After ten days and more than 250 gigs across London, The London Jazz Festival is over for another year. It’s been popular. The Royal Festival Hall and the Barbican Hall were packed on the nights I went. As were the year-round clubs like the Bulls Head in Barnes, the Vortex and Ronnie Scott’s. And I get reports of scrums for daring promoters like the Green Man and Charlie Wright ’s. The audience was of all ages. Something for everyone, indeed.
Ivan Hewett tells me his reviewing highlight was Carla Bley. Others are in raptures over young piano hero and composer Gwilym Simcock ’s choral piece on Saturday. Or Sir John Dankworth, a commanding presence, even – temporarily, surely – in a wheelchair.
I was bowled over by the God-like presence of Sonny Rollins, by the protean piano skills and compositional palette of Chick Corea, by the (unexpected) knockabout humour of Stefano Bollani at Kings Place.
For the jazz community, events have been overshadowed by the sudden, tragic loss of a lynch-pin: bassist Jeff Clyne who died of a heart attack last Monday.
If you want a name for the future, then agents should not wait too long to beat a path to the door of Emma Smith from Hertforshire (above), who is patiently building her craft under the watchful eyes of the jazz faculty at the Royal Academy of Music. She sang Steve Swallow’s Ladies in Mercedes to words by her heroine Norma Winstone with grit, attack and top drawer musicality. Whisper it gently, she’s 18 , but this could, should, be a major career.
BBC Radio 3 have broadcast some, and will broadcast more on radio. A bit too much in the graveyard slots. Jazz in Britain is getting bigger at a pace which makes the absence of a TV partner to capture some of the action feel increasingly like a gap.
The BBC has been known to clear its TV schedules for the chicken-strangling sounds of Birtwistle, for mile after mile of featureless John Tavener. But still chooses to ignore jazz. Someone needs a wake-up call.