|The Sky Garden at the Walkie-Talkie|
This summer sees the latest in a long line of City of London Festivals, promising three weeks of non-stop jazz of the highest quality and variety. Peter Jones spoke to Festival Director Paul Gudgin.
LondonJazz News: What are the highlights of this year’s event?
Paul Gudgin: I would divide it into three broad areas – jazz in unique, interesting places, free jazz – by which I mean it’s free to get in, and a major concert involving NYJO and the National Youth Choir.
LJN: I gather there’s also a strong Norwegian presence this year.
PG: Yes, there is. On 7 July we’ve got Arve Henriksen and an acoustic quartet called Wako. They’re graduates of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, which has its own well-known jazz festival. But the jazz conservatoire at the University has produced some extraordinary and distinctive musicians over the years. Our Nordic jazz event will be happening in a working bank in the City – Nomura, which has amazing views over the Southbank.
LJN: What other interesting buildings are you using for the festival?
PG: We’ve got a series of gigs called Jazz With A View. Some of these are at the Sky Garden in the Walkie Talkie [this is the building that famously focused the sun’s rays on someone’s parked Jag last summer and fried the paintwork]. We’ve also got Anita Wardell performing at The Shard, and Norma Winstone at Unilever House by Blackfriars Bridge.
LJN: All modern venues?
PG: Yes, that was an active choice we made. The City of London has obviously got a large number of fine historic buildings, but we wanted to show off some of the fantastic spaces that have grown up in recent years. So for example we’re putting on a lot of free shows in places like Devonshire Square, at the foot of the Gherkin. The biggest one is Broadgate Circle, by Liverpool Street. The free gigs are mostly at lunchtime and early evening. I mean, 350,000 people come into the City every day to work, and it will be great to engage them with the music, which is why we’ve tried to make as much of it free as possible.
LJN: What performers do you have lined up that we can hear for free?
PG: There’s five days of younger singers, based at the Royal Exchange: Emily Dankworth, Jonathan Carr, Noemi Nuti, Claire Phoenix and Jessica Radcliffe. And then there’s something very close to my heart, which is the BBC Big Band Trio. The big band itself has been sidelined in recent years, which is such a shame, because across the world you’ve got big bands like the NDR in Germany which are subsidized by radio stations, and this gives them the freedom to produce really interesting work. But anyway, at the last minute we’ve managed to get the trio of Robin Aspland on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass and Tom Gordon on drums, and they’ll be joined for two nights at the Sky Garden by a different guest on each night, although I don’t yet know who they will be.
LJN: You mentioned NYJO and the choir.
PG: Yes. They’ll be performing with the National Youth Choir for the first time. There’s a Shakespearian theme, so they’ll be doing a rarely-heard Ellington piece called Such Sweet Thunder, plus a new thing composed by Pete Churchill called Journey’s End, based on a speech from the play Cymbeline. I thought it would be good to feature not only some of the many young big band players around at the moment, but also reflect the current popularity of choral music. I’m really looking forward to that one.
The City of London Festival takes place from 22 June – 10 July in venues across the City.
Full details at www.colf.org.