This year's 25th anniversary edition of the EFG London Jazz Festival begins tonight and runs for 10 days and nights until 19 November, kicking off with the 10th edition of the Jazz Voice opening night gala at the Royal Festival Hall.

Guest singers will include a wide variety of vocal stylists including Liane Carroll (above centre), Mica Paris, Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes, Seal (top right) and charismatic bassist/vocalist Miles Mosley (top left). Backed by the 40-piece London Jazz Festival Orchestra, music will include a wide range of jazz, funk and soul classics with idiosyncratic cultural connections, woven together by composer/arranger Guy Barker's specially written arrangements.

For the first time in the festival's history the entire concert will be live streamed from 8.30pm (GMT) tonight – and can be viewed here:

 For full listings and tickets visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

 muhal-richard-abrams

Though it may have escaped many of the thousands of people who attended last week's Tampere Jazz Happening, an event recently applauded for its programming by the EJN (European Jazz Network), the presence of pianist-composer-educator Muhal Richard Abrams was felt in very perceptible ways. Two musicians who acquitted themselves admirably – bassist Brad Jones, as a member of the New Zion Trio, and pianist Benoit Delbecq, a member of Samuel Blaser's quartet – were both connected to Abrams, who passed away a few days prior to the festival. The former was one of his many sidemen, the latter one of his many students. And it is as a teacher, mentor and source of inspiration to other progressives in the 40-50 age group that Abrams' invaluable impact is felt.

The likes of Jason Moran, Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer have all been vocal about his contribution to their development, as well as to creative music in the wider sense. Abrams is indelibly tied to the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Music (AACM), the Chicago-based institution whence came a plethora of innovative musicians who greatly enriched the history of black music from the 1960s onwards. As a long-serving president of the AACM, Abrams was rightly respected for his leadership and unflagging drive to uphold the dignity and gravitas of African-American culture, but all of his own achievements as a composer, improviser and thinker should not be downplayed. From his classic 1968 debut, Levels And Degrees Of Light, to the fine run of albums cut for Black Saint between the mid-1970s and early 1990s, the highlight of which is arguably View From Within, Abrams proved himself to be restlessly original in his writing and playing, all the while remaining rooted in the traditions of his birthplace, the Windy City.

His experimental approach to performance really placed him in an exciting and unpredictable universe of vibrations, as Max Roach so eloquently put it, that took him beyond the school of avant-garde in which he was mostly pigeonholed. The strong Afro-latin content of much of his music as well as the stark operatic strains of a piece such as 'How Are You?', featuring the angelic voice of Ella Jackson, make it clear that Abrams was a wily sculptor of timbre and texture or, as he contended on the fascinating 2010 duets project with George Lewis and Fred Anderson, an imaginative choreographer of 'SounDance'.

– Kevin Le Gendre

 empirical c camille blake 01

For his third and final edition of Jazzfest Berlin, the veteran English music critic Richard Williams programmed a strong contingent of British artists, as well as commissioning several new works from Stateside composers. As artistic director, he also initiated a mini-season of London-Berlin collaborations, set in the intimate A-Trane club, which is a 15-minute stroll from the main Festspiele concert hall. The first two nights introduced the Lido club as a festival venue. To the east side of the city, in Kreuzberg, it created a mostly-standing, informal atmosphere, with Shabaka & The Ancestors and Steve Lehman's Sélébéyone making strong appearances, establishing South African and avant-hop territories, and beginning a marked emphasis on jazz divergence at this year's Jazzfest. The passing of Muhal Richard Abrams, at the beginning of the festival, hung over many artists, as each of them revealed their own stories of how his influence had pervaded their development. The opening night at Lido was dedicated to his memory.

One of the most ecstatically received sets was played by Empirical on the main stage, making their Blue Note rooted 1960s-style jazz sound almost revolutionary, with its direct proximity to the classic American style. So many other Jazzfest acts had been taking the music to satellite zones, but these be-suited Londoners delivered a show of tightly-controlled post-bebop complexity, using the old guidelines as a basis for launching off into their very 2017-style soloing extremities. Empirical flirt with nostalgia, while living on the edge of experimentation. Negotiating a nervous, twitching, runaway 'Anxiety Society', they not only reflected Brexit struggles, but also cut through the morass of generally downer global news developments, wriggling triumphantly out of this messy sphincter of woe.

