The first names have been announced for the milestone 25th anniversary of the EFG London Jazz Festival, which takes place from 10 to 19 November at venues across the capital. Kicking off its quarter-century edition in style is an opening-night concert hall show from revered guitar guru Pat Metheny who brings his new Quartet to the Barbican (10 Nov). The group made their London debut last year over four nights at Ronnie Scott's and feature rising star US bassist Linda Oh, acclaimed UK pianist Gwilym Simcock and powerful Metheny drum cohort Antonio Sanchéz, all performing material from the group's debut recording that's set for release later this year on Nonesuch.
The first Friday also marks the 10th anniversary of Jazz Voice, Guy Barker's Herculean celebration of vocal jazz with the 42-piece London Jazz Festival orchestra performing with a diverse selection of high-profile singers at the Royal Festival Hall. The latter venue also hosts a groove-heavy opening weekend of gigs, which include 1970s Brit-funk icons The Average White Band with support from soul-jazz vocal group LaSharVu (RFH, 11 Nov), followed by former Miles Davis bass maestro and producer Marcus Miller who brings his stellar live show and youthful band to the capital following his acclaimed 2015 Afrodeezia album (RFH, 12 Nov).
International names also appearing at the Southbank include Italian poet, painter and singer-songwriter Paolo Conte (RFH, 13 Nov), a rare collaboration between two South African jazz icons as pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and his group Ekaya unites with trumpeter/singer Hugh Masekela for a powerful summit as The Jazz Epistles (RFH, 14 Nov), while high-energy, spiritually-charged sounds come in the form of the Harlem Gospel Choir (RFH, 17 Nov). The globe-trotting styles continue with leading Portuguese fado singer Carminho, who explores gems from the Jobim songbook with a band that includes renowned Brazilian cellist Jaques Morelenbaum (Barbican, 17 Nov), and Cuban jazz pianist Omar Sosa lines up with Senegalese kora player Seckou Keita to play music from their new album Transparent Water (Barbican, 19 Nov).
The first concert announced for the 600-seater Milton Court will feature powerful Scandi-Brit trio Phronesis who team up with Engines Orchestra to explore edgy new material by composer Dave Maric as a super-sized group under the direction of Phil Meadows (12 Nov). And the first show to be announced for Cadogan Hall features drummer Richard Pite's pithy pit-stop musical tour entitled 1957: A Jazz Jukebox, which celebrates music from Ella Fitzgerald's centenary year (12 Nov).
The festival, for which Jazzwise is media partner, takes place at over 50 venues across the capital and features over 300 gigs in performance spaces (with many free-entry and pop-up events) alongside live radio broadcasts, popular family-orientated daytime concerts and an extensive learning and participation programme.
Glasgow's Spark Trio is the latest Scottish band to take the initiative by putting on its own events. In the wake of similar ventures by Edinburgh's Playtime Collective, the trio begins a new monthly series in The Griffin bar in Glasgow's Bath Street on Monday 6 March. This first gig will showcase the group's own compositions and arrangements of jazz standards while future dates will feature prominent players from the Scottish scene guesting with the trio. Following their own gig, organist Paul Harrison, guitarist Joe Williamson and drummer Stephen Henderson have scheduled appearances by Brass Jaw and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra alto-saxophonist Paul Towndrow (3 April) and Jazzwise sax-player-to-watch 2014, Brian Molley (8 May).
"The idea is to bring in players that Glasgow audiences might not get a chance to hear in a full concert very often," says Williamson who also plays with Henderson in Peter Whittingham Jazz Award 2015-winning quartet Square One. "Paul Towndrow, for example, plays in town several times a year with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, but he hasn't had a gig of his own here in more recent times. There's a history of jazz happening at the Griffin over the years," continues Williamson. "It's a familiar venue to the local jazz audience and we're hoping that they'll turn out to hear these top players working in an intimate environment."
Tim Armacost is here tonight on one of only three UK dates as part of a Europe-wide tour promoting his new record, Time Being. His last visit to London was as part of the New Standards Quartet, the ideal showcase for his awesome technique and deep familiarity with the classic language of the Great American Music. His latest project is an exploration of the wider-ranging freedoms possible within the sax-plus-rhythm format pioneered by Rollins in the 1950s – a real test of stamina and imagination for the frontman.
