Live reviews

In Brief: The 2021 EFG London Jazz Festival in short reviews

LJN provides the most comprehensive coverage of the EFG London Jazz Festival. By a considerable margin. And yet our reviews (twenty and still counting at the time of publishing this) only pick up about 10% of what is on offer. So we asked our writers and various other friends on the scene to talk or write to us about some other highlights…

Yazz Ahmed. Photo by Leonardo Pavkovic

Yazz Ahmed and the BBC Concert Orchestra: It was a delight to host the Yazz Ahmed Quintet and the BBC Concert Orchestra concert, conducted by Bramwell Tovey, on the final night of the London Jazz Festival which featured original arrangements inspired by Bahraini pearl divers and legendary women such as Rosa Parks and jazz saxophonist Barbara Thompson. Garnering a well-deserved standing ovation, it was an extraordinary way to end the festival. Recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 & available on BBC Sounds. (Jumoke Fashola)

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Tony Allen: A Retrospective at the Royal Festival Hall, with Damon Albarn, Remi Kabaka, Femi Koleoso and Ben Okri. It was very moving as he was the last artist I had seen live before the pandemic. It very much felt like closing a cycle. So is life… (Mariana Curado)

James Allsopp, John Edwards and Shaney Forbes at the Vortex. This was a stupendous opener for our LJF programme (and indeed one of my gigs of the year). Two musicians of the younger generation working together with Edwards, the modest improvising bassist – and showing how lucky we are to have one of the best in the world here in London. He inspired them, on their first play together, to a beautiful, intense and technically-adept performance. They proved that this music can be accessible, something appreciated by the warm reactions of a sold-out audience. Can’t wait to hear them again. (Oliver Weindling, Director, Vortex)

Paul Booth’s HOOP at the Spicejazz: The festival finale at SpiceJazz Soho was a scorcher! This high-calibre septet, HOOP (Ubuntu Records) was led by saxophonist, Paul Booth – the line-up speaking for itself: trumpeter Tom Walsh; trombonist Nicol Thomson; guitarist Chris Allard, keyboardist Ross Stanley plus the unbeatable rhythm team of bassist Laurence Cottle and drummer Ian Thomas, purveyed good humour, inspired blowing and tightest of arrangements.  (Paul Pace – Music Manager, Spicejazz)

Bossa Nova with Strings at Cadogan Hall covered Sinatra (portrayed by Ian Mackenzie), Jobim (Gui Tavares) and Doris Day (Georgina Jackson) . Richard Pite was formidable at the drums and also in pulling the whole thing together. Ian Bateman had done wonderful and characterful arrangements. Mark Crooks guested impeccably on tenor sax. A really joyful way to end the Jazz Festival. (Romy Summers)

Damon Brown at the MAP Cafe in Kentish Town: Damon Brown’s first date in England for two years, thanks to being marooned in Seoul because of Covid, was a really nice surprise. A last-minute addition to London’s riches. Linking up with old, familiar  mates Leon Greening, Mick Coady  and Matt Home meant that this was no dreary trudge through over-worked jam session territory but lively, hard-driving readings of tunes like Benny Golson’s ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Stablemates’, as well as giving Brown the chance to exercise his vocal chops in a small intimate room on gorgeous material such as ‘Autumn In New York’ and ‘When Sunny Gets Blue’. I was reminded of the dryly humorous title of one of Damon’s albums with Korean musicians Sorry, It’s Just Jazz about three years ago. Far from the glamour of the QEH or Ronnie’s this is still the life  for so many fine players. (Brian Blain)

Olie Brice, Tom Challenger and Will Glaser Downstairs at The Vortex. Versatile drummer and thoughtful curator Will Glaser hosts a restlessly inventive series. Joined by stalwarts Olie Brice & Tom Challenger, this was the premiere of a new work by Brice featuring dedications to Dolphy, Andrew Hill & Johnny Dyani. Brice’s writing has an elegant economy of line, his melodies are emotive without ever falling into sentimentalism. An intense and intimate listening experience. (Paul Lewis)

Lauren Bush and Marco Marconi at Pizza Express: I attended one of the best live jazz nights of the festival with the magical pianist Marco Marconi and the equally magical vocalist Lauren Bush in their ‘Portraits of Gershwin and Porter’ at Pizza Express. The duo elegantly captured the essence of these iconic composers through their own virtuoso renditions from the Great American Songbook, leaving us with a nourished soul. A night to remember! (Ahmed Harfoush)

Quentin Collins Sextet (minus Quentin due to illness) at SpiceJazz Soho: Monday night at Spice Jazz, Soho was one of those rare gigs that will stay with me for a long time. A roll call of London’s finest led by Tony Kofi and Leo Richardson (with Deschanel Gordon, Larry Bartley and Winston Clifford), the band played a last-minute show, re-configured at short notice into a tribute to Cannonball, Coltrane & Monk, as if their lives depended on every note. Blindingly energetic and full of joy – I’m still buzzing! (Tara Minton)

L-R: Cassie October Raine, Natalie South Law, Estee Blu, Mahaliah Edwards, Paulette Long OBE (Chair). Photo credit: Matt Towers.

