EFG London Jazz Festival opens with a wild weekend

TD-Kurt--Dee-Dee-01

The EFG London Jazz Festival may have celebrated its 21st birthday last year, but as if to prove it has truly come of age – and lost none of its spark – the opening weekend of the 22nd edition positively swaggered and swung with joyful jazz noises everywhere across the capital. If proof were needed of this all-encompassing event’s diversity and pulling power then opening vocal gala Jazz Voice got off to a flying start with top US vocalist Kurt Elling (pictured top) delivering a typically punchy ‘Stepping Out’. With his rich tenor resonating against the 40-piece orchestra-cum-big band, Elling’s bravura technique saw him scat soloing with abandon – a half-concealed grin bearing witness to the fun he seemed to be having dueling with conductor/arranger Guy Barker’s bristling score.

Jazz Voice is something of a ‘taster’ for the less jazz inclined listeners, and as such welcomes voices from soul, blues and pop to join the party – tonight including Basement Jaxx session soulstress Vula Malinga and rising soul-boy Jacob Banks – yet this was also a great showcase for young jazz singer Emma Smith whose time has surely come to move from rising to established name, performing a wonderfully restrained take on ‘Dance Me To The End of Love’. Jacqui Dankworth was equally mesmeric with a truly heartfelt performance of the Charlie Chaplin classic ‘Smile’, turning this all too mawkish melody into something deeply special, while Georgie Fame and Elling had fun with Cab Calloway’s ‘Mini the Moocher’. Other highlights included Barker’s masterful Blue Note medley that began the second half, to mark the label’s 75th anniversary this year, while Natalie Williams and the brilliant Dee Dee Bridgewater demonstrated that today’s vocal scene has both youth and experience in abundance. Click here to listen again to the programme on the BBC iPlayer.

TD-Stanley-Clarke-02

If the Brit-jazz powered big band thrilled the Barbican, then it was the turn of US bass boss Stanley Clarke (above) and his extraordinary band of young guns to shake the walls of Ronnie Scott’s for both their own headline gig and the late night Jazz On 3 live broadcast immediately after. This annual opening-night showcase always provides a contrasting array of sounds – a genuine snapshot of the sheer diversity of the capital’s jazz festival – and this 15th edition was no exception. Clarke’s firecracker foursome of keyboardist Cameron Graves, pianist Beka Gochiashvili and drum monster Michael Mitchell gave the bass icon’s Return To Forever acoustic fusion a blast of 21st century energy. Mitchell’s drumming was the perfect amalgam of Cobham-kick and Chris ‘Daddy’ Dave-daring while Gochiashvili is surely a name set for huge things on the international jazz scene.

As is typical with a Jazz On 3 line-up things detoured into freer terrain as South African drum guru Louis Moholo Moholo brought a reduced Dedication Quartet to the stage – his Dedication Orchestra headlined the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday – with pianist Steve Beresford, bassist John Edwards and saxophonist Jason Yarde digging deep into their collective resources. Yarde bringing things to a head with both soprano and alto saxes in his mouth in a self-harmonising peak. Calmer waters followed with the beatific baritone sax of John Surman creating delicate harmonies of a different kind with singer Karin Krog but it was the aforementioned Dee Dee Bridgewater who had a few aces up her sleeve.

TD-Dee-Dee-06

Hot-footing it from the Barbican, Bridgewater also brought an astonishingly talented young band of Edsel Gomez Rentas (piano), Kenny Phelps (drums), Theo Croker (trumpet), Irwin Hall(sax) and Stefan Lievestro (bass) and needed no encouragement to unleash a feverish ‘Afro Blue’ that skittered and twisted across the 6/8 groove. Trumpeter Croker is a name we’re sure to hear a lot more from in the coming years, playing with the kind of unfettered, infectious exuberance missing from so many players today, likewise Hall on sax was his equal – also be-dreadlocked and grinning with refreshing enthusiasm. Bridgewater’s obvious bond with them all took on a motherly/mentor-ish air as she looked on with pride at her young brood’s brilliance – her own vocals much better suited to the intimacy of a club rather than a concert hall – but perhaps it was just her band providing new levels of inspiration. (MF)   

