(Guildhall Jazz Festival, 23rd March 2015. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
The Guildhall Jazz Festival has something memorable to offer each year. In recent times, this low-key festival has delivered some extraordinary concerts. For example, there have been guest residencies by artists such as Dave Liebman. Or the festival has given carte blanche to a single artist like Stan Sulzmann– which in his case gave the initial impetus to a major work, his extendable suite of big band pieces built on the compositions of younger jazz composers. Or there have been the album re-creations which Malcolm Edmonstone used to do – Nightfly in particular still stays in the mind. Or indeed there was a poignant memorial to bassist Jeff Clyne.
This year will culminate in a celebration of Kenny Wheeler on Saturday night in Milton Court, directed by Scott Stroman, That will be special: the shadow of the recently-departed genius hovers over our scene.
Monday night’s programme, put together by Carlos Lopez-Real, was fascinating. For the past eight years, the saxophonist – and respected teacher – has been not just one of the organizing dynamos but also one of the creative fountainheads of the E17 jazz collective, in which a group of musicians who happen to live in Walthamstow have built and nurtured a significant local scene, through promoting their own regular gigs, in the make-it-happen, let’s-do-it-anyway spirit which drives much of British jazz. The collective’s major events have often been the premieres of works written for a large ensemble of muscians who lived in the area (like this one we reviewed of Liam Noble in 2009). so the idea behind this evening in which works created in this context and bringing them to the students was, in summary, a teacher saying “welcome to our world.”
The ensemble of students – who ranged from first years to post-grads – were put through their paces in compositions by Brigitte Beraha, John Turville, Dave Manington and Carlos Lopez-Real himself. The first half, which I heard, was all made up of challenging music. The student performers were doing well with the textures and sound-worlds, and just starting to get into their stride, to settle, to convey the narrative of the music with authority… when I had to leave. Alto saxophonist Matt Davies, for example, started tentatively but was alreay starting to play with more authority by the end of the set. Charlotte Keeffe was playing characterful beautiful-toned flugelhorn. Vocalist Claire Phoenix was doing well with a vocal part full of traps for the unwary on every page.
Perhaps the main thing which emerges from this all-too-short glimpse of a gig like this was a renewed a sense of respect for the members of E17 from whom this complex music seems to pour so idiomatically, naturally and necessarily. This was a reminder of quite what a vibrant scene is there to be enjoyed on our doorstep, all over London. Or as Roald Dahl once put it: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
E17 Jazz Website