The latest names announced for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 15 to 24 November, ad include several concerts seeking fresh perspectives on the music’s past. These include a collaboration between influential promoters Total Refreshment Centre and iconic jazz label Blue Note, which marks its 80th anniversary this year, with a night featuring some of the hottest names from London’s resurgent ‘new-jazz’ scene, reinterpreting classics by artists associated with the imprint such as Elvin Jones, Horace Silver and Bobby Hutcherson (Queen Elizabeth Hall, 15 Nov). This show is complemented by north London’s imaginative monthly Jazz in the Round showcase, which presents ‘Tributes to our Musical Heroes’ with six-piece band Hexagonal playing the music of Bheki Mseleku and McCoy Tyner; Brit-jazz bass boss Dave Green saluting Oscar Pettiford and Jimmy Blanton and guitarist Rob Luft (above right) with his take on Grant Green’s distinctive style (Kings Place, 22 Nov).

Elsewhere, there’s a spiritual jazz summit featuring former Charles Mingus and Max Roach saxophonist Gary Bartz (above centre) as part of a night under Gilles Peterson’s We Out Here banner, which also includes soul-shaking vocalist Dwight Trible and rising stars Maisha (Royal Festival Hall, 16 Nov); while there’s an evening of avant-garde electronica with Brighton-based musician Gazelle Twin collaborating with ‘drone choir’ NYX, who create visceral soundscapes with an edgy operatic twist (QEH, 20 Nov). Vocalist/performance artist Elaine Mitchener (above left) also pushes boundaries with her ‘Vocal Classics of the Black Avant-Garde’, which features her group of saxophonist/MD Jason Yarde, trumpeter Byron Wallen, pianist Alexander Hawkins, bassist Neil Charles, drummer Mark Sanders and poet Dante Micheaux, all performning the music of Eric Dolphy, Archie Shepp, Joseph Jarman, and Jeanne Lee, among others (Purcell Room, 21 Nov).

Further shows just announced include rising star singer Judi Jackson (Islington Assembly Hall, 17 Nov); African cellist Abel Selaocoe and Austrian percussionist Bernhard Schimpelsberger (Kings Place, 20 Nov); Pulled By Magnets featuring Seb Rochford, Pete Wareham and Neil Charles (St John on Bethnal Green, 21 Nov); and Get The Blessing’s 20th Anniversary concert (Moth Club, 23 Nov). These shows join those already announced in Jazzwise, who are festival media partners.

Mike Flynn

For the full line-up and tickets www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

This year’s edition of the Ronnie Scott’s International Piano Trio Festival runs from 3 to 7 August with a heavyweight line-up of US and UK players, with emerging names in support and Late Show spots each night. Top US pianist and NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron (above centre) opens the festival with his trio of bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Jonathan Blake over two nights (2-3 Aug); closely followed by Brit-jazz stars Gwilym Simcock with bassist Yuri Goloubev and drummer Asaf Sirkis (5 Aug) and Jason Rebello (top left), with bassist Tim Thornton and drummer Ernesto Simpson (6 Aug). Award-winning keyboardist Nikki Yeoh (above right) brings a global flavour to the programme with her Café Oran trio, who pay tribute to the music of French-Algerian composer and pianist Maurice El Medioni, best known as an interpreter of Andalusian, Rai, Sephardic and Arabic music. The band features cellist Shirley Smart and percussionist Demi Sabat Garcia (7 Aug). Names to look out for on the opening slots and late shows include hotly-tipped Scottish talent Fergus McCreadie, London-based Gabriel Latchin, Japanese rising star Eriko Ishihara and Botswana-born Bokani Dyer, all appearing throughout the festival.

In the lead up to these dates the club packs in some big names for the remainder of July with appearances from revered jazz clarinettist Paquito D’Rivera (17-19 July); rising UK sax star Nubya Garcia (20 July); top soul-jazz singer Natalie Williams’ Soul Family (21 July); a week’s residency from drum legend Steve Gadd and his A-list Band (22-27 July); jazz-influenced Malian superstar Salif Keita (28 July) and two nights from British sax don Courtney Pine (30-31 July).

Alongside the top-drawer bookings the club has also announced this year’s Instrument Amnesty which takes place on Saturday 20 July. The hugely successful scheme offers the public the chance to donate unwanted or unused instruments to the Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation who will pass them on to young people and support their musical education. Since it started in 2015 the imitative has provided over 350 instruments to the such charities as Play For Progress, Kinetica Bloco and In Place Of War in Manchester, a global organisation that ‘empowers communities in places of conflict using creativity as a tool for positive change’. Those wishing to donate need to complete the pledge form on the club's website and and drop their dontated item off at the club on 20 July.