The protective power of Gris Gris came to town on Saturday night when New Orlean’s very own hoodoo man Dr John brought his ‘Spirit of Satch’ show to the Barbican and proceeded to give fellow home-boy, Louis Armstrong’s timeless repertoire his own highly individual stamp, not to mention a hefty injection of second line funk. With a super-tight band led by trombonist and arranger Sarah Morrow, and featuring a Brit-jazz horn section boasting trumpeter Reuben Fowler, saxophonist Patrick Clahar, Tony Kofi on baritone sax and Byron Wallen on lead trumpet, Mac (Dr John) Rebennack sashayed on, walking-stick style, to a hero’s welcome as he slipped behind the skull-adorned piano and pushed ‘What A Wonderful World’ through the Crescent City juicer.

What was once a ballad transformed into a joyous fat groove and the well-worn lyric dripped with a lip-smacking new tang courtesy of Rebennack’s utterly unmistakable voice. And this is exactly what elevated the show above a mere tribute concert as each of Armstrong’s tunes, including ‘I’ve Got The World On A String’, ‘That’s My Home’, and ‘Tight Like This’ were twisted into irresistible new shapes – some with an impassioned Carlene Anderson on guest vocals – that sounded as though they’d been in Mac and the band’s book for years. “He came to me in this dream and said, ‘Do my stuff – your way’,” said Rebbenack, and with the band in full-funking flow and the audience rocking on its feet, who would want it any other way? (JN)

Yet as the 22nd EFG London Jazz Festival springs into life, one long-running partnership draws to a close. Over the past two decades Norwegian alto/soprano sax master Jan Garbarek has forged a fruitful (artistically and commercially) relationship with leading early music vocal quartet the Hilliard Ensemble. For their penultimate concert together on Friday night at Temple Church, London, the collaborators treated the audience to a selection of songs and chants from the 11th to the 21st Century, taking in everything and everyone from Part to traditional Scottish song. Gabarek sometimes echoed and commented upon the serene harmonies of the Hilliards; sometimes he blew with a celestial passion, forcing notes to clatter and soar around the church.

The venue itself, slap bang in the heart of the Inns of Court, is both breathtakingly beautiful and entirely appropriate; its vaulted ceilings make the perfect echo chamber for this at once fiery and crystalline, meditative music. If the music was serene and still, the vocal performers were not, moving about the church and adding an extra dimension to the sound – this was music that seems to come from everywhere, and nowhere, at once. It’s a pity that such a successful merging of talents has to end, but it has ended on the highest of notes. (KW)

– Mike Flynn, Jon Newey and Kevin Whitlock

– Photos by Tim Dickeson


The EFG London Jazz festival continues until Sunday 23 November for more info go to www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

Click here to listen again to the launch night at Ronnie Scott's on the iPayer – available until 14 December

 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Manhattan Comes To Rottingdean

Unexpected pleasures are the best, even for jazz fans, and...

Read More.....

Saxophonist Alexander Bone wins Kenny Wh…

Twenty-two-year old saxophonist Alexander Bone (above) has been announced as...

Read More.....

LA Fusion stars Spirit Fingers fire-up f…

Virtuosic LA jazz-fusion band Spirit Fingers are set for a...

Read More.....

Call The Cops: Jazzers Run Riot At Bruss…

The annual Brussels Jazz Weekend operates on a gargantuan scale...

Read More.....

Hundred Years Gallery Holds Speaker-Thon

The Hundred Years Gallery, a not-for-profit space showcasing free improvisation...

Read More.....

Babelfish swim to Kings Place for Once U…

Acclaimed jazz-folk group Babelfish are set to launch their new...

Read More.....

Michael Janisch kicks out the jams for n…

Whirlwind Recordings label boss Michael Janisch (above centre) steps back...

Read More.....

Lost Miles Davis Rubberband album snaps …

Rubberband, a previously unissued 1985 album by Miles Davis, is...

