Musical marvels: the return of the EFG London Jazz Festival


There are few places on Earth as renowned for their musical heritage as London; the UK capital is forever identified with the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Sex Pistols – and, in more recent times, acts like Adele and Dizzee Rascal. But that only takes care of popular music scenes. Music of all types and forms have developed and always thrived in the UK capital – not least jazz. If you doubt that (and are partial to a bit of improv, polyrhythm or syncopation), you should definitely check out the EFG London Jazz Festival (13-22 November).

Now in its 23rd year, the event will be taking place in 60 venues right across the city, including itsmajor concert halls and arts centres,such as the Southbank Centre, Royal Albert Hall, Barbican Centre,Ronnie Scott’s jazz club, 606 Club, The Forge, the Rich Mix Centre, Artsdepot, Wigmore Hall, Cadogan Hall and St. James Studio. It will see an utterly eclectic mix of 2,500 artists performing in more than 250 different shows, numbering Grammy Award winners, hot newcomers, international artists and free jazz specialists. And there’ll also be the opportunity to get involved in the action yourself – whatever your age. For an idea of what’s going on, simply read on…

Famous and rising names
The biggest name to appearwill be jazz supergroup James Farm (featuringsaxophonist Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Matt Penman). Japanese piano star Hiromi (along with her Trio project),jazz-rock-crossover drummer Manu Katché,bassist and bandleader Dave Holland (appearing solo), trumpeter Terence Blanchardand composer Maria Schneider aren’t to be missed either. Lending the festival a soulful, nay funky vibe will be James Brown’s legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker, as well as Jarrod Lawson, Soul Artist of the Year award winner at this year’s Jazz FM Awards.
As to those who are newer on the scene and quickly gathering renown, the trumpet-led and marvellously monikered Matt Roberts Bigish Band are a highlight, as are septet Nérija (again offering an exciting trumpeter in the shape of Sheila Maurice-Grey, as well as saxophonist Nubya Garcia). But that’s not to discount the likes ofSlowly Rolling Camera,Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur or Snowpoet.

Vocal or instrumental?
As has become customary over the years, the Barbican’s gala-esque show Jazz Voice will open this festival for all things jazz in London and promises to feature Grammy Award winners Cassandra Wilson and Cécile McLorin Salvant, in addition to Kurt Elling, Melody Gardot and modern jazz and hip hop blender Jose James. Meanwhile, instrumental jazz is well servedby the ballads-duo-project from saxophonist Courtney Pine and pianist Zoe Rahmanto, while pianist Andrew McCormack and saxophonist Jason Yarde will also be collaborating.Elsewhere, in celebration of their decade together, trio Phronesis come together with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band and the prospect of performances from trumpet duo Christian Scott and Theo Croker are whetting the appetites of many jazz aficionados. No question, checking out any one of these fine instrumental acts would make for a fine deal – just like would – when it comes to accommodation in the capital – any of our London West End hotel deals.

Free jazz and international acts
Fancy experiencing a jazz performance that you know will never have been played before and will never be played again? If so, cult band The Necks is the one for you, whowill be, as is their wont, improvising every performanceat Dalston’s Café Oto. Meanwhile, you can rely on Sloth Racket (another outfit with a fine name) to deliver terrific free improv and avant-garde sounds.

This year, the international act that stands out may well be Norwegian Daniel Herskedal with his jazz tuba – yes, you read that right, jazz tuba. Having said that, though, they’ll also be SyriansaxophonistBasel Rajoub, Polish conductor Krzysztof Urbanski and Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita (if you’re wondering, the kora is a West African 21-string lute-bridge harp).

Get involved!
Fancy having a go at one or two jazz standards and picking up tips from vocalist pros Joe Stilgoe and Nia Lynn? Then don’t miss the fun but intimate workshop Serious Sing at The Barbican. Alternatively, if the vibraphone’s more to your taste (and why shouldn’t it be?) you canlearn frominstrumentalist and composer Orphy Robinson at the event‘Chicago-London Vibration, a Celebration of the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) at 50’, taking place at the Rich Mix arts centre in Bethnal Green.

However, the London Jazz Festival isn’t just about the grown-ups. For children and young people between the ages of 13 and 19, there’s a National Youth Jazz Orchestra workshop where they’llbe taught improv tips and perform a live piece with the orchestra, while parents can be assured younger kids will be taken care of thanks to ‘Catapluf’s Magical Adventure’ by multi-instrumentalistAdriano Adewale at The Albany and jazz fairy-tale ‘Molly and the Owl’ at The Cockpit, as well as the events ‘Jazz for Toddlers’ at the Southbank Centre and ‘Tots Tunes’at the Vortex Club.