Ian Henderson, Siya Makuzeni, Rus Nerwich & The Collective Imagination, Merseystate, James Stewart and the Awesome International Big Band.
This extensive collaborating with other artists has rightfully earned Reolon a reputable place in the South African music industry and has likewise kept his playing style fresh and up- to-date. No matter the project, Reolon is dedicated to honing his craft, constantly searching for new ways to expand and redefine what ‘jazz’ means to audiences and music-makers alike.
Awards:SAMRO (South Africa Music Rights Organisation) National Jazz Piano Competition - Best Jazz Pianist Award 2001
Outline by the Jason Reolon Trio proves we have an artist who would be appreciated anywhere in the world. It’s the height of sophisticated piano playing so popular these days. It eschews such styles as Bud Powell’s or Oscar Peterson’s; instead, it moves into the domain of Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and, possibly, Fred Hersch. There might even be a trace of Abdullah Ibrahim in, for instance, “Mother City Blues”.
The nine originals are classy. The title track immediately captures the listener with powerful chords, before moving into inventive single-finger lines moving over a rolling rhythm section, and a little gem of a drum solo. “Remember the Time” and “Nieu Moon” have a classic romanticism, while “Pepper Tree” has a slight Cape Malay sound. Bassist Wesley Rustin and drummer Heinrich Goosen have empathy and play forcefully but subtly. They maintain the same high standard set by Reolon himself. South Africa can be really proud of this CD
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Lecturer of Jazz Piano Studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT), South African College of Music (SACM)