Read More.....

Grégoire Tirtiaux and Gratitude Trio lea…

This is a festival where it’s possible to completely miss Kamasi...

Read More.....

Final Bow For The Night Tripper – A Trib…

Refuting the title of his biggest hit, ‘Right Place, Wrong...

Read More.....

Rossano Sportiello rounds out Harriet Co…

For 40 amazing years, the singer Harriet Coleman has presented...

Read More.....

Ronnie Scott’s rolls up to Royal Albert …

Ronnie Scott’s, the iconic London jazz club, will mark its...

Read More.....

Wollny Steals The Night As Moran Breaks …

The first thing to notice were the queues, over 200...

Read More.....

Steam Down, Emma-Jean Thackray and Leafc…

Stroud’s reputation as the alternative hippy hub of the Cotswolds...

Read More.....

Andrew McCormack returns with Graviton: …

Award-winning pianist Andrew McCormack storms back with the second volume...

Read More.....

Jazz Cafe sax summit kicks off second Lo…

Following its successful inaugural run last year, the London Saxophone...

Read More.....

McFerrin Moves Estonian Voices To Jubila…

The second half of Tallinn’s 10-day Jazzkaar festival was particularly...

Read More.....

Herbie Hancock, Terri Lyne Carrington an…

The line-up for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival is...

Read More.....

Williams And Mancio Find Home With Subli…

  Kate Williams and her distinctive Four Plus Three, that’s her...

Read More.....

McBride, Porter, Reeves and Jazz At Linc…

Although it is a respected cultural event throughout the Caribbean...

Read More.....

Major unreleased Tubby Hayes Fontana alb…

Christmas comes early for fans of the late, great Brit-jazz...

Read More.....

Ripsaw Get Rolling

Baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts and guitarist Anton Hunter take their...

Read More.....

Cello Fellows Honsinger, Dixon & Lon…

The fifth annual Chicago Jazz String Summit took place at...

Read More.....

Bristol Jazz Fest launches Crowdfunder l…

The Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival has launched a...

Read More.....

Marcus Miller, Tim Garland and Leïla Mar…

The full line-up for this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival has...

Read More.....

Joshua Redman And Sosa Electrify Spirits…

After last year’s swelter, Cheltenham Festival offered a more temperate climate for...

Read More.....

Friedlander Frames Family Memories At Ka…

  If many contemporary jazz festivals opt for maximum numbers, gigs-wise...

Read More.....

Bonsai band bounce out for album and UK…

Progressive jazz five-piece Bonsai – formerly known as Jam Experiment...

Read More.....

Prieto Exhibits Latin Prowess, While Med…

This 30th edition of the Savannah Music Festival featured a...

Read More.....

Jazz 625 BBC4 Live broadcast and Free St…

With Cheltenham Jazz Festival set for a busy six days...

Read More.....

Steam Down Collective, Sons Of Kemet, Ca…

This year’s Jazz FM Awards ceremony took place at Shoreditch...

Read More.....

Ribot Leads Revolutionary Call At Jazz E…

Portugal’s premier experimental jazz bash, Jazz em Agosto, adopts a...

Read More.....

Cinematic Orchestra, Friday Arena and Ba…

The organisers of this year’s Love Supreme Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....

John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension …

  Kicking off this evening’s set with a high-octane crash through...

Read More.....

Terri Lyne Carrington, Joe Lovano and Lu…

This year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, its 27th edition, runs...

Read More.....

Stanley Clarke Captivates With Crowd-Sur…

As Return to Forever bass legend Stanley Clarke (pictured above) opened...

Read More.....

Making The Cut Mpu 300x500px

Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Manhattan Comes To Rottingdean https://t.co/gAWb7OSm6e @GeorgeColligan @Rottingdean @eddiemyer1 https://t.co/aElIbOMfLj
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
Catch the stunning exhibition of African-American photojournalist Ernest C. Withers’ work at the Michael Hoppen Gal… https://t.co/DOVT0ZnZTc
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA