The jazz-pianist and composer Ramon Hector Alexander hails from Mamre. His latest album release – his second solo album – is entitled Echoes from Louwskloof. In one sense, this album is an homage to his musical forefathers; in another, it is an homage to the forefathers of his birthplace.
“Louwskloof was a place close to home where a Khoi captain, Klapmuts, and his people roamed when the German missionaries set up shop in Groenekloof [today it’s known as Mamre] at the turn of the 1800s.” This historical titbit reveals an artist who has a special connection to place, and how the past resonates in the present. This feature is apparent in his music, too.
From an early age, before his discovery of jazz, Ramon was influenced by the brassy sounds of Moravian hymns and the surviving legacy of Khoisan music in the community around the historic mission station. In 1998, aged eighteen, Ramon took lessons from Cape Town’s foremost jazz teacher, Merton Barrow, at his jazz workshop and was introduced to a more mainstream form of jazz. He was exposed to the music of Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea.
Ramon opted to apply for and won an SAA (South African Airways) bursary in wine-making at Stellenbosch University (one out of only six available places in his year.). While studying, Ramon continued to play, first as part of student Christian outreach activities, and later with his own ensemble, ESP, named after a Miles Davis album. ESP played wherever there was work: festivals, corporate functions and more. That was when Ramon Alexander the composer came to the fore.
By 2004, when ESP cut an album, seven out of the 12 tracks were his compositions. Thereafter, he regularly led his own ensembles and performed in a range of bands in clubs like Cape Town’s Crypt, and with the Cape Jazz Band, which plays a repertoire of Cape-composed music, historic and modern. This band comprises of Cape Town jazz luminaries such as Jack Momple, Errol Dyers, Tony Cedras (Paul Simon-fame), Mark Fransman, Spencer Mbadu, Stephen Erasmus, and Dizu Plaatjies In 2011, he released his debut album, Picnic at Kontiki, and made Eric Alan’s Top40 jazz releases for that year. In 2012, he recorded as the sole pianist on Mountain Records’ album, Cape Jazz 4, released in 2013. In 2015, aged 35, he released his second album, Echoes from Louwskloof.
He currently performs with the bassist Chadleigh Gowar, the drummer Annemie Nel and the saxophonist Zeke Le Grange. Ramon has performed at diverse music festivals such as the Suidoosterfees and the Cedebergfees. In addition, he has made appearances at Jazz on the Rocks (both Plettenberg Bay and Tieties Bay), the Darling Music Experience and KKNK accompanying Zolani Mahola, Katlego Maboe, Albert Frost, Koos Kombuis and Schalk Joubert. Most recently he has featured to critical acclaim at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTIJF). With the inclusion of the Crypt, Ramon regularly plays at Kaleidoscope Jazz Cafe and the Drosdy Theatre.