With over 70 events spanning early and modern, soul, funk, blues, gypsy, electronic, and rock-influenced sounds, the fifth Cambridge International Jazz Festival celebrates jazz in all its diversity. Rachel Coombes previews the festival:
Highlights of the 2019 Cambridge International Jazz Festival include a night that pays homage to the jazz legend Nina Simone, masterminded and performed by one of Europe’s finest female a cappella groups, the Black Voices quintet (24 Nov). British-Bahraini trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed’s 12-piece ensemble perform her new work Polyhymnia (released on the RopeaDope label this month), inspired by some of history’s most significant female figures (19 Nov). There will be headline performances from the Norwegian saxophone legend Jan Garbarek (16 Nov) and his saxophone-playing compatriot and rising star Marius Neset (23 Nov).
On 17 November the Corn Exchange welcomes the ‘Godfather of British Blues’, John Mayall. Other chances to hear internationally acclaimed vocalists include the soul singer Ashton Jones with the Renegade Brass Band (13 Nov); Jones in collaboration with the Harry Greene Trio (20 Nov); Danish singer and saxophonist Mads Mathias with the Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra in a celebration of Nat King Cole’s 100th birthday (22 Nov); and multi-award winning jazz singers Liane Carroll & Claire Martin honouring their love of the Great American Songbook (23 Nov).
Gwilym Symcock performs his second solo album Near and Now at St Catharine’s College Chapel on 15 November. Further performances at beautiful University locations include the German pianist and composer Julia Hülsmann and her quartet (Gonville & Caius College, 15 Nov) marking the 50th anniversary of the label ECM’s inception, as well as the 10th anniversary of LondonJazz News; British guitarist Ant Law performing his latest album Life I Know (Gonville & Caius College, 18 Nov); pianist Elliot Galvin and his trio plus the Sam Leak Trio (Darwin College, 19 Nov); and instrumental fusionists Lydian Collective with support from Q3 (St John’s College, 15 Nov).
Headlining at Cambridge Modern Jazz (CUC Wine Bar) is MOBO-nominated saxophonist Camilla George and her quartet (14 Nov). The virtuosic young saxophonist Alex Hitchcock also brings his quartet to the festival, sharing a bill with one of the UK’s most prominent young jazz guitarists Rob Luft and his quintet (16 Nov). Earlier in the day Luft will perform in a duo with singer and violinist Alice Zawadzki (16 Nov). One of the biggest names in contemporary British jazz, saxophonist Stan Sulzmann joins forces with pianist Nikki Iles (17 Nov) for a concert and workshop, and on 23 November saxophonist Rob Cope performs his new album Gods of Apollo.
Two of the UK’s foremost pianist-composers, working across jazz and classical genres Dave Gordon and John Law re-interpret Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring on 15 November, and an equally versatile duo comprising multi-instrumentalist Christian Muthspiel and electric bassist Steve Swallow perform on 20 November. Other notable jazz pianists on the bill include Leon Greening (24 Nov), and Harry Bolt (21 Nov) with their respective ensembles.
The legendary, musically adventurous Soft Machine bring their eclectic sound to the festival on 14 November. Further experimental, genre-defying projects include drummer Joshua Blackmore’s new project ‘SiZE’, which will be showcased alongside new material by Tom Cawley (22 Nov); drummer, composer and producer Richard Spaven with support from progressive duo Vertaal (14 Nov); pioneers of the London acid jazz scene The Brand New Heavies (14 Nov ); vivacious jazz-funk group Resolution 88 with electronica from Ishmael Ensemble (23 Nov); and British jazz-rock group Roller Trio, with support from electronic-soul quartet Noya Rao (21 Nov).
A day dedicated to Windrush Jazz & Caribbean-influenced music takes place on 17 November at Storey’s Field Centre. The day features Cherise Adams-Burnett and her band presenting Evelyn & The Yellow Birds; a talk from University of Liverpool’s Head of Music Professor Cath Tackley on British Jazz Routes; a special musical retrospective performance from Routes In Jazz of the great Jamaican trumpet icon Dizzy Reece; and a performance from SEED Ensemble – a collective of some of London’s rising jazz stars – combining jazz with inner-city London, West African and Caribbean influenced groove.
The festival welcomes families, with special performances including Groove Baby’s Groove onto The Moon (23 Nov), and The Alley Cats featuring special guest Dennis Rollins playing Disney jazz and other family movie favourites (16 Nov). Throughout the festival there will be pop-up art exhibitions, food stalls, film screenings, live art performances, workshops and talks, including from Norwegian drummer and entrepreneur Carl Størmer on The Jazzcode (16 Nov). There will be an opportunity to enjoy some fine dining at The Tamburlaine Hotel accompanied by the Georgia Mancio Quartet (15 Nov) and at the Gonville Hotel with Robin Phillips Sings & Plays Harry Connick Jr (22 Nov), and a chance for dancing with the exuberant Yiddish Twist Orchestra (23 Nov), and The Brass Funkeys on the final night of the festival (24 Nov). (pp)