MELODIC saxophonist Neil Maya and South African born pianist Philip Clouts will be playing catchy tunes which lift the spirits at a jazz concert this weekend.

The concert, on Sunday, February 25, is part of the Marine Theatre’s popular Jazz in the Bar series.

They have assembled a set which features music from the greats of South Africa including Abdullah Ibrahim’s breakthrough hit Mannenberg, Miriam Makeba’s Click Song and tunes by Dudu Pukwana and Hugh Masakela.

Saxophonist Neil Maya has, like Philip Clouts, been influenced in his own playing and compositions by the music of South Africa.

Neil regularly plays jazz saxophone across the south west with his own quartet and with the Drat Pack.

As a teenager Neil trained as a clarinettist at the Royal College of Music. He took up the sax when he was 15 and got the jazz bug soon after-he has since studied with a number of eminent players including Jean Toussaint. He has recently been touring a special programme celebrating the music of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. He was praised by the Teignmouth Jazz Festival for his “electrifying performance with crisp melody lines and improvisation.”

Philip Clouts explains more about the background to this concert: “Townships were the poor, black residential areas created under the apartheid regime in South Africa. Marabi was a music form which had developed in these, and the addition of influences from American jazz led to what is referred to as Township Jazz which usually has simple harmonies and very resonant melodies.

"Pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s piece Mannenberg was a breakthrough hit in that style, and all of his music has been a major influence on me, along with many others including singer Miriam Makeba and trumpeter Hugh Masakela.

"In the 1980s when I was starting out in earnest as a pianist there were many exiled South African musicians living in London. Some, like Dudu Pukwana, the great saxophonist, had come over in the 1960s, as my own family had done, with the Blue Notes who became celebrated very quickly for their vibrant music.

"But there were others from a younger generation, including drummers Brian Abrahams and Thebe Lipere, and for me most notably the pianist Bheki Mseleku who was a great source of inspiration and who mentored me for a short while.

"As well as Mseleku showing me the ropes, Thebe Lipere joined my 6-piece band Zubop for our first few gigs, playing his distinctive African drum kit, and the band went on to be very popular on the live music circuit, subsequently expanding into ZubopGambia, which featured the BBC World Music Awards-winning riti (one-string fiddle) player Juldeh Camara.

"I have felt a direct emotional connection with this music from an early age, and I often find that my inspirations when sitting at the piano come from that source. I think you can hear that clearly in pieces like Direction South and Umoya on my latest album with my own Quartet.

"It’s a great pleasure to re-visit some of my original sources of inspiration for this concert. We’ll be playing pieces that connect directly to the audience, very melodic and with catchy rhythms.”

*Township Jazz with Neil Maya, Sunday, February 25, 8pm, Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis. Tickets cost £8 in advance or £12 on the door. Cal the box office for tickets.