Mike Flynn

For full listings visit www.ronniescotts.co.uk/

 

We were getting in at the beginning: the first public airing of a new foursome of recognisable talents with a set of specially composed material. After saxophonist Mark Lockheart’s unnecessarily apologetic introduction we were swept away on an engaging tide of contemporary jazz-rock. Within minutes it was apparent that this project has the capacity to gel into something that definitely exceeds the sum of its parts. From the free-form opening of ‘Efflorescence’, with Dave Smith’s clattering percussion and Elliot Galvin’s scattershot synth, to the rollicking old-school groove of ‘Mingle Tingle’, this was a textbook exposition of improvisatory playing turning tightly constructed music into pure fun.

Given the cresting wave of electronic dance derived jazz right now this was a determinedly retro-facing project, referencing the music’s rock-informed heyday (albeit the later, more sophisticated No Wave style of John Zorn, inspiration for the tune ‘Jay Zee’). One highlight was the delicious ‘Gangster Rat’, a tribute to Bristolian hero Banksy, with Tom Herbert’s thunking precision on his incongruously tiny violin bass guitar locked into Smith’s expressive backbeat. Crouched behind his keyboards Elliot Galvin grabbed at the groove, then mashed it as Lockheart’s insistent tenor took control once again. Smiles abounded on stage and throughout the Fringe’s enthusiastic audience.

By contrast 'Sixteen' had a kind of psychedelic fluidity within which the four players let themselves roll along. It had the unhurried easiness of the 1960s West Coast, unison phrasing slipping in and out of focus, with Smith’s cross rhythms and cymbal washes smoothing the sense of flow. By contrast ‘Mingle Tingle’’s four-bar riff had a danceable urgency, the swirling Hammond keyboards over four-to-the-floor drumming recalling Brian Auger.

From Loose Tubes to Polar Bear and beyond, Lockheart’s capacity to be ahead of the jazz curve is undeniable. In this quartet his combination of lyrical economy and harmonic creativity has found three improvisatory soul mates who clearly know how to make the most of his compositions in their own terms. With their fiery music and obvious sense of fun there’s every chance that this band will coalesce into something very successful.

Tony Benjamin (story and photos)

Joao Gilberto

João Gilberto was born in Juazeiro, Bahia, in Brazil in June 1931 to a wealthy family and enjoyed a privileged upbringing. As a teenager he was drawn to the music of his homeland, especially the samba, but was equally fascinated by American jazz in general, and the work of Gerry Mulligan in particular. Much to the horror of his parents he dropped out of school in his mid-teens to study music, and in the mid-1950s moved to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the vibrant music scene of the city. Here he met Antonio Carlos Jobim, then working as a composer/arranger and producer for Odeon Records. Together they began collaborating on developing a romanticised, samba-and-jazz style that evolved into the bossa nova. In 1959 they recorded ‘Chega de Saudade’ and ‘Bim-Bam’ that became extremely popular in Brazil. 

When the late Brazilian guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves heard the recording, he was astonished, comparing it to the first time he heard saxophonist Charlie Parker: “It changed everything, for every young musician in Brazil.” The jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd was instrumental in bringing Gilberto to the US and, on 13 February 1962, Getz and producer Creed Taylor flew to Washington D.C. where they met Byrd and Gilberto at the All Souls Church to record an album together. None of them could have guessed that the resulting Jazz Samba would stay on the pop charts for 70 weeks, rising to pole position, with the album’s hit Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’.

With this album, Gilberto became a household name, and bossa nova a worldwide craze. Getz and Gilberto would be reunited the following year with Jazz Samba Encore, which introduced the world to Jobim’s Grammy-winning ‘The Girl From Ipanema’, the runaway hit from the album sung by Astrud Gilberto, João’s then wife. A perfectionist and contrarian, he did not like to tune his guitar to anyone or anything else. In 1994 he played a Jobim tribute at Avery Fisher Hall, duetting on ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ with Dave Grusin to predictable results. In 2003, he cut short a much-anticipated performance at the Hollywood Bowl due to his dissatisfaction with the microphones. The Los Angeles Times reviewer described the incident as “yet another instalment in the long list of eccentric episodes associated with an artist almost as well known for his unpredictability as for the quality of his music.” When he died on 6 July 2019, aged 88, he been struggling with mental health and financial issues.

