Cape Town

Cape Town Photos

10 Aug 2010

Hamba Kahle Music Giant Ezra Ngcukana

Music Giant, Ezra Ngcukana passed away yesterday, 9 August 2010. A well educated musician, with two degrees and who had a big influence on his peers and young musicians. A man who unselfishly paid his dues over and over.

Hamba Kahle Ezra Ngcukana.


sad news again: Ezra Ngcukana died yesterday morning in his sleep. This is
a big loss for South African Jazz. He was a brilliant musician with a good
sense of humor, "let's Rock 'n' Roll" his motto. And he was also an
outstanding educator: without him no award winning "Little Giants". Ezra,
we will sorely miss you.

We send our most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.


Andreas, George and Regina and all musicians of Jazz Potjie Projects


John Edwin Mason

Ezra Ngcukana, South African Jazz Great, 1954 - 2010


I knew Ezra’s work with Cape Flats youth musicians. "Why don’t I see you performing these days, Ezra?" "I asked a few months ago. "Because I prefer to just spend my time grooming the youngsters. I’m tired of playing, I don’t need to play anymore", he answered. Irony strikes when he appears in Grahamstown this year playing with another late-great Robbie Jansen, and in July on 10 July 2010 at Nikki’s Oasis in Johannesburg!

I found out about his death from Thando (‘Earnest’) Ngodwane whose Black Stars Production group had benefited greatly from Ezra’s mentorship. This young and zesty entertainment-preneur had added Ezra to his board of directors. Ezra spent most of his time just advising and encouraging. Ezra, of course, is no new Mentor to youth groups, having co-created The Little Giants with pianist George Werner. I remember driving Ezra and several 'little giants' to Grahamstown for their very first participation with the National Youth Jazz Festival sometime 2001. And that was my first visit, also, to Grahamstown. It was a long drive, but Ezra and I had long chats along the way. His humility and dedication to youth exuded forth his desire to see the underclad and less known talents enabled and exhibited.

"But I miss hearing you, Ezra," I pined when I next saw in sometime in March 2010. "Nah, I enjoy just working with these young ones – so innocent," he replied with his usual understanding smile.

"Bra, I truly miss you now!" I am saying in my alone state. Those who learned from this music educator, with his own magical informal style of operating, will show forth to our communities what Ezra really meant to them. Let the gongs bong!

Posted: Carol Martin, Capetown, 11 August 2010


My first exposure to live jazz was at about 12 years old with the Henry February band who at the time boasted a frontline of Ezra on tenor, brother Duke on trumpet, Winston on tenor and later Willy Haubrich on trombone. In the rhythm section was the man, Mr Feb on piano, my Dad, Robert Davids was on percussion, Max Diamond on drums and Basil Moses on electric bass. A few years later my forays into the world of the professional musician came courtesy of Ezra Ngcukana. I was his self appointed, or might it have been, self inflicted roadie, this at the still naive age of 19 years old. Man did I get into trouble, but wow, did I learn a lot!

Everything I got to know about the great horn men of the period and bebop both historically and its musical language was through Ezra and drummer Max Dyamani, aka Max Diamond. I also got the taste of the life of the jazz muso, the women, the booze, the hard edged lifestyle. The three of us travelled to and from gigs in Gugs, Manenberg, Lansdowne and Mitchells Plain in my little Mini which often threatened to topple over because of how much it listed to one side due to Ezra's disproportionate weight! As I drove they navigated me through the harmonic language, stylistic nuances and phrasing of the masters, Parker, Gillespie, Powell, Monk, Miles, Roach, Philly Joe Jones et al. Just as well that they navigated musical language because Ezra never drove and Max always got us lost, even when it was directing you to his pad in Gugs!

I loved when Ezra would sing the heads and horn solos of tunes for me like Straight, No Chaser; Four and More; Donna Lee in his soprano voice (hip, if not odd for such a big guy), or Max would explain one drummer's cymbal technique from the other as we drove mindful of the dangers of being arrested for either driving over the limit or worse, breaking the curfew in the townships. We lived dangerously during that tumultuous period of the early eighties and were charged by the political climate and the talk of a revolution and by reading Trotsky, all the while we were feeding our souls with Trane and Miles and Monk. I learned all the jazz standards through these journeyed lessons and would only hear the original recorded versions much later, but by this time, I would have an in-depth understanding of the jazz vocabulary and the exponents that pioneered the bebop movement. This invaluable experience and first hand tutorship gave me my great love for bebop and which was directly attributable to Ezra Ngcukana and Max Diamond.

I worked many times with Ezra through the years and his genius was something he always took for granted. He would musically land on his feet with little effort, regardless of the situation. Ezra was like our Sugar Ray Leonard of the Tenor, he played hard, punched hard and always nailed the song. He could flippantly toss off complex phrases at break neck tempo's with perfect intonation... while being so intoxicated he could not even stand! He was a mathematical genius as well and this made him the perfect improvisor, his knowledge of harmonic motion was far superior to any of his peers at the time.

When Ezra gave that mischievous smile before he soloed, you could swear that this gentle giant was not the same monster about to unleash those fearsome bebop chops. That's how I choose to remember him and not the sad state of the horn man who died in his sleep.

Best Regards

Greg Davids


"Jazz and freedom go hand in hand. That explains it. There isn't any more to add to it. If I do add to it, it gets complicated. That's something for you to think about. You think about it and dig it. You dig it..." Thelonious Monk
"Jazz and freedom go hand in hand. That explains it. There isn't any more to add to it. If I do add to it, it gets complicated. That's something for you to think about. You think about it and dig it. You dig it..." Thelonious Monk

Hamba Kahle Winston Mankunku Ngozi - Tributes

PASS photostream