With dozens of events a day all over town, picking just ten gigs at the London Jazz Festival (11-20 November) isn’t simple. Neither does the dizzying array of styles and regional music on offer help. Themes this year include a look at the roots of American music but, to be honest, the programme feels more like a great big pile of jazz than a cleverly curated programme.
As every year, the Barbican and Southbank centres share the main headliners (although the latter seems to have the pick of the bunch), and Kings Place, a growing force on the jazz scene, also pitches in with a residency.
For many, the soul of the festival is