On a more alternative level, the first of the Berlin-London Conversations involved Jean-Paul Bourelly (guitar), Frank Gratkowski (reeds), Orphy Robinson (vibraphone) and Pat Thomas (piano), with these last two (known as Black Top) also operating their tables of sampling electronics. The improvisations inhabited an unusual zone, loaded with jittery lo-fi Jamaican and American vocal cut-ups, shot through with stuttering electro-beats, spiralling fuzz guitar and the sometimes sidelined Gratkowski's bittersweet alto patterns. Thomas got into some atonal ragtime piano, and Gratkowski bent notes like Lol Coxhill, this quartet reminiscent at times of his Recedents. Bourelly loosed powerchords at low volume, vocalising like Billy Jenkins, as Thomas got a case of the pitch-bending wobblies, Monk fragments spliced and diced, paused then raced. This was a boldly alternative improvising incarnation.

tyshawn sorey

The fest's artist-in-residence was Tyshawn Sorey, drummer, percussionist, pianist, trombonist, composer, improviser and constant shades-wearer. Perhaps his best set was with his trio, as each member softly began, one-by-one, making glacial progress across a Morton Feldman landscape of true minimalism. Sorey demonstrated his control over the tiniest vibes shimmers, celeste tinkles, and then the deepest big bass-drum thunder, or scraping huge gongs slowly out of their slumber. He also led a large conduction ensemble (in the post-Butch Morris parlance) and played a duet with reedsman Gebhard Ullmann.

One of the greatest jazz movie soundtracks is by Miles Davis (and indeed, it's one of the trumpeter's finest albums), for Louis Malle's Lift To The Scaffold (1958). The pianist René Urtreger is the sole surviving member of the quintet who recorded that score and, following a screening at Cinema Paris, the 83-year-old appeared in person, to play, and to be interviewed by the festival's artistic director Richard Williams. Urtreger began with a set of tunes by Cole Porter, Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington ("to make my cold hands warm", he quipped), delivered in an outgoing, confident manner, with a bold, detailed flow. Urtreger has an open, bright sound, prettifying into an amber glow, negotiated with a melodic traipse. Following 'Polka Dots & Moonbeams', he sat down with Williams, and told the world about sharing a room with Miles, and how Davis had an affair with his sister. Urtreger also played with Lester Young when he was in his early twenties. He's dapper and witty, not afraid to deem Monk a great composer, but a lousy pianist (ahem), and to affably dismiss Michel Legrand's efforts at being 'jazzy'. Urtreger was candid and enlightening throughout, stepping back to the piano to close the afternoon with a rendition of Dizzy Gillespie's 'Con Alma'. It was a heartwarming joy to learn about this key historic personage, while Urtreger is still around, playing, and full of beans.

The US trumpeter Amir ElSaffar premiered 'Maqam/Brass Resonance' in the modern Hohenzollernplatz church, whose long, arched sides hosted the horn section before they promenaded to join the drums and tuba on the stage. Drawn out tones fed on reverberation, and the horn patterns accelerated and overlapped, as they moved through the piece's various developmental sections. A Balkan wedding skip backed a writhing saxophone solo, breaking down into a free-er passage with sparse hand drumming, then into a maqam-style processional. The players returned to the arches unexpectedly, then presented a rousing conclusion back at the front of the stage.

The next afternoon, in another modern church, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial, Kit Downes played its mighty organ, showing an impressive restraint, finding fresh sounds, delicate in their avoidance of bass thunder, but investigating a risky-sounding, juddering pipe-coughing when he did head down to the lower depths. We feared that he might bust this hallowed instrument. Following a mysterious set by Trondheim Voices, awash with real-time sonic shaping, as they wafted around the pews, Downes played along with this all-female Norwegian group, at the afternoon concert's conclusion. Perhaps they could even have worked out a more extensive collaboration.

From churches to clubs, cinema to concert hall, Jazzfest had all the locations covered, and with hip hop, Indian free-ness, electroacoustic collage, South African jazz, avant easy-listening (courtesy of the excellent Nels Cline Lovers project), and the Brazilian retro songbook (with the return of Monica Vasconcelos), it had many musical spheres to pass through in highly successful fashion.

– Martin Longley
– Photos by Camille Blake/Jazzfest Berlin

This year's EFG London Jazz Festival kicks off its milestone 25th edition this Friday 10 November for 10 action-packed days and nights with over 300 gigs across the capital. While the opening night concert hall headline shows include guitar guru Pat Metheny at the Barbican, and the 10th edition of the Jazz Voice opening gala concert at the Royal Festival Hall, the festival's club programme is brimming with stellar international talent. None more so than the triple bill of Whirlwind Recordings artists lining up at Shoreditch venue, Rich Mix. These include a strong US crew of modern jazz fusioneers with preeminent Indo-American guitarist Rez Abbasi (top rleft) a featured soloist with bassist/label boss Michael Janisch's Band, which also includes trumpeter Jason Palmer, saxophonist John O'Gallagher and drummer Clarence Penn. Completing the bill are fast rising UK trumpeter Henry Spencer and his band Juncture and fiery Russian altoist Zhenya Strigalev and his Never Group. This is the first of several double and triple bills at Rich Mix during the festival week that also includes Soothsayers + Arun Ghosh Sextet + Lokkhi Terra (11 Nov); Led Bib + Schnellertollermeier + WorldService Project (12 Nov); Joon Moon + James Heather (13 Nov); Jaimeo Brown's Transcendence (top right) + Revenu (12 Nov); Kneebody + Jason Lindner's Now vs Now (16 Nov) and The Thing + LUME meets Werstatt Berne (19 Nov).

