The EFG London Jazz Festival has been one of the capital’s most hotly anticipated annual events each November since launching in 1992. This year is no exception and jazz lovers will be thrilled to hear that the festival will run 13-22 November as planned, with over 100 gigs and events. It will be a different experience though as due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the festival will be streamed online from venues across the capital. Serious, the organisers of the festival, have managed to keep the impressive ten-day program in place, with a huge range of shows and special events online. Many of these gigs and events are free to view while others require a modest fee (£10-£12.50) to enjoy. This year’s festival could actually prove to be even more popular as it will no doubt attract a whole legion of new jazz fans watching online. Pelin Opcin, Director of the EFG London Jazz Festival puts a positive spin on having to go completely online when she says “in this unprecedented year, we’ve managed to transform the challenges into a positive motivation. Inspired by the creative response of artists, musicians and the scene in general, we’ve worked together to make the Festival happen and can’t wait to share the buzzing music of the UK, alongside unique performances by international artists with a global audience.” Here are just a few of the many highlights in store at this year’s festival.
The opening night gala on Friday 13 November will be free to view with an array of top singers and surprise guests, live-streamed from Cadogan Hall to your home. The star-studded vocal line up includes Zara McFarlane who joins Vanessa Haynes, Cleveland Watkiss, China Moses, David McAlmont and Luca Manning in collaboration with Guy Barker directing the specially-created EFG London Jazz Festival Ensemble, and host Jumoké Fashola.
One of the first unmissable gigs of the festival will be SEED Ensemble (£12.50) with Cassie Kinoshi, performing live from the Barbican.The concert will celebrate the life and work of spiritual jazz icon Pharoah Sanders (who just turned 80). The London-based SEED Ensemble is a Mercury Award nominated ten-piece band, led by alto saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi. Expect the usual energetic performance from an ensemble influenced by West African and Caribbean heritage of the band leader. This is a great opportunity to see this group as the live gig had already sold out before the UK lockdown was announced.
One of the festival’s best live-streamed free gigs is sure to be from London-based singer-songwriter Judi Jackson at Cadogan Hall whose enthralling blend of neo-soul and jazz has won her a raft of rapturous reviews and a growing fanbase. The 2020 Jazz FM ‘Vocalist of the Year’ will be performing some of her favorite jazz and soul numbers alongside songs from her hugely anticipated next release due 2021.
Armenian piano maestro Tigran Hamasyan (£12.50) is to perform an exclusive solo set for the Festival before embarking on a world tour to promote his new album The Call Within (Nonesuch). The record took inspiration from Hamasyan’s interest in maps from different eras, along with poetry, Christian and pre-Christian Armenian folk stories and legends, astrology, geometry, ancient Armenian design, rock carvings and cinematography.
Mercury-nominated jazz quartet Dinosaur featuring award-winning composer Laura Jurd on trumpet, Elliott Galvin on piano, Conor Chaplin on double bass and Corrie Dick on drums, released a critically acclaimed third album To The Earth (Edition Records) in May. The festival gig will be the first opportunity to see the group presenting the record live.
Malaysian-born bassist and composer Linda May Han Oh (£10) has performed and recorded with artists such as Pat Metheny, Joe Lovano and Terri Lyne Carrington, among others. Her own four albums Initial Here, Sun Pictures, Walk Against Wind, and Aventurine have all garnered critical acclaim so it will be a real treat to hear her performing from Centrestage Recording Studios in her home-town of Perth, Australia. This special performance exclusive to the festival will feature Linda May Han Oh – upright/electric bass, vocals, bass synth, Fabian Almazan- piano/electronics, Jamie Oehlers – tenor saxophone and Ben Vanderwal – drums.
Shabaka Hutchings & Britten Sinfonia (£12.50) will blur the lines of classical and jazz music in a live gig from the Barbican. Saxophonist, clarinettist, composer and band leader Shabaka Hutchings is one of the foremost proponents of the current British jazz scene, playing in a variety of groups, most notably Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming and Shabaka & the Ancestors, embracing influences from the sounds of London’s diverse club culture, including house, grime, jungle and dub. In this concert his background as a classically trained artist will take centre stage. Blurring the lines between jazz and classical music he will perform Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, written for the “King of Swing” Benny Goodman, alongside Britten Sinfonia, followed by Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet, and a solo improvisation on clarinet.
British-Bahraini trumpet and flugelhorn player Yazz Ahmed (£10) blends jazz and electronica, bringing together the sounds of her mixed heritage in what has been described as “psychedelic Arabic jazz, intoxicating and compelling.” She says that she hopes that her gig at Kings Place will help to “bring people together, building bridges between cultures, and changing perceptions about women in jazz and people of Muslim heritage.”
GAIKA, Azekel and Miink (£9.60) will present a brilliant audio-visual performance, drawing from the artists’ personal archive of jazz vinyl, contemporary electronic production and experimental film.
At Kings Place, saxophonist Binker Golding (£10), one half of the MOBO award-winning jazz duo Binker & Moses, will be joined by bassist John Edwards and drummer Steve Noble for a completely improvised set of high energy free-jazz. Expect the conventional boundaries of jazz to be pushed and the limitations of the sax, bass, drums trio to be explored.
DJ, producer and multi-instrumentalist Tenderlonious (£9.60) will presents music from his south-London based record label, 22a, one of the most respected and important independent labels in the UK underground music scene. London’s Evening Standard says “If ever proof was needed that the London jazz scene is on fire right now -here it is!” while Gilles Peterson calls the label “mind blowing.” For this very special EFG London Jazz Festival performance, Tenderlonious will be leading a showcase of material with music from and collaborations between Polish jazz quartet Ruby Rushton, Nick Walters, and more surprises, along with a DJ set from Dennis Ayler. Expect an evening of high energy, freeform, contemporary jazz with nods to the Headhunters and Weather Report.
To wind down the festival Jazz Yoga (£10) seems particularly appropriate in this year of upheaval, stress and uncertainty. Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, producer and arranger Shri Sriram will harness his unique soundworld to perfectly accompany 75 minutes of mindful yoga. Weaving a combination of textures and looping in melodic and bowed bass, flute and percussion, Shri will create an atmospheric backdrop to a flowing and restorative Vinyasa flow yoga sequence, led by dynamic MoreYoga instructor Constanza Ruff.