JPN Conference / ‘Holding a Mirror up to Jazz’ Panel Session: Great to see an all-female intersectional panel for the Jazz Promotion Network conference ‘Holding a Mirror up to Jazz’ with Cassie October Raine (Parents and carers in the performing arts), Natalie South Law (Attitude is Everything), Estee Blu (The F List), Mahaliah Edwards (Black Lives in Music), Paulette Long OBE (Chair) discussing ‘slashers’, ‘side hustles’ and the importance of working with the whole person not just the title. (AJ Dehany)

Samuel Eagles Quintet in the Take Five Showcase. Photo credit: Emile Holba

Take Five Showcase on the Southbank Centre: Demonstrating the talent-development success of Take 5, in three short sets, we heard: From Newcastle, the sparkling John Pope Quintet;  from Leeds, the punkish electronics of J Frisco; and finally, from London, the powerful Samuel Eagles Quintet. Such an array of styles left something for everyone to rave over – exactly what a good festival should strive to offer. (Peter Slavid)

Guildhall Jazz Festival, in association with the EFG London Jazz Festival. Photo by Sam Dye

Guildhall School’s Gala Concert featuring female songwriters including Björk, YEBBA and Kate Bush – with Natalie Williams, Emma Smith, Fini Bearman, Cherise Adams-Burnett a forty-piece studio orchestra. “Wow! Singing my fave Bjork song ‘Hyperballad’ with an orchestral arrangement by the amazing Ryan Mackenzie for the London Jazz Fest at a place I’d not performed at in a loooong while.” (Natalie Williams)

HIPPO. Photo by Leonardo Pavkovic

HIPPO at the Pickle Factory in Bethnal Green : An astonishing 45 minutes set of HIPPO, a futuristic nu jazz from Bristol, “a future jazz vision” of Doug Cave (sax, keys, electronics) buried in a nest of beefy electronics and bouncing rhythms. Saxophones, synthesisers and drums go in, hippo comes out. Just bought their two EPs on BandCamp. (Leonardo Pavkovic)

Anthony Joseph at Kings Place. Photo © Monika S Jakubowska

Anthony Joseph & friends at Kings Place: Anthony Joseph with Denys Baptiste, Jason Yarde and co. was my festival stand-out, along with Irreversible Entanglements with Moor Mother (FULL REVIEW HERE). Both proved that the poetry of protest delivered on a molten wave of high-energy free jazz gives it a explosive power – it’s a unique alchemy. Unforgettable. (Helen Wallace, Artistic & Executive Director, Kings Place)

Cassie Kinoshi and Laura Jurd with the London Sinfonietta. Photo credit Orlando Gili

Soweto Kinch and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican and London Sinfonietta at Queen Elizabeth Hall: Jazz musicians working symphony orchestras is definitely a theme this year. These two concerts, both consisting entirely of major premieres, which I reviewed for the classical section of The Arts Desk (HERE) were fascinating reminders of what versatile and protean talents inhabit our jazz scene. (Sebastian Scotney)

Charles Lloyd’s set list. Photo courtesy of Barbican.

Charles Lloyd and Nérija at the Barbican: Charles Lloyd is so impressive, particularly at 83! His generously flowing, mellifluous tenor sax found like-minded spirits in outstanding pianist Gerald Clayton – a revelation, the beautifully poised bass of Reuben Rogers, and Kendrick Scott’s subtle percussive touch.  The brightly inspired, tight young seven-piece, Nérija, opened with their glowing, technically accomplished set interspersed with splendid, crafted solos throughout. (Geoff Winston)

Shai Maestro and Philip Dizack. Photo by Sisi Burn

Shai Maestro Quartet at Cadogan Hall: The Israeli pianist Shai Maestro and his group proved to have an infectious sense of communication. I was particularly struck by the musicianship between all 4 players. They were clearly enjoying themselves and responded incessantly to each other as the music ebbed and flowed with a transparent quality between them. (Sisi Burn)

