Carpe Diem. Proven to be the mantra of many successful artists and business folk, these two words remind us that time is the ultimate currency and cashing in begins now. I had the ultimate reminder of how rapidly our lives pass this past week. During the third week of touring with my trio through South Africa I received news about my mentor and friend having reached the final stretch of his fight against cancer.
Now in his eighties Japie Human had been one of the countries most beloved pianists for more than 60 years. He was one of the first musicians to simultaneously pursue a career in classical and popular music. He studies in SA and the USA and was on the faculty of the University of the Free State’s Odeion School of Music in Bloemfontein for many years until he was forced to retire early in 1981 due to health reasons.
I met “Prof Japie” as most people called him through my piano teacher at school Johan Cromhout. Prof Japie was his lecturer at university and their mutual respect and love for music was an illustration of how immensely positive the effect of a teacher could be long after the student has left the studio. I gradually became acquainted with Prof Japie over the following years and every time I visited Bloemfontein I made an appointment for tea at Waverley road 82.
I had two lessons with this multi-faceted musician; once on Brahms f-minor Sonata and once on Chopin Barcarolle. His attention to detail and unique way of producing sweetest sound on his immaculate and beloved Feurich was an inspiration. His technical ability at the keyboard always astounded me, but above all his knowledge of pianists I had never even heard of had me spellbound with every visit. The influence and effect on my career lay not in his knowledge of art music, but his one-of-a-kind knowledge and experience as jazz pianist. Hits from the 20’s-50’s was his bread and butter and the multiple recordings he made of his own arrangements of these popular songs are real gems. They inspired me to make my own arrangements and persevere with a career performing simultaneously in classics and jazz.
His passing is a big loss to the musical community of South Africa.
I will remember his humour, class, intellect and unique showmanship, but above all I will remember his love for other people of which I am grateful to have been one.