London has always been a gem in the music scene, and 1992 was certainly no shy wallflower. Ministry of Sound was barely a year old, pleasing the dance music scene week on week; The Cult at Finsbury Park was a show for the history books, where some of the world’s greatest rock artists performed, and, out of Camden Jazz Week, the first ever London Jazz Festival was born.
What started out with fifty shows has now grown exponentially, presenting three hundred shows in sixty venues over ten dates. This year’s milestone is a testament to the long-standing commitment from the team at Serious who, year upon year, produce a hugely varied programme all over London, in surroundings ranging from jazz clubs to concert halls, with something for everyone.
Kicking off the opening is the traditional gala – “Jazz Voice” – at the Royal Festival Hall, which will this year mark its first full decade of delivering a huge range of artists to the stage, all with pristine sets of pipes and vocal virtuosity. Guy Barker’s 42-piece orchestra will provide the backdrop, with artists Seal, Liane Carroll, Mica Paris, Miles Mosley, Tony Momrelle, Vanessa Haynes, Angelique Kidjo, and Mads Mathias as the featured vocalists. This show forms part of the EFG Excellence Series and is certainly not one to be missed. If you can’t make it down to the event in person, we will be streaming it live on Friday 10th November, right here on In Good Taste, with festivities kicking off at 7.30pm (GMT). Be sure to follow us on social media and check back here on the day to avoid missing out.
The EFG London Jazz Festival is a sure-fire way to reach out to both the jazz establishment as well as newbies – think of it as the jazz version of the Proms. Not only do they have the best up-and-coming talent for experienced jazzers to sample, but with events like “Jazz for Toddlers” they are even bringing the music to nursery schoolers.
Venues range from Kingston in the south-west, to Hampstead in the north, and Rich Mix in the east. The festival has something great to offer, no matter your location.
One venue in particular that brings the entertainment to London’s south-west crowd is Cadogan Hall, and is favoured by those who prefer a sit-down concert rather than a stand up gig.
16th November sees Ben l’Oncle Soul singing Frank Sinatra as well as some of his signature tunes, and on the 17th the restaurant critic and MasterChef judge Jay Rayner will be showing that his talents are not only in the gastronomic realm, but at the keys performing jazz piano. Jay’s A Night of Food and Agony brings together songs about food and drink, as well as stories about his mother and agony aunt Claire Rayner – one that covers all bases for IGT readers!
On 18th November, be sure to visit and hear Miles Davis Kind of Blue transformed into soaring symphonic sounds with Guy Barker’s Jazz Orchestra and the Southbank Sinfonia, an ensemble whose reputation precedes them, along with some of the best soloists in the UK.
Perhaps saving the best for last, the festival events at Cadogan draw to a close on 19th November, celebrating what would have been the centenary year of one of the most profound pianists in jazz history, Thelonious Monk. Pianist Jonathan Gee and saxophonist Tony Kofi are presenting this landmark festival project, playing all Monk’s songs in a day over three concerts, each one inspired by a classic Monk album. With an ensemble packed with British jazz talent, including Jason Yarde, Jim Rattigan, and Andy Grappy, you’d think the lineup couldn’t get any better, until you discover the third and final set of the day.
It’s a recreation of Monk’s milestone 1959 Town Hall concert with music for a ten-piece band. At that original concert was a teenage Charles Tolliver, who grew up to become a hugely charismatic trumpeter, arranger and founder of Strata East Records. Tolliver’s reconstruction of the music for this performance creates tensions and energies as if from the night itself, and I’m unsure there could be an individual more relevant to deliver a genuine and relevant interpretation to do the finale of the “Monk-a-Thon” justice. Tickets are available individually or as a package for all three “Thelonious Monk at 100” concerts.
Here’s to all the performers, the team at Serious, and to another successful twenty-five years!
All venue and ticket information can be found at the London Jazz Festival website.
EFG London Jazz Festival Various locations 10th - 19th November 2017 Prices vary depending on individual shows; check website for more details