The Clore Ballroom at the Southbank and Barbican freestage both feature numerous free entry concerts all well worth catching to get a flavour of the wide variety of music on offer. Among the Barbican highlights is emergent French harpist/singer Laura Perrudin (pictured top, 6pm, 19 Nov), plus a tranche of insurgent guitar-slinging Estonians including Weekend Guitar Trio (5.30pm, 10 Nov), guitar-generated cinematic sounds from Erki Pärnoja aka Efterglow (2pm, 19 Nov) and guitarist Jaak Sooäär and bass saxophonist Liudas Mockunas bring the noise with their grungy group Heavy Beauty (3pm, 19 Nov). Jazz FM will broadcast live from the Barbican freestage, with Chris Philips presenting special guests and performances from festival artists (from 10am on 10 Nov, 11 Nov and 18 Nov). Jazzwise is media partner for the festival.

Highlights of the club programme are:

Friday 10 November: Bilal Karaman, Yakaza Ensemble (Barbican Freestage, 5 and 6pm); Dice Factory (Con Cellar Bar, 9pm); Bill Charlap and Stephen Keogh (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 7.30pm); Pee Wee Ellis Funk Assembly (Hideaway, 9pm); Moses Boyd's Exodus (Jazz Cafe, 7pm); Manu Dibango & The Soul Makossa Gang (10 and 11 Nov, Ronnie Scott's, 6pm and 10.30pm); Pixel + Tori Handsley (Spice of Life, 8pm); Fini Bearman (Vortex, 8pm) and Imaani & Noel McCalla (606 Club, 9.30pm).

Saturday 11 November: Native Dancer (Albany, 8.30pm); Howe Gelb Piano Trio (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 7.30 and 10.30pm); Dunmall, Noble, Edwards & Sanders (Crypt Camberwell, 9pm); Jazz in the Round (Kings Place, Hall Two, 6.30pm); Pixel + Corrie Dick Trio (Spice of Life, 8pm); Huw Warren Trio Brazil + Dave Smith (Vortex, 8pm) and Saxophone Summit (606 Club, 9.30pm).

Sunday 12 November: Jim Rattigan's Pavillon (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 1.30pm); Chris Potter Trio (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 8pm); Soweto Kinch (Hideaway, 8.30pm); Taeko Kunishima Band + Kaho Aso Duo (IKLECTIK, 8.30pm); Wolfgang Muthspiel Trio (Jazz Cafe, 9pm); Matthew Stevens (Ronnie Scott's, 8pm); Mopomoso (2.30pm), Elt + Pablo Held Trio (Vortex, 7.30pm) and Stan Sulzmann's Neon Orchestra Big Band (1.30pm) and Acantha Lang (606 Club, 8.30pm).

Monday 13 November: Zoe Rahman (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 1pm); Karin Krog and John Surman (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 8.30pm); Janette Mason's Red Alert (Hideaway, 8.30pm); Skint (Ray's Jazz at Foyles, Level 6, 6pm); Matt Roberts BigISH Band plays Wayne Shorter (Spice of Life, 8pm) and Phelan Burgoyne + Devin Gray (Vortex, 8.30pm) and Sara Dowling (606 Club, 8.30pm).

Tuesday 14 November: Oli Rockberger (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 8.30pm); Rachel Cohen Quartet + Marc Michel Quartet (Green Note, 8.30pm); Femi Temowo Trio (Spice of Life, 8pm); George Crowley, Rob Luft, Tim Giles (Vortex, 8pm) and David Gordon Trio + Mike Outram/Chris Montague (606 Club, 8.30pm).