Stuart Nicholson

Love Supreme’s seventh year continues its unique strengths, as an up-to-the-minute bulletin on the state of (mostly) UK and US jazz, an icon or two and a crowd-drawing Main Stage of soul, reggae and funk interweave beneath the largely sun-drenched South Downs.

Following on from Herbie Hancock in 2017, Chick Corea (above) plays Saturday’s Big Top. This is no ‘legends’ spot, though, as reverence and reputation are blitzed by a hugely entertaining show built around his new Spanish Heart Band’s album, Antidote. Their version of Paco de Lucia’s ‘Zyryab’ begins with Corea in semi-classical mode, before the brass section moves dramatically centre-stage, inevitably recalling Gil Evans’ Sketches of Spain arrangements. The secret weapon, though, is toreador flamenco-dancer Nino de los Reyes, who stalks and pounds the stage with ferocious pride, detonating crowd delight. Their exceptional roars of appreciation aren’t simply for the 77-year-old Corea’s presence, but for the grand show he puts on. When he encores with Return to Forever’s ‘Spain’, not only its famous riffs but even a modest percussion break are sung back, football-style. Corea, the humblest, mildest man in the room, makes a sashaying, finger-snapping exit: a wordless “Ole!”

Snarky Puppy 11 small

Snarky Puppy (above) follow, answering detractors of their recent smoother records with a set which features much of current LP Immigrance, while incorporating all their virtues. Even tonight’s relatively trim nonet has so many moving, overlapping parts that ‘Chonks’, for instance, gains a rough, unruly edge, its guitar shredding slapped aside by a brass climax, as the very notion of solos is squeezed by this road-band’s remorseless needs.

The London scene’s latest talents meanwhile form a Jazz Arena triple-bill. Maisha favour the simmering and miasmic, loosely navigating paths with destinations barely known to themselves. The recognisable, rise-and-release shape of dance music keeps the crowd onside, as it does for Theon Cross’s triumphant tuba revelations (below). The Steam Down club night more fully transplants South London to the South Downs, occasional cheerful ineptness part of its wide-open charm.

Theon Cross 8 small

Sunday dawns for some with Yusef Lateef’s ‘Like It Is’ being played beneath a poetic communion prayer at Glynde’s village church, vicar Peter Owen Jones’ words riding between the sax as spiritual jazz finds a fitting home. Cassie Kinoshi’s SEED Ensemble provide similar soul food for early Big Top listeners, with ska brass lifting up ‘Interplanetary Migration’. The sight of Kinoshi marshalling her large band through her complex Driftglass suite is moving in itself. Young black women weren’t at the heart of British jazz, even three years ago, as they are now. Like the women finding ways to dance everywhere here to music from hard bop to Caravan Palace’s electro swing, a heartening change has come, partly stimulated by Love Supreme.

The new British scene’s Achilles’ heel is, though, laid bare by Joe Armon-Jones, a thrilling sideman, but a bandleader prone to indulgent jams only the very stoned will survive. Fellow keyboardist Kamaal Williams’ 1970s sci-fi-style keyboard freakery over mantric or broken beats is a more exciting hybrid. Orphy ‘Vibes’ Robinson’s faithful take on Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks meanwhile finds his vocalists inevitably wanting.

If US reverence for its jazz tradition can seem a quagmire compared to the UK’s current all-embracing vigour, the Christian Sands Trio offer contrasting, enduring virtues. Monk’s ‘Evidence’ makes the ground seem less straight, Sands’ woozy, close piano chords taking tiny staccato steps as the music is shrunk and stripped to its rhythmic bone, before a brilliant segue into the runaway swing of ‘I Got Rhythm’, Jerome Jennings’ cymbal-smashes marking the path Sands hurtles down. Chicagoan drummer Makaya McCraven more obviously takes from other music such as hip hop, and is notable for the hard, hypnotic heartbeat of his slow-brewed sounds.

The Main Stage saw reggae giant Jimmy Cliff (above) at his most crowd-pleasing, and a closing set from hip hop and soul maverick Lauryn Hill, who has been in some sort of wayward recording limbo for 21 years. Any Billie Holiday fan would recognise the worn, raw truth of her performance. Voice roughened and short of breath, her Fugees hit ‘Ready Or Not’ has its old threat inverted, to become a defiant statement that she isn’t beaten. Such honest, difficult emotion should find a home at any jazz festival, and makes a moving finale here.

– Nick Hasted

Photos by Tatiana Gorilovsky

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