The full London Jazz Festival programme was announced last night at a busy launch party at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, in London’s King’s Cross, attended by jazz and music industry professionals, musicians and media. The festival, which runs 9-18 November and is held in association with BBC Radio 3 and sponsored by Jazzwise, is the biggest concentration of jazz talent ever held in the UK, and packs in over 300 concerts and gigs in ten-days. While the full club and concert hall programme has just been announced tickets have already been on sale for many of the big headline concerts, including, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, John McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension, Jan Garbarek, Marcus Roberts, Jack DeJohnette, David Murray, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Elling, Jim Hall and the Kenny Wheeler Big Band, John Surman, Esperanza Spalding, Robert Glasper Experiment and the Chick Corea/Christian McBride/Brian Blade band.
With such an expansive and all-encompassing line up this year, festival producers Serious have sought to highlight various strands that put a particular focus on the music’s broad sweep of styles and locations, notably British, European and American jazz past and present.
Under the American banner it’s the likes of Bill Frisell, Lucinda Williams, Kurt Elling, Marcus Roberts and the David Murray Big Band with Macy Gray, that reflect both the open and urban spaces jazz is created in Stateside. The new generation of pacesetters are also featured and include singer/bassist Esperanza Spalding (pictured above), hip hop keyboardist Robert Glasper with his Experiment band at Royal Festival Hall, and exciting Blue Note-signed trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. There’s also a birthday tribute to Gil Evans in the 100th year of his birth.
The boarderless nature of jazz today is reflected in two distinct strands: Jazz in the New Europe and Global Connections. The former sees heavy hitters from the European scene, namely French bass great Henry Texier, participate in a series of special commissions, new collaborations and lively public discussions. St James Piccadilly church will also play host to a series of concerts by artists from esteemed labels ACT, Basho and ECM, including harpist Iro Haarla and dynamic pianist Michael Wollny. The latter ‘global’ strand highlights how indigenous regional styles seamlessly integrate with jazz across the world with performances by Trilok Gurtu, Arun Ghosh, Circle of Sound and Open Souls (Ranjana Ghatak, Jason Singh and Seb Rochford), Egberto Gismonti, Flavia Coelho, Carminho, Ara Dinkjian and Tigran Hamasyan. While flamenco guitar legend Paco De Lucia returns to headline the Royal Festival Hall.
The club programme also packs a punch with fearsome free improv sax heavyweight Peter Brötzmann back with his astonishingly powerful Chicago Tentet at Café Oto, and saxophonist Roy Nathanson’s Jazz Passengers at Ronnie Scott’s, who feature modern sax great Ravi Coltrane. Vocal legend Sheila Jordan returns to the Bull’s Head, revered pianist Matthew Shipp performs at The Vortex, while singer Karin Krog and pianist Bengt Hallberg appear at The Forge. There’s also a focus on the rich history of British jazz composition that includes tributes to Michael Garrick, Graham Collier, Eddie Harvey and Joe Harriot, alongside performances by renowned contemporary composers Mike Westbrook, John Surman, Barbara Thompson and the Kenny Wheeler Big Band. The new generation are also represented with concerts by Shabaka Hutchings, Soweto Kinch, Ben Cottrell and his critically acclaimed big band Beats and Pieces, Arun Ghosh, Jack Davies, Neil Cowley and Gwilym Simcock. Home grown stars from across the UK jazz scene such as Norma Winstone and Larry Stabbins also appear, alongside edgy new bands such as World Service Project, Mercury nominated pianist Kit Downes’ Quintet and the exciting Leeds-based group Roller Trio.
This year’s festival has a major Jazz Film strand that highlights the long and vibrant history of the two mediums working together, and kicks off in high style on Sunday 11 November with a celebration of three influential jazz musicians, all featured in films that get their UK theatre premieres: Barbara Thompson Playing Against Time directed by Michael Dibb; Sonny Rollins Beyond The Notes directed by Dick Fontaine and Michel Petrucciani directed by Michael Radford. Each screening is followed by the opportunity to meet the film’s director.
The grand opening night vocal celebration Jazz Voice once again brings together arranger/conductor Guy Barker’s imaginative look at jazz history with the 42-piece London Jazz Festival Orchestra and guest vocal appearances from Brendan Reilly, Claire Martin, Gwyneth Herbert, Junior Giscombe, Natalie Duncan and singer Patti Austin. This contrasts with an energetic line up of crossover/hybrid jazz artists appearing through the festival including Snarky Puppy, Speech Debelle, Damo Suzuki and Three Trapped Tigers appearing at venues XOYO, Village Underground and Charlie Wrights
There’s also an extensive series of jazz and music-related talks and masterclasses that includes the 10th anniversary of The Write Stuff – the Festival’s jazz journalism course run in partnership with Jazzwise magazine. The ever-popular free pre-concert talk series Hear Me Talkin’ To Ya returns as do the informative musician-led Q&A jazz history sessions Way in to the Way Out and Jazz for Toddlers with Orphy Robinson, giving kids the chance to experience the real deal.
For full listings and more info go to: www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk
– Mike Flynn