Live review

We Also Heard… mini-reviews from the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival

Sebastian writes: 

LondonJazz News provides the most comprehensive coverage of the EFG London Jazz Festival. This year we have around 40 full length reviews. And yet… we are not covering more than about 12% of the gigs in the festival. So we asked writers and friends from the scene to tell us about other gigs that they enjoyed: 

Art Ensemble of Chicago – Famadou Don Moye. Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2019. All Rights Reserved

Art Ensemble of Chicago 50th anniversary celebration

Roscoe Mitchell, drifting amongst the musicians, then it started building up – massed basses, strings and percussion creating a bedrock of sound and rhythm with solo sprees and combos emerging to dazzle and assault. Mitchell on top sopranino form, as were soloists Shabaka Hutchings, Dom Moye and Hugh Ragin. Mitchell and Hutchings swerving, roaring in parallel. Like a contemporary ‘classical’ concert, so broad was the musical language. Imposing transition to large scale and Barbican Hall after their intense and musically intimate Cafe Oto concerts. (Geoff Winston)

Gary Bartz 

Gary Bartz is one of those figures whose influence is shamefully under-rated. Fortunately brought back to the spotlight by trendsetter Gilles Peterson, the jazz-funk heavyweight, as a way of taking the audience on a spiritual journey, as effortless and glorious as his Music is My Sanctuary. Accompanied by Maisha, Bartz’s unpretentiousness contrasted superbly with the venue’s grandeur and the velvety hues of Zara McFarlane made for a dreamy duet with the legendary Dwight Trible. (Mariana Curado)

Brotherhood of Breath

It’s always great to see BoB, they always put a smile on the faces of audience and performers alike. It’s the perfect band for a completely full 100 Club which they had graced so many times in the past. It was particularly good on this occasion to see them joined by Steve Williamson who seemed to enjoy himself enormously – as did we all. (Peter Slavid)

Alina Bzhezhinska and her band at the Crypt. Photo credit Tatiana Gorilovsky

Alina Bzhezhinska 

John meets Alice meets Dorothy meets Pharoah in this mash-up of a contemporary twist on jazz as we know it. Harpist Alina Bzhezhinska  really throws a spellbinding party to awaken the senses and gets the body moving with what she refers to as ‘Hip Harping’, a blend of jazz fusion with Afro-beat and other styles. And it really works. Along with a strong rhythm section, special guests Tony Kofi (saxes) and Vimala Rowe made the eclectic night at the Crypt in Camberwell that much more memorable. (Martin Hummel – Ubuntu Music record label representative for Alina Bzhezhinska)

Coalminers

Feel-good ferocious playing from this talented band at the Spice of Life. Drummer/bandleader Pat Levett,  vocalists Tommy Hare and Sumudu,  Ben Somers, Rob Updegraff, Arthur Lea and Spencer Brown – bass transported the audience to the deep south as they delivered a jazz swamp swinging set! (Romy Summers)

Liane Carroll

Phenomenal solo set from Liane Carroll at Crazy Coqs, hands down the most entertaining musician on the jazz scene today. Here’s To Life brought tears to the eyes whilst two minutes later we were laughing at her intro to You’ve Changed (“this is what Bruce (The Hulk) Banner’s wife said”). She moved through pairs of songs to keep a fast-paced jazz set going… “Are there any Cuban gangsters in tonight?” was the question before launching into Donald Fagen’s The Goodbye Look, then rolling into Walk Between Raindrops. Nina Simone’s classics My Baby Just Cares For Me and Sinnerman… she is effortless and so fluent with everything she plays and sings. Joni Mitchell’s River was stunning… then finishing up with a medley of Gershwin/Hammerstein and two Laura Nyro songs including And When I Die. What a complete set from a humble, engaging and truely entertaining and talented lady. (Romy Summers)

Kit Downes’ Benvanemy

Kit Downes was with Ben Van Gelder, Petter Eldh and James Maddren at Kansas Smitty’s on the last evening of the festival. They did two packed shows and had an audience completely mesmerized. Great gig. (Romy Summers)

Eddie Gomez

You’d never believe Eddie Gomez is actually 75. He is in impeccable shape and his hand glides as nimbly as ever up and down his double bass as if no physical effort were involved. It was a pleasure to catch this rare visit in the intimacy of Pizza Express Dean Street with Marco Pignataro on tenor and sorprano sax, Renato d’Aiello on tenor, Teo Ciavarella on piano and Alfonso Vitale on drums. They were extremely tight and the interweaving of the two tenors (or occasionally tenor and soprano) produced some marvellous harmonies allowing space for Eddie’s typical melodic runs in the middle of his accompaniment. A lot more to hear than heads in unison and solos. A great concert all round by one of the people who changed bass playing… and for good, in every sense. (Andres Bonfiglioli)

Pasquale Grasso/Luigi Grasso Quartet

The excitable crowd were packed in like sardines for this electric, completely sold-out night at Toulouse Lautrec/Bopfest. Many were guitarists, all eager and grateful of the opportunity to catch a night with Pasquale Grasso, the most impressive jazz guitarist alive on planet Earth today. His brother Luigi, on alto sax, was perhaps the surprise star of the night, even causing mid-solo shouts and whoops of appreciation. Pasquale played unexpectedly quietly but the effect was to make the audience lean in, giving the whole night a heightened sense of urgency. Deftly supported by Steve Brown and Dario Di Lecce, the brothers gave us all a lesson in how to play utterly burning straight-ahead jazz. This has to go down as ‘gig of the year’. Unbelievable. (Nigel Price)

Tim Garland and Gwilym Simcock. Photo credit Bob Barkany

Tim Garland, Gwilym Simcock, Ernesto Simpson and Conor Chaplin

I never cease to be amazed at the contrast between the process of rehearsal and the gig itself, how it all works and gets put together, and the amazing end-result. I was shooting at the 606 as Tim Garland, Gwilym Simcock, Ernesto Simpson and Conor Chaplin prepared for their gig. They were writing down notes (except Ernesto who miraculously just memorised everything), swapping ideas, nodding to each other… and then in the the gig what one witnesses is four consummate musicians presenting something completely fresh and totally engaging – it really is miraculous every time. (Bob Barkany)

Glasshopper

The sax-guitar-drums trio of Jonathan Chung, James Kitchman and Corrie Dick in the Royal Festival Hall Foyer brought a clear and crystalline, expansive sound with subtle shadings, riding the tides between jazz and post-rock. A well-received set leaned on their jazzier material. We’re looking forward to their debut album, recorded and previewed earlier this year, featuring sublime guest-vocalist Sylvia Schmidt, and characterised by angular interplay, dark delay-drenched atmospheres and arresting moments of exquisite beauty. (AJ Dehany)

Ruth Goller’s Skylla

A new line-up from bassist Ruth Goller which involved her singing with two equally masterful partners in Lauren Kinsella and Alice Grant, accompanied by just her bass. (Oliver Weindling, Vortex)

Calum Gourlay Big Band with Sara Dowling

The Scottish bassist Calum Gourlay asked Sara Dowling to pick six of her favourite songs for him to arrange for his big band. Done in a week, they proved crisp and imaginative with Dowling in fine form, some excellent tenor sax solos from Riley Stone-Lonergan and an outstanding baritone solo from James Allsopp on Yip Harburg’s Then I’ll Be Tired Of You. It finished with the standard Tangerine featuring a blistering, dissonant trumpet solo from Charlotte Keeffe. Deserves another outing. (Paul Kelly, Director, Swanage Jazz Festival)

Peter Horsfall Quartet

The warm and woody upstairs bar at the Oxford in Kentish Town hosted trumpeter Peter Horsfall’s reminiscences of Henry ‘Red’ Allen, a New Orleans trumpeter who as a child met Buddy Bolden. This was pre-1940s jazz trumpet, elegantly played with fewer notes and more inflections than later styles. The material covered early classics like Down By The Riverside to Fat’s Waller’s Black and Blue. There was audience participation on the breakneck Ride Red Ride and contemporary interludes fuelled by the rhythms of Allen’s own voice. Altogether charming. (Paul Kelly)

Helena Kay + Sam Watts, Kaidi Akinnibi + Lorenz Okello-Osengor, Nils Økland

A triple bill at Union Chapel. Award-winning saxophonist Helena Kay was a leading member of the London jazz scene until recently moving to New York. It was wonderful to see her return for the opening set with Sam Watts, who plays piano with a fascinatingly Brazilian tinge. Tracks taken from Helena’s excellent debut album Moon Palace plus a couple of standards. Kaidi Akinnibi and Lorenz Okello-Osengor, from the Tomorrow’s Warriors family, treated us to an improvised duo comprising saxophone and the chapel’s Henry Willis Organ respectively. Nils Økland flew in from Norway to treat us to a virtuoso Hardanger fiddle performance: an interesting and atmospheric solo set. A jam session followed with all of the above-named musicians but – too many instruments and too many different styles – it didn’t really work for me. (Steve Marchant)

Jas Kayzer and Chums

Recently returned to London after studying with Terri Lynne Carrington at Berklee, Jas Kayzer is a revelation as a drummer. For her first gig back in town at the Vortex, with her ‘chums’ including guitarist Lior Tzemach and pianist Margaux Vranken, she managed to bring fire, precision, groove and variety, with an equally thrilling response from the band. (Oliver Weindling, Vortex)

Mark Kavuma & The Banger Factory

If you were looking for good-time jazz, influenced by the masters and interpreted by some very cool cats on the London scene, the place to be was Brick Lane’s Living Room. Led by the upbeat, charismatic trumpet man Mark Kavuma, The Banger Factory is a well-oiled fun machine where people can’t stop boogying. Add the sax godfather, Mussinghi Brian Edwards, guitar groover Artie Zaitz, and the piano-man-to-watch Deschanel Gordon, and you’ll shake until the sun comes up. (Martin Hummel, Ubuntu Music record label representative for Mark Kavuma)

Andrew McCormack’s Graviton

Out of the 12 gigs that were booked over the 10 days of the EFG London Jazz Festival at the Spice, this show was the most original and moving. Andrew McCormack is a most inventive composer and a a top-flight pianist. Essentially, a mythological suite such as The Hero’s Journey comprised dramatic themes made all the more stirring by the gutsy tenor sax of Josh Arcoleo, strident vocals of Noemi Nuti and the locked-in engine room of bassist Tom Herbert and drummer Jamie Murray. Mid-way though the evening, Chick Corea’s Windows provided a lyrical and hard-swinging instrumental interlude which amply displayed the mettle of these formidable musicians. (Paul Pace – Promoter, SpiceJazz at the Spice of Life/Ronnie Scott’s booker)

Making Tracks

At their Kings Place concert, the final night of a tour following a residency, eight fine players from diverse backgrounds worked together to create new and often surprising original music fusing Orkney folk, Indian classical, Kenyan traditional and ancient Chinese forms, using indigenous instruments including santoor, kantele, zheng, jaw harp. These mesmerising collaborations draw attention to the connection and sympathetic vibrations between cultures separated by huge amounts of space and time, finding common ground between all people through music. (AJ Dehany)

Wojtek Mazolewski. Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Wojtek Mazolewski

The Jazz Cafe was completely packed for Wojtek Mazolewski‘s quintet gig. The bassist leader is a charismatic character and the crowd loved him and were getting up and dancing. There is a punk feeling to the tunes from the band’s new album on Whirlwind about to be released. And Wojtek Mazolewski himself told me he likes this picture because it shows his punk side too. (Monika S. Jakubowska)

Nicolas Meier World Group. Photo credit: Steve Marchant

Nicolas Meier World Group

Guitarist Nicolas Meier, a Cadogan Hall free-stage regular, returned there with his World Group. Excellent compositions – usually written in situ during Nicolas’ tours around the world – provided for great entertainment. Long term associate Demi Garcia Sabat on percussion, Richard Jones on violin and Kevin Glasgow on 6-string bass. Wonderful interplay, especially between various guitars and violin. (Steve Marchant)

Resonances

Another mesmerising, ethereal and spiritual set (see also Ruth Goller) this event at the Vortex co-ordinated by artist Aurelie Freoua involved improvisations by three artists painting on windows and perspex, dancer and poet, inspired and interacting with four musicians (chosen by Zac Gvi) – and bubbles! Especially memorable was the spontaneous pas de deux of flautist Hyelim Kim with dancer Petra Haller. (Oliver Weindling, Vortex)

Neal Richardson. iPhone snap by Sebastian

Neal Richardson’s Not King Cole

Neal Richardson has a great understanding of how to reel in the audience at Crazy Coqs. As he and his quartet performed the hits of Nat King Cole, one could sense the audience getting more involved and on his side. And a virtuous circle happened. His singing voice seemed to gain in heft, authority, resonance. And the cheers grew louder. Also great to hear Ciyo Brown on guitar  and that ever-busy top-quality stalwart of the scene and Miles Danso on bass. (Sebastian Scotney)

Tim Garland and the RAM Big Band. Photo credit: Nadworks

The Royal Academy Big Band with Tim Garland

It’s always an incredible treat to watch Tim Garland working with the next generation of jazz musicians and inspiring them. And these are no simplified versions of his unique, often intricate and multi-faceted arrangements, they’re the real thing. This band nailed a highly sophisticated treatment of Chick Corea’s Windows that any professional orchestra would have been proud of. And the urbanised big band adaptation of Tim’s own Weather Walker – originally recorded with juicy strings – was no mean feat either. The one heart-sinking aspect: the glaring lack of female instrumentalists on this stage. (Nadja von Massow)

Sue Rynhart/ Huw Warren

Huw Warren writes engagingly knotty, rollicking tunes. Irish singer Sue Rynhart delivering them wordlessly in duo at Pizza Express added a delicious extra dimension. Her own songs are intriguing too. A fascinating new collaboration for a piano player who has always had the finest taste in vocalists. (Jon Turney)

Christian Sands HighWire Trio

US pianist Christian Sands’ trio with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Terreon Gully at Cadogan Hall celebrated the compositions, distinctive playing style and inspired expositional techniques of Erroll Garner. The responsiveness of each player binds this flawless trio into a single unit of restless creativity, suffusing the material with the warmth and richness befitting the source. Additional documentary audio vox pops helped paint a historical as well as a musical picture of a legendary talent. And yes, of course they played Misty. (AJ Dehany)

Nat Steele’s ‘Portrait of the Modern Jazz Quartet’

A bebop modern legend, vibraphonist Nat Steele and his Quartet treated an enraptured audience at the ‘Out To Lunch series’/ Cadogan Hall to a set based on the renown MJQ and especially John Lewis’s compositions. As ever Django was most appreciated. Steele’s band was Gabriel Latchin, Dario di Lecce, and Steve Brown. Steele is also a key figure in Bopfest which provided a wonderful programme at Toulouse Lautrec. (Steve Marchant)

Jean Toussaint Sextet

Two thirds of the way into their set at Cadogan Hall, Jean Toussaint announced bassist Daniel Casimir’s The Missing of Sleep, written for his now one-year-old daughter, only to find that Trumpeter Byron Wallen could not find the part in his thick pad of music. Forced backstage to search for it, pianist Andrew McCormack filled with an elegiac introduction for several minutes before Wallen returned with the missing part. What followed was a gorgeous tender ballad. Note, no Art Blakey tunes were heard in the performance of this concert marking his centenary. Strange. (Paul Kelly)

Tony Woods Project

The Tony Woods Project has been going strong for something like 20 years now with the same team of great players; one of the first ‘outside the box’ bands and now almost certainly the best, with a range of influences from around the world far wider than its original penny whistle English Folk image. Last Thursday they came to Lauderdale House for its London Jazz Festival date and absolutely floored the audience with its virtuosity and grooves. Igneous Rock was typical of its spirit, beginning with that familiar Celtic yearning, which morphed into a funky New Orleans street march in five – amazing. Roaring on Grace ,which began elegiacally, Mike Outram‘s rhythm guitar came on like Nile Rogers and, together with Milo Fell and Mark Rose generated a fabulous beat that couldn’t fail to inspire vibist Rob Millett, maybe the most undervalued musician in London. Woods, an astonishingly imaginative writer,and virtuosic performer on a wide range of woodwinds, presided over the whole shebang with a beatific smile but when his jazz spots came on alto saxophone he was as strong as anyone I have heard on the scene. A great, great show. (Brian Blain, jazz programmer, Lauderdale House)

Jason Yarde’s Acoutastic Bombastic

The concert at The Cockpit Theatre started with three wonderful short improvisations from quartets and quintets from the large ensemble with the instruments nominated by random members of the audience cued by Jason Yarde. All members of the group doubled on at least two instruments so that, for example, violinist Emma Smith also played a short solo on saxophone, Rosie Turton played percussion as well as trombone and Julian Siegel played saxophone, bass clarinet and double bass. Jason’s writing for the ensemble was absolutely brilliant. (Tony Dudley Evans)

Aga Zaryan. Photo credit: Monika S Jakubowska

Aga Zaryan

An outstanding Polish singer, Aga Zaryan performed songs from her latest album High & Low at Cafe Posk. She presented sophisticated musical material, stylistically open and masterfully performed by both the singer and her band led by pianist, composer and arranger Michał Tokaj. The music of Aga Zaryan is hard to define in terms of mood, but it makes a huge impression – warm and nostalgic, reflective yet sensual. Both in ballads and in dynamic, funk compositions (occasionally even with elements of rock music) the singer has a way of nailing the songs with her interpretations and her voice is also rich in its range of different timbres and hues. (Tomasz Furmanek)

Alice Zawadzki. Photo credit: Monika S. Jakubowska

Alice Zawadzki/RNCM Musicians

Collaborating with musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music, Alice Zawadzki and her band commanded a larger stage with expansive arrangements for strings, horns and voices that still left breathing space and eloquent improvising (guitarist Rob Luft being a particularly spellbinding presence). Zawadzki’s songs are haunting and beautiful, and the performance even captured some of the meticulous quality of the recordings for her current album Within You Is A World Of Spring, which seems to utilise the resources of the studio very effectively. Zawadzki is an authoritative communicator, both in her expressive but clear vocal delivery and in her witty, breezy introductions to the songs and, in drawing from jazz, a range of folk music and other inspirations, her compelling songs could easily draw in listeners attuned to other contemporary artists such as Bjork or Joanna Newsom. These two sets were brimming with inspiration and a real depth of feeling. (Dan Paton)

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