Wednesday 15 November: Dee Byrne's Entropi (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 1pm); Andrew McCormack's Graviton (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 8.30pm); Nick CostleyWhite Quartet + Tom Millar (Green Note, 8.30pm); Becca Stevens (15 and 16 Nov, Ronnie Scott's, 8pm); Tom Harrison Sextet (Spice of Life, 8pm); Bruno Heinen/Rachael Cohen (6pm), Emilia Mårtensson and Friends (Vortex, 8.30pm) and The Printmakers (606 Club, 8.30pm);

Thursday 16 November: Elliot Galvin Trio's The Influencing Machine (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 8.30pm); Resolution 88 (Hideaway, 8.30pm); Mishka Adams' Urubu + John-Paul Muir (Rabbit Hole, 8pm); Jam Experiment (Spice of Life, 8pm); Illegal Crowns ft Mary Halvorson and Taylor Ho Bynum plus Sam Leak (Vortex, 8.30pm) and Dayna Stephens (606 Club, 8.30pm).

Friday 17 November: Trio Elf (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 1pm); Alice Zawadzki (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 7.30 and 10.30pm); Golden Age of Steam + Ivo Neame (Con Cellar Bar, 9pm); Cleveland Watkiss/Mark Sanders/Neil Charles/Debbie Sanders/Rowland Sutherland/Robert Mitchell (IKLECTIK, 8.30pm); Ant Law/Duncan Eagles/Matt Ridley/Dave Hamblett (Ram Jam Club Kingston, 8.30pm); Camilla George Quartet (Spice of Life, 8pm); Fulvio Sigurta / Bruno Heinen (6pm); Mario Rom Interzone Trio + Namby Pamby Boy (Vortex, 8.30pm) and Samara featuring Liliana Chachian and Tim Whitehead (606 Club, 9.30pm).

Saturday 18 November: Tommy Smith & Brian Kellock (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 1.30pm); Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen's Little Radio (Green Note, 8.30pm); Clement Regert's Wild Card (Spice of Life, 8pm); Gilad Hekselman Trio featuring Mark Turner (Vortex, 8.30pm) and Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie with Mark Armstrong & Byron Wallen (606 Club, 9.30pm).

Sunday 19 November: Bernd Reiter New York Allstars featuring Harold Mabern, Eric Alexander & Darryl Hall (PizzaExpress Jazz Club, 8.30pm); Avery Sunshine (Hideaway, 8.30pm); Jazzmeia Horn (Ronnie Scott's, 8pm); Gareth Lockrane Big Band (1.30pm), John Warren Nonet (Spice of Life, 8pm); London Jazz Orchestra (3.30pm); Dan Messore's Indigo Kid + Olie Brice (Vortex, 8.30pm) and Zoe Francis with special guest Jim Mullen (1.30pm) and Polly Gibbons (606 Club, 8.30pm).

Mike Flynn

Full programme and tickets available from www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

Saxophonist Tommy Smith takes his latest project home this month with a concert on 11 November in Craiglockhart church, Edinburgh, just two miles from where he grew up on the outskirts of the Scottish capital.

Back in the summer Smith stepped onstage at Rochester Jazz Festival in New York to play his first ever "naked saxophone" concert, an experience he found "scary but exciting", even though he's played solo onstage several times before. In the early noughties he toured his Alone at Last project across the UK and further afield, playing soprano and tenor saxophones and integrating recordings of his late friend and collaborator Edwin Morgan's poetry with samples of natural sounds and special effects. He has also recorded alone, on his 2001 album Into the Silence, which saw him working with what was at one time the longest echo in the world in Hamilton Mausoleum in Lanarkshire.

The Rochester concert, however, was his first time "playing with no help", as he puts it, in front of an audience and the response in the church-like ambience of Rochester's Lyric Theatre, and in later reviews, told him his approach was on the right track. "I've seen some great saxophonists playing completely solo and even someone like Michael Brecker, who used awesome virtuosity and fantastic technique to prolong his compositions in that setting, played too many notes," he says. "It's a really big challenge and there's the temptation to fill the space available because you're exposed by the silence, but to me space is important. It gives you time to reflect on what you've just played and what you're about to play. It lets the music breathe. If you just play constantly, for the audience it's like listening to someone talking non-stop, twenty to the dozen, and that can just get annoying."

Smith has since played another successful solo concert, in the aptly named 'round church' in Bowmore on the whisky island of Islay in the Hebrides, and is planning more. When the minister at Craiglockhart offered his church as a venue, Smith jumped at the chance to play solo in his home town. "It wouldn't suit every venue," he says. "But churches, particularly the older ones, were built to accommodate acoustic music and I really enjoy working with the room. I concentrate on melodies, some of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's, some from Scottish folk music and some of my own, and although it is like walking a tightrope, playing without a band, it's really satisfying."

As well as his solo concert, Smith has a tour in the south of England this month with his old friend and "personal orchestra", pianist Brian Kellock, their dates are: St George's, Bristol (16 November); Cathedral School, Wells (17 November) Pizza Express, Dean Street (as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, 18 November); Arts Centre, Colchester (19 November) and Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham (20 November).

– Rob Adams

Page 4 of 210

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