In Conversation with Melorie Jane.

Melorie Jane has been a breath of fresh air since she first rose to fame within South African jazz spaces with her debut song titled ‘Till the morning comes in 2017. The Pretoria born pianist and vocalist who has been performing as far back as 2012 as part of the band ALL the MORE is a contemporary jazz artist of note who often does not shy away from experimenting and breaking boundaries with her compositions.

In more recent times, Melorie has seen massive success with her debut album titled, More or Less released in November 2021, which has led to her winning Best Jazz Female Artist and Best Jazz Album at the Mzantsi Jazz Awards 2022. She has also solidified her name around the Franschhoek and Cape Town areas.

Below I got to chat with Melorie Jane about all things More or Less

How different were your thought and production processes from the time you created Different View to when you made More or Less?

Different View was my first project, so the creation thereof was very spontaneous, whereas the album More or Less was created with more intention. I wrote most of the music for this album during the COVID19 lockdown in SA, and so it deals with specific recurring themes throughout the album. I dealt with feelings of isolation and often questioned my purpose as an artist during those times when I could not perform.

I composed some of the tracks under the guidance of my Master’s degree mentor, Dr. Pierre Henri Wicomb, who helped me explore new sonic and harmonic concepts, especially playing with chromaticism to create colour palettes within the pieces. This element is quite audible in pieces like ‘Amina‘ or ‘It’s Been a Long Time‘ that constantly alternates between bright and dark colours, to create an effect of fluidity and detachment. I also enjoyed using a variety of irregular and uncommon time signatures. This technique is something that gives the music space to breathe, and makes the pieces more interesting and exciting.

We recorded More or Less with single-takes in studio, to try to get a live-performance feel to the sound, so the music is relatively unaltered. It was quite the set-up, we had the bass and piano in the control room, the horns in the recording booth and the drums at the far end in the drum room. We were all playing at the same time and waiving directions through the window to communicate! Luckily we had a spectacular hands-on engineer, Uys Visser (Uys Visser Productions) to help smooth out the process.

The title track has quite a high tempo, was it a conscious decision to start the album off on such a tempo but also with a track that clearly highlights every single piece of instrumentation (instrument solos) on the song and possibly album?

Yes, that was intentional. I seem to enjoy playing up-tempo music with great amounts of energy, and so I chose the song to set the atmosphere of the album. These days you also have to take into account that most listeners are online, and therefore probably only listen to the first few tracks, so you get a chance to create an impression with those songs first, in order to draw in the listener to the rest of the album.

In terms of instrumentation, I think you are touching on an important subject close to my heart. I like the idea of a band working together and giving space to each player to make a creative contribution, rather than me just dictating and playing the most important parts. This idea is something I learnt from chatting to Nduduzo Makhathini during an interview for my Master’s degree. He mentioned the idea of collective contribution, and I feel that this way of playing creates space for a bigger composition to take place than just one person could compose by themselves.

On the song New Day, how integral were the wind instruments in the composition of the album and more specifically how important were Neo Mathebula (trumpet) and Jed Petersen (tenor)?

I enjoyed playing this version of ‘New Day‘ with Neo and Jed, they have got great feel, it absolutely changed the composition. I think the horns gave the piece the right groove. I think all the musicians in the band played a big role in the overall sound and direction that the music could grow into, they brought a good amount of jazz, and South African jazz background to the album.

Here We Go! – We have spoken about the bass in one of our chats before, do you consider the bass as a starting point of sorts for your compositions?

Yes, it seems I often start by composing a hook line or bass line and expand the composition from there. I think this effect comes from playing with Gilbert Sithole in the band ALL the MORE, about ten or so years ago. He was a big fan of Marcus Miller and Jaco Pastorious, so we used to play a lot of music based around a strong bass sound, and that developed my ear to require the bass to stand out. I think things like these just become a part of one’s compositional language without you consciously thinking about it.

What is or was the thought process when naming some of the tracks on the album?

The music came out of my personal experiences and feelings. Sometimes, between covid, load shedding and challenges in life, you find yourself trying very hard to do your best, but failing, then you must just relax; that is how the title track came about. Some of the other compositions refer to composers I admire like Amina Figarova (Amina), or Bheki Mseleku (Sense of Home). I like being thoughtful but not downright serious, so there should always be a bit of leeway for a double meaning or a bit of fun in some of the titles.

Do you find that the lyrics – where applicable – were as integral a part of the compositions or were they merely extensions? At what point of the compositions do you think of or write the lyrics?

I tend to write music first and lyrics later. I remember having written ‘More or Less’ just as an instrumental and on the day of the last rehearsal I decided to add lyrics for the song, it felt like it needed lyrics to really communicate what it meant. ‘New Day‘ on the other hand was completely written lyrics first and set to music afterwards. I think that had to do with the fact that it was pressing on my heart to express the struggles we had during and even after the lockdown, as we had no work for an extended period of time, and this was forced upon our industry, like many others.

When making compositions such as that of Mr Tswai and Sense of Home that take influence from other artists’ work, to what extent do you “take” from such influence? How do you embrace a sound/influence but not fully take it on?

I was mostly inspired by the artists, rather than taking direct musical influences and putting it into a piece. I would say that when I wrote the music I was writing about the feelings of friendship or compassion or inspiration that I had with the person, rather than thinking sonically first. I think that what you learn from other artists should come through in your composition more naturally, it becomes part of your sonic palette, instead of taking something directly from their playing.

You say your music is a contemporary jazz sound, and contains a variety of influences. What are some of the influences in your music beyond jazz?

Pieces like ‘This Could Be It‘, ‘Here we Go!‘ and ‘Mr. Tswai‘ have obvious elements of South African jazz, but they also contain some influences of West African music and Latin American music. I enjoyed listening to music from countries such as the Congo and Côte d’Ivoire as well as a great deal of Cuban music, and those elements have filtered into my music. That is perhaps where my interest in odd time signatures comes from.
I have also recently delved into Neo-soul, an exciting genre for playing with rhythmical delays and spaces, which I would still like to explore.

The tempo of Amina as an outro is slow tempo’d and mellow in contrast to the title track, was this conscious and/or in line with the theme of the album?

I liked having ‘Amina‘ at the end of the album, since it is quite a unique type of sound, which means if you listened to the whole album, and then moved to someone else’s music, you would immediately know it was someone else. So it seemed to capture the idea of ‘my sound’ as a composition and therefore I only found it fitting to put it at the end.

Finally, have you found your New Day?

Absolutely! I am thankful that I have found a number of new days, especially with the release of the album. It has been very well received, and it has opened doors for me to travel next year. I am grateful that the fruit of this work has been good and that the COVID19 crisis has passed. I hope the industry can really grow to be strong again and support the amazing talent and art that is being produced!

To connect with Melorie Jane, visit