Monk Liberation Front - First Session One - QEH, Sunday 25 Nov - London Jazz Festival

Over the course of three consecutive concerts the Monk Liberation Front took on the daunting task of playing all seventy of Thelonious Monk’s compositions for the second time.  Their initial performance was at the London Jazz Festival back in 2003, but with 2007 being what would have been Monk’s 90th birthday, this was the perfect opportunity for celebration.

Tribute To Joe Zawinul - Django Bates/Victor Bailey/BBC Big Band - Barbican, 25 Nov - LJF

Joe Zawinul’s untimely death in September meant his scheduled collaboration with the BBC Big Band at the Barbican did not happen. However, the show went on with British keyboard player Django Bates stepping into the great man’s shoes, a fine choice given his similar talent of being able to extract organic sounds from synthesizers. Joining Bates and the Big Band was one of Zawinul’s most prolific collaborators, bassist Victor Bailey. MC’d by Julian Joseph with contributions from Zawinul biographer Brian Glasser, the evening was more than just a concert, serving as a superb tribute to the man and his music.

Roberto Fonseca - QEH, Friday 23 Nov - London Jazz Festival

The moment Roberto Fonseca and his band started playing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a warmth seemed to spread throughout the venue, an irresistible call to the cultural melting pot of Cuban folk music, with the net cast further through Fonseca’s own passion for US, Brazilian and South American Jazz.

Tuxedomoon - Purcell Room, Monday 19 Nov - London Jazz Festival

Although it ironically stood out as their leitmotif, time wasn’t on Tuxedomoon’s side last Monday night. The small Purcell Room struggled hard to accommodate 30 years of prolific, artistic collaborations, celebrated in the album Vapour Trails (11/2007). Seconds after the five ubiquitous, polyglot, multi-instrumentalist, San Francisco legends walked onstage, Peter Principle’s silent amp aborted the wild cheer of the eclectic audience.

John Surman - Wigmore Hall, Saturday 24 Nov - London Jazz Festival

Anyone looking for an ECM-signed saxophonist to deliver a London Jazz Festival set of sparse, near-spiritual splendour would no doubt have attended Jan Garbarek’s Royal Festival Hall show earlier in the week – and they would no doubt have left highly disappointed, as reviews on this site attest.

This set by fellow ECM saxman John Surman at the somewhat smaller Wigmore Hall, was a more low-key affair, yet it delivered everything lacking in the Norwegian’s performance. An exercise in subtlety and restraint, it was as evocative and deeply moving as anything this reviewer has seen all year.

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