By 2011, Aaron Rimbui had grown increasingly frustrated at playing what he calls bar music. Instead of providing the backdrop to bar room chatter, the pianist wanted a regular concert setting where the audience could enjoy the music without the distraction of a waiter serving drinks.
So, he got talking with his manager David Makuyu, who runs Kipawa Music, an events company, about organising a regular gig where fans would, for a few hours, enjoy quality performance in a proper concert setting.
This is how All That Jazz was born where for one night every month, music fans get to watch some of the country’s leading jazz and fusion acts. This weekend, the event is holding a special anniversary concert to celebrate two years since its inception.
The show is hosted by Rimbui, better known as Krucial Keys, and his band, The Aaron Rimbui Quintet, playing contemporary jazz, spiced with various African music influences.
The list of guest performers includes artistes outside the jazz realm like Eric Wainaina, Sauti Sol and Chris Adwar.
In an interview two years ago Rimbui admitted that organising a concert posed a different challenge from what he was used to.
“I’ve had to learn about patience. In the process, we have learned that putting up concerts is a brave thing to do,” he says.
It was love of the music and the desire to share it with others that gave him the motivation.
Music has always been a big part of life for the musician who attended Lavington Primary School and Nairobi School respectively and who is remembered by TV viewers as head of the band that plays on the Tusker Project Fame talent show.
He learnt music while in school and initially played drums before picking up the piano in his teens. He has released two albums to date: Keys of Life in 2005 and Alfajiri in 2009.
Two years on and 20 shows to his credit, is time to take stock of the impact of holding a regular jazz show in Nairobi.
“I can confidently say that we have had six sold out shows and Nairobi has turned into a jazz hub with folks from other towns calling to ask when the next gig is taking place,” says Aaron’s wife Sarah, who is the co-organiser of All That Jazz.
The target audience is not just those with knowledge of jazz but also those who are curious about one of the least understood genres of music. Rimbui’s ambition is to create an East African jazz imprint through synergies with musicians playing a variety of musical styles.
Unlike previous occasions when his band reworks the music of guest artistes within a jazz format, the concept has now changed to allow the artistes to play their preferred genres.
“We will offer the stage, advertise the show and all the artiste has to do is put on a good show for the crowd,” explains Sarah.
The first guest is Ugandan fusion artiste, Maurice Kirya, who blends soul with traditional influences in a style he calls Mwooyo (Luganda for soul).
The 30-year-old singer released his second album “The Book of Kirya” in October last year.
Kirya won the Radio France International Discoveries Award in 2009 and is perhaps the best-known contemporary Ugandan musician at the moment.
Regulars at All That Jazz have an insatiable appetite for new songs and therefore besides hearing live versions of Rimbui’s songs, each concert will be greatly diversified by the inclusion of other artistes.
Eric Wainaina, who has recorded songs with both Aaron and his brother Tim, will be making his third appearance at All That Jazz while singer Atemi Ayungu will also put in a performance.
Meanwhile, Rimbui has picked up the challenge and gone in search of new musical experiences including a show with his band at the Jahazi Jazz festival in Zanzibar last year where he performed along Moussa Dialo, Marcus Stickland and Tanzania’s Wakwetu Jazz Vibes.
All the previous editions of All That Jazz have been held at the Louis Leakey Auditorium at the Nairobi National Museum but this weekend, the event moves to the Museum Courtyard.
The demand for the show is clearly beyond their regular venue: “We get bookings beyond the 300 seating capacity of the auditorium and have to turn away many people so we are moving to an open air space that should provide a better experience for everyone,” says Sarah
For the first time, All That Jazz takes place on a weekend and not a Thursday as has been the case in the last two years.
Fans buy advance tickets online at www.ticketsasa.com, a concept that has been used successfully by other events like Blankets and Wine.
Corporate support has come from Tusker Malt Lager, the brand that has been promoting music in a huge way in the last one year and the organisers of All That Jazz will hope this association can help the event reach new audiences as its begins its third year.