Ezra Collective’s victory at this year’s Mercury Music Prize confirmed what most of us already knew: jazz is booming.
And for those who want more, the 31st edition of the EFG London Jazz Festival is just around the corner, with 10 days of live performances in more than 70 venues around the capital.
There are performances by living legends in major concert halls, and homegrown talent in small, sometimes surprising venues. There are boundary-breaking experimentalists, extraordinary singers, iconic virtuosos and fresh talent from around the world.
There are also films, exhibitions, free stages, family events and even jazz yoga. From the veteran to those new to the form, all jazz is here.
Opening Gala: Jazz Voice
A celebration of the human voice, the festival’s spectacular opener again finds arranger/conductor Guy Barker and the full-strength EFG London Jazz Festival Orchestra framing beloved classics and new compositions for a wealth of vocalists. UK-based American diva Judi Jackson, Parisian chanteuse China Moses and Scots-raised singer Emeli Sandé appear ahead of their festival shows; previous soloists, including Brendan ‘Basement Jaxx’ Reilly and Omar, will also perform.
November 10, Royal Festival Hall
Makaya McCraven with the London Contemporary Orchestra
Drummer, producer and sound artist Makaya McCraven is at the vanguard of Chicago’s fecund jazz scene, drawing on odd metre rhythms, electronic music and the boundary busting legacy of jazz icons Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk to create a sound and narrative, that is constantly evolving. Musicians including harpist Brandee Younger and guitarist Jeff Parker join conductor Robert Ames and the London Contemporary Orchestra to dive into McCraven’s current opus, In These Times.
November 11 , Barbican
Marcus Miller and Camilla George
Bass guitar god Marcus Miller is one of the most influential jazz artists of our time, a double Grammy winner whose technical wizardry has bolstered the likes of everyone from Miles Davis to Elton John, and whose winning blend of funk, groove, soul, hip-hop and more recently, trap music, had this year’s festival crowds spellbound (not least for improvising alongside the feedback plaguing his stage at Love Supreme, creating something fabulous in the process). UK jazz treasure, saxophonist and composer Camilla George also brings her winning blend of Afrofuturism, hip hop and jazz as support.
November 12 , Royal Festival Hall
Catrin Finch and Aoife Ni Bhriain
Once upon a time, the Welsh-born Catrin Finch was royal harpist to HRH Prince of Wales, playing at palaces and for assorted royalty before turning her virtuosic skills to experimentation and cross-cultural collaborations including award-winning partnerships with musicians from Colombia and West Africa. Her pairing with Dublin-raised violinist Aoife Ni Bhriain, a shining star of both the classical and Irish folk music worlds, is a match quite possibly made in heaven. See what we mean when they perform tracks from Double You, their oh-so-swoonsome debut album.
November 13, Union Chapel
Cecile McLorin Salvant
"A singer like this comes along once every generation or two," said Wynton Marsalis of the New York-based, four-time Grammy-winning Salvant. To which we might add, a singer like this who sings in French, English, Creole and ancient Occitan, whose strong visual aesthetic includes her own vivid artworks, whose latest album Mélusine combines French mythology and Haitian voodoo to tell a story of a woman with a secret mermaid’s tail, comes along, well, hardly ever. Prepare to be dazzled.
November 15, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Irreversible Entanglements are a Chicago free jazz collective whose original members – saxophonist Keir Neuringer, bassist Luke Stewart and poet/vocalist Camae Ayewa, AKA the hotly tipped Moor Mother – came together to perform at a 2015 Musicians Against Police Brutality event. With trumpeter Aquiles Ayewa and drummer Tschere Holmes they’ve created records and live shows that are rhythmic and ritualised, with black liberation as their central theme. New album Protect Your Light hits like a sucker punch.
November 15, EartH (Theatre)
Ron Carter and Foresight
Three-time Grammy winning Ron Carter, 86, is the most recorded jazz bassist in history and one of the greatest accompanists of all time. He’s a maestro whose classy, innovative tones were central to Miles Davis’s second great quintet of the 1960s and whose decades-spanning career includes over 60 albums as a bandleader. For this, his first appearance in the UK in eight years, Carter will be taking his illustrious Foresight quartet – which includes the Canadian pianist Renee Rosnes – on a best-of journey. Buckle up.
November 16, Cadogan Hall
The New York-based Beninese superstar– singer, composer, songwriter, activist – brings her inimitable charm and clear, powerful voice to the Albert Hall. She is all set to raise the rafters with the aid of Chineke!, Europe’s first majority black and ethnically diverse orchestra, as well as special A-list guests, French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Malouf and Senegalese icon Youssou N’Dour. Take your dancing shoes.
November 17, Royal Albert Hall
Over half a century ago, Miles Davis’s free form electro-voodoo odyssey Bitches Brew sounded like the future. In the hands of the capital’s leftfield jazz community, it still does. A tribute album titled London Brew featuring Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia was released earlier this year; this first outing of the on-the-fly live show sees a line-up including tuba player Theon Cross, guitarist Dave Okumu and keyboardist Nikolaj Torp Larsen observing Miles’s original directive – to ‘play the space’.
November 18, Barbican
The Symphonic Music of Wayne Shorter: Esperanza Spalding
Celebrating the life and musical legacy of the great bandleader, saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, are a dream team of his long-time collaborators: bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, pianist Danilo Pérez, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. They team with conductor Clark Rundell and the London-based Philharmonia orchesta to perform highlights from Shorter’s rarely performed Gaia, his 2021 opera Iphigenia and some cherry picks from his songbook.
November 19, Royal Festival Hall
EFG London Jazz Festival runs from November 10 to 19; efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk