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A fresh blast of Jazz from Etuk Ubong

By Florence Utor   |   05 October 2016   |   3:48 am
Etuk Ubong

Etuk Ubong

Young, soft-spoken, talented and hardworking Mr. Etuk Ubong doesn’t immediately cut the part of a jazz musician, but again, looks can be deceptive, very deceptive. He is one of the fast-rising jazz trumpeters steadily climbing to international fame from his home country, Nigeria, and the world has started taking note!

Acclaimed South Africa music industry writer, trainer and researcher, Mr. Gwen Ansell, who also writes for Businessday South Africa and BDLIVE South Africa, recently penned wrote in her review: “Ubong’s playing approach offers irresistible reminders of Miles Davis in the late 1950s quartet recordings: a velvet tone and quiet inventiveness rather than brash grandstanding, but underpinned by quick fingers and an even quicker mind… But there’s clearly more, and more that’s intriguing, to Ubong’s music… When the trumpet begins, the note sequence is distinctively Nigerian, not American, and it’s further in that African direction that Ubong’s intelligent improvisation takes it.”

Ibibio by birth but born and raised in Lagos in 1992, the Akwa-Ibom native is a trumpeter and flugelhorn player, who started playing music at 14 and has put the decade since then to very good use. Etuk started his music tutelage under the guidance of Etop Adolphors and Victor Ademofe, after which he moved on to study jazz at the Peter King College of Music and then classical music at MUSON School of Music, all in Lagos. Currently, he is enrolled for jazz studies at the University of Cape Town’s South African College of Music, having also completed the Berklee Online Specialist Certificate in Improvisation. He also holds certificates from Trinity College, London, and the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music.

Apart from his formal studies, Ubong has gained invaluable experience by playing with world-renowned musicians like Victor Olaiya, Femi Kuti, the Gangbé Brass Band, Pat Harbison, Nduduzo Makhathini and many others. In 2012, Ubong’s former teacher and top Nigerian trumpeter, Mr. Victor Ademofe, invited him to play with him at the Lagos Jazz Series.

Following that collaboration and aged just 21, Ubong was handpicked by Femi Kuti to join his band, and played regularly for the next two years with Kuti at the African Shrine as well at festivals and venues around Nigeria with a tour to Ghana. A highlight of his career was meeting South Africa’s jazz legend, Hugh Masekela, at Bayelsa International Jazz Festival, produced by Inspiro Productions in 2013. Moving on from Kuti’s band, Ubong then played with Gangbé Brass Band, and touring with them for a while to Benin Republic, the Art Ensemble of Lagos and then playing with various local ensembles and bands in Nigeria.

In 2015, Ubong played with his Nigerian Quartet, made up of Ita Samson on bass, Timothy Ogunbiyi on piano/keyboards and Tombrapade Robert on drums at the Lagos International Jazz Festival, the Abuja Jazz Festival and the MUSON Jazz Festival.  British vocalist, Cleveland Watkiss, was so impressed by the band that he invited Ubong’s Quartet to play with him at the Satchmo Jazz Festival, where he was a headline act.

As a member of the International Trumpet Guild, the young Turk represented Nigeria and Africa at its conference in Ohio, U.S. in August 2015 and rounded off the year playing in the On Mass Project, headed by Jamie Cullum as part of the London Jazz Festival.

In 2016, Ubong relocated to South Africa to further his jazz studies at the University of Cape Town. A smart move, which saw him rapidly making a name for himself in the local jazz scene, having formed a South African Etuk Ubong Quartet with three rising talents: Ludwe Danxa on piano, Shakeel Cullis on double bass and Keno Carelse on drums. The Quartet has performed at top live jazz venues in South Africa like The Orbit Jazz Club, African Freedom Station, The Crypt Jazz club, Sophia-Town Heritage Centre, The Piano Bar, Straight No chaser Jazz Club and also at Artscape Youth Jazz Festival and developing a name with jazz lovers and the media alike. Ubong has also performed with various other musicians and bands by invitation. In South Africa, he has played with Nduduzo Makhathini, Benjamin Jephta, Justin Bellairs and Ayanda Sikade amongst others, and was featured as soloist in the Artscape Youth Jazz Festival 2016.

Ubong recorded his debut EP, Miracle, with his Nigerian Quartet in March 2016, and released the album in June. It features original jazz compositions that reflects his Nigerian heritage as well as life’s philosophy of goodwill, peace and love to humanity. His current and upcoming performances in South Africa and Nigeria are focused on promoting the EP, In South Africa, he will perform at Jazz in the Native Yards Heritage Festival and in Nigeria, he will headline the Abuja Jazz Festival and the Satchmo Jazz Festival, both with the Nigerian Quartet. Engagements are underway for touring the USA and Europe in 2017.

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Etuk UbongGwen Ansell

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