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Church Street Jazz Series presents Jonathan Butler

Categories: MusicNEON District

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Jonathan Butler is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who leads a life few can imagine. Born in South Africa under the shadow of apartheid and raised in poverty, Butler was the first non-white artist to be played on South African radio and appear on national television. Though his musical abilities would take him away from the world he grew up in, Jonathan would neither forget the plight of his fellow South Africans, nor the man that led them to freedom. It is for this reason Nelson Mandela credits Butler’s music as having inspired him during his imprisonment. In more ways than one, Jonathan Butler is a representative of South Africa.

Jonathan’s story begins at a very young age when his father presented him with a homemade one-string guitar. Little did his father realize that he was giving way to a musical phenomenon. From then on, Jonathan’s musical gifts grew by leaps and bounds. In his early teens, Butler won a local talent contest, affording him the opportunity to perform with a touring musical company throughout South Africa. On occasion, he would perform at lavish concert halls for whites only, where he would not be allowed to use the bathroom, and the very next night he would perform in a dilapidated local township. Ultimately, his ticket to a new life was music.

At thirteen, Jonathan’s talents caught the eyes and ears of the British record producer Clive Caulder. He was signed to Caulder’s Jive Records and the rest is history. Jonathan’s first single broke down racial barriers becoming the first song by a black artist played by white radio stations in South Africa and won the South African equivalent to a GRAMMY®.

His commitment to his craft came to fruition with his self-titled debut album, which received a GRAMMY® nomination for the pop hit “Lies.” An instrumental “Going Home” earned him another GRAMMY® nomination and the mid-tempo ballad “Sarah, Sarah” confirmed Butler’s place in popular music.

His first-ever holiday album, Merry Christmas to You, appeared in 2013. The following year, he was joined by bassist Marcus Miller, saxophonist Elan Trotman, and others for Living My Dream, and in 2015, he delivered the gospel-infused Free. Butler returned in 2018 with Close to You, which found him reinterpreting classic songs by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. All three albums reached the Top Five of Billboard's jazz chart. The holiday-themed Christmas Together arrived in September 2019 and featured guest spots by Dave Koz, Keiko Matsui, Kirk Whalum, and others. For 2023's Ubuntu, Butler returned to South Africa, crafting an album that celebrated the spirit and musical traditions of his home country. Produced with longtime associate producer/bassist Marcus Miller, the album also featured guest appearances by Stevie Wonder and Keb' Mo'.

To Jonathan Butler, success is measured on a higher plane. A religious and spiritual man, Butler dedicates his life to being a devoted father and grandfather, and a caring citizen to his homeland, South Africa. And in spite of all the hardships, Jonathan Butler has an air of playfulness and quiet resilience that is easily visible in his passionate performances.

Blue Pyramid Productions is proud to have Jonathan Butler return to the 8th Season of the Church Street Jazz Series.