Rebecca Nash at the Spice of Life This was a celebration of original music, both old and new. The first set was music from her 2019 album “Peaceful King”. After a short interval, the music took a different turn and presented music from upcoming album “Redefining Element 78”; only the second time this music had been heard. Inspiring original material, a gripping balance of inevitability vs suspense and left many in the audience eager to get their hands on the album once it’s been recorded (the original recording session was put on hold because of Covid-19). Rebecca Nash – piano, Jamie Leeming – guitar, Nick Malcolm – trumpet, Paul Michael – double bass, Matt Fisher – drums (Nick Brown)

Sam Eastmond and NYJO at Cafe Oto. Photo courtesy of NYJO

NYJO plays John Zorn’s Masada Cafe Oto: This was one of three concerts I attended that received a standing ovation, the others being Irreversible Entanglements and Soweto Kinch’s White Juju.  Sam Eastmond conducted with great passion a large NYJO ensemble playing his arrangements of material from John Zorn’s Masada songbook.  The music was fiery, dramatic and very exciting, and played with great gusto, enthusiasm and precision by the group.  (Tony Dudley-Evans)

Cecile McLorin Salvant at Cadogan Hall was utterly impressive and her mesmerising vocal register is something to witness. The young singer who dazzled at Ronnie’s in 2013 (OUR REVIEW), now has 3 Grammys under her belt. She doesn’t just sing, she tells a story and the audience are transported on her musical journey. Cecile left us all just thinking “wow!” Marvin Sewell‘s stunning slide guitar acted as another voice, effortless flautist Alexa Tarantino joined in on beautiful vocal harmonies, Yasushi Nakamura and Keito Ogawa kept a triumphant rhythm section going whilst master pianist Glenn Zaleski was just too good! Support came from saxophonist/flautist Xhosa Cole and bassist Joe Downard. (Romy Summers)

Ian Shaw at Lauderdale House. Completely sold out a week before, Lauderdale House celebrated the LJF with a unique Ian Shaw event, the first 15 minutes of each set consisting of an interview with Mike Vitti from Jazz FM. Fascinating stuff, which brought out Shaw’s great sense of humour- “I went from being the only gay in my North Wales village to being the only gay on the London jazz and soul scene.” Actually this was a serious point about the history of jazz being deeply embedded in a heavily macho culture and it was interesting to hear that it was Ronnie Scott, partly a product of that culture, who gave him a great deal of support following his first engagement at his Club. No doubt that this would be helpful in easing Shaw’s entry into the ranks of the more sceptical of the heavies. Apart from the music Ian became active in the Gay Rights Movement, and later came work with refugees in the. Calais ‘jungle’ – all that misery just 26 miles from my home’ – as well as beginning to record albums with the likes of Cedar Walton. But of course there was wonderful music, beginning with a couple of older style Southern rootsy songs to the closer, Here’s To Life, a composition that Shirley Horn has made her own but just as applicable to the life and work of this remarkable artist. (Brian Blain, Jazz Programmer, Lauderdale House)

Archie Shepp, Barbican Hall. Photo copyright Sisi Burn

Archie Shepp and Jason Moran played a beautiful duo concert filled with intimate dialogue. Although from different generations they both seemed to share the same innate understanding of the African American cultural tradition. ‘Let my People Go’ was a wondrous discourse between the older Shepp and the younger Moran. A very fine collaboration. (Sisi Burn)

Django Bates and Cleveland Watkiss at Kings Place. Photo by Monika S. Jakubowska

Cleveland Watkiss and Django Bates at Kings Place: The ‘jazz boom’ of the ‘80s had me cycling around London ‘sittin’ in’. The scene was pretty segregated: ‘Warriors’ and ‘Tubes’. Tonight celebrated two masters, Impeccably united by mastery and shared experiences. Highlights included angelic vocals on ‘What’s going on?!’ and a delicate rendition of Bates’s ‘Horses in Rain’. Two men playing without bravado. Open, honest, strong… otherworldly. Best £20 I’ve ever spent! (Nikki Yeoh)

LINK : EFG London Jazz Festival

Categories: Live reviews

4 replies »

  1. Was lucky enough to catch Ian Shaw at Lauderdale House and hear his stories as well as, of course, the fabulous music. Never tire of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’. He also turned me on to listen to Mark Murphy after telling a story about meeting him. Great night in a lovely venue.

  2. Very disappointed by Dave Holland and John Scofield at Cadogan Hall. Expensive. Restricted view. Dull and boring music.

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