PizzaExpress offers wide range of jazz acts from around the world and across the days of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2022. Rob Adams previews:
The “baddest vocal cats on the planet,” a deep dive into the career and influence of the fearlessly improvising singer, Betty Carter, and a genuine soul sister from America’s Deep South are among the live attractions PizzaExpress will be presenting during the EFG London Jazz Festival between 12 and 18 November.
Take 6 were given the “baddest vocal cats on the planet” description by no less an authority than Quincy Jones after the multiple GRAMMY Award-winning musician, composer and producer heard their crystal-clear a cappella harmony singing and use of syncopated rhythms and innovative arrangements on an intoxicating brew of gospel, jazz, R&B, and pop.
Formed in 1980 on the campus of Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, the sextet of vocal virtuosos has been recognized as the pre-eminent unaccompanied singing group in the world for decades. Their albums have earned innumerable platinum sales awards and their voices have blended with stars from across the musical spectrum including Ray Charles, Whitney Houston, Don Henley, Stevie Wonder, Mexican singing star Luis Miguel and country and gospel music icon Randy Travis.
They bring their magic to PizzaExpress Holborn on Wednesday 16 November and Thursday 17 for 6:00pm and 9:00pm shows each night.
Bassist Gary Crosby OBE, co-founder and leader of music education and artist development organisation Tomorrow’s Warriors, brings his vibrant quartet to PizzaExpress Soho on Friday 18 November. Joined by the outstanding guest vocalist Cherise, they will explore the late Betty Carter’s formidable musical legacy in Moving On, a song that sums up Carter’s determination to keep finding new ways of expressing the jazz standards canon.
Carter consistently cast herself alongside the most creative and challenging instrumentalists, including bassist Charles Mingus and guitarist Wes Montgomery and latterly the trio of pianist Geri Allen, bassist Dave Holland and drummer Jack DeJohnette, and Cherise, a soulful, creative singer, will take inspiration from these meetings in this night of standard reinvention.
A regular singing partner of Van Morrison, Dana Masters grew up with the sound of soul, rhythm and blues and gospel music in South Carolina. Infusing jazz with these styles, she found she could tell her story and the story of the people who raised her. The granddaughter of a celebrated Civil Rights activist, she left home at the age of 17 to pursue a life in music. It’s a life that has seen the now-Northern Ireland-based Masters singing with Kanye West and both the Ulster and RTE Concert Orchestras and with trumpeter Linley Hamilton as well as Van Morrison. She plays 6.00pm and 9,00pm shows at The Pheasantry on Wednesday 16 November and Thursday 17.
In addition to these evening concerts, PizzaExpress Live is also presenting a series of lunchtime shows curated by Kasia Konstance. Part of the organisation’s Heads Up project, these shows run from Monday 14 to Friday 18 November and aim to bring the best of the next generation of jazz artists to PizzaExpress Jazz Club in Soho. All are free to book.
Paris-born, London-based bassist, vocalist and composer Amy Gadiaga opens the series. Connecting the old school jazz singing tradition with the pop, soul and funk of the Jacksons and other latter day soul stars, Gadiaga and her dynamic band give energetic performances that celebrate artistry and freedom.
Tuesday’s guest, North London drummer and producer Chiminyo combines the raw, immediate sound of live percussion with the futuristic timbres of his electronic productions to create his own, daring soundworld. Each sound is performed live, producing a singular style of music that has led to solo performances at Love Supreme and recordings released by Gearbox Records.
Twenty-year-old saxophonist, flautist and composer Allexa Nava appears on Wednesday. Already a veteran of festivals in Texas and France, the Peruvian musician has performed with Tomorrow’s Warriors and is the winner of the Warriors’ Alf Williams Memorial Award. Her latest single, Wait!, explores a vigorous blend of jazz and funk.
Thursday’s guest, Sofia Grant, is a composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. With Swedish and English roots, she grew up in London surrounded by music. She trained classically on piano and saxophone and began performing as a singer-songwriter aged 14. Having honed her craft as a performer and songwriter in Barcelona for three years, she has returned to her hometown. She and her band will perform songs from her jazz-folk-styled debut EP, as well as re-imaginings of songs that inspired the record.
Completing the lunch-time series, Chinese-Welsh drummer, composer and arranger Andee Liu’s group reflects his range of inspirations, including afrobeat, hip-hop and broken beat as well as the jazz tradition. Currently studying at Berklee School of Music, where his mentors have included drumming legend Ralph Peterson, Liu’s influences as a composer include The Jazz Messengers, Charles Mingus, Moses Boyd, Nubiyan Twist and producers such as MXWLL, Tom Misch and Potatohead People.
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