After a typically effusive welcome from host Andy Lavender, the trio stampede into 'Alawain' – Austrian drummer Klemens Marktl sets up the kind of loping waltz groove that Elvin Jones deployed so effectively with Coltrane, and Armacost takes flight over the top. His tone light and clear, his articulation amazingly clean and precise, he rides Marktl's boiling polyrhythms, circling round a single repeated note like a predator stalking its prey, suddenly swooping and diving into peals of rippling phrases. Michael Janisch's accompaniment on bass has the solemn, drone-like quality of Jimmy Garrison's work, and there's even a 'Love Supreme' quote from the leader, but where Coltrane's music had the urgent, yearning quality of the unresolved seeker, Armacost offers a contrasting display of almost academic poise and restraint in his controlled tone, clean articulation and the precise confidence of his ideas. It's a bravura start – "Marktl doesn't mess around" says Armacost – and there's no mistaking the powerful musical intelligence on display from the whole trio.
'Time Being' introduces a sombre theme played in unison with the bass – Marktl colours on the kit whilst simultaneously fixing an errant cymbal stand. The tune features Armacost's experiments with multiple tempos, and though the device is used as a brief bridging device rather than the main component it's still an impressive feat to pull off as naturally as the trio make it sound. '1 And 4' has an extended solo intro from Janisch, demonstrating the breadth of his musical imagination with all kinds of extended techniques, slides and whistling harmonics – Armacost switches to soprano, his tone still rounded and mellilfluous and Marktl's brushes solo descends imperceptibly into silence, so that for a split moment he's playing the air. "We love the real acoustic atmosphere", Armacost says appreciatively.
'Darn That Dream' receives a stately treatment benefitting from another typically adventurous statement from Janisch, and the full glory of Armacost's burnished tone. '53rd Street Theme' simply flies, Armacost delivering a Joycean stream-of-consciousness of bop language, never descending into cliché, while the rhythm team perform time-stretching miracles behind him. They end with a display of protracted musical high-jinks that shows that you can take the music as seriously as your life but still retain a sense of humour. 'Teo' is a bop swaggerer, with Marktl on coruscating form and Janisch delivering a tremendous performance, worrying at a phrase and picking it apart, always in flawless time. Kenny Wheeler's 'Mark Time' is played on soprano and with reverence, with Marktl demonstrating an effortless four-way independence on drums.
This is muscular, impressive, impassioned and intense music, hard swinging and fiercely intelligent, but the good-humoured interplay between the three participants in the conversation, and the leader's relaxed confidence, make this a warm affair. They even return to encore a gut-bucket blues, though it's hard to imagine such a clean-cut, urbane trio playing anywhere remotely insalubrious.
The final names have been confirmed for the momentous Jazzwise 20th Anniversary Festival, which takes place from 13 to 18 March, at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London. Powering up the Late Show slots across the week, all held in the main club space from 11pm onwards, are club regular and tenor sax titan Alex Garnett (13 March) and incendiary US sax groove merchant James Brandon Lewis and his Trio (pictured centre), who'll unleash tracks from their album No Filter (14 March).
Rising star saxophonist Phil Meadows (above left) brings his new Quartet of guitarist Rob Luft, bassist Flo Moore and drummer Will Glaser for an appearance on 15 March that serves as a warm-up gig for their impending appearance at the B-Jazz Festival in Belgium, while Thursday (16 March) sees powerful latin-jazz septet J-Sonics take the stage, featuring saxophonist Matt Telfer, trumpeter Andy Davies (top right) and vocalist Grace Rodson. The Friday 17 March Late Show will feature BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year, saxophonist Alexander Bone and his band.
The stunning line-up of headliners includes John McLaughlin's 4th Dimension (13-14 March); Soweto Kinch's Nonagram band (15 March); Julian Siegel Big Band + Nick Smart's Black Eyed Dog (16 March); Omar Puente Sextet (17 March) and Phronesis with Julian Argüelles and Tim Garland's One double-bill (18 March).
Opening slots include Arun Ghosh Quartet and Nikki Yeoh solo (13-14 March), and a specially convened line-up of Yazz Ahmed's Hafla Band with vibist Ralph Wyld, bassist Dave Manington, drummer Martin France and 'vocal sculptor' Jason Singh performing on cuts from Ahmed's new album La Saboteuse (15 Mar), and fast-rising all-female groove-jazz ensemble Nérija (17 Mar).
Scandi-soul-jazz rising stars Rohey are set to release their debut album, A Million Things, for the iconic Jazzland label later this year. Comprised of lead vocalist Rohey Taalah – after whom they are named, and whose surname aptly translates from Arabic as 'my soul' – plus keyboardist Ivan Blomqvist, bassist Kristian B. Jacobsen and drummer Henrik Lødøen the band fearlessly embrace heavy grooves and delicate harmonies all wrapped up in a hip urban attitude akin to the likes of Eska, Zero7 and Cinematic Orchestra.
Ahead of the album release Jazzwise is proud to present an exclusive first-look at a kicking live version of the first single from the album, 'I Found Me', which was also featured on the covermount CD with the October 2016 issue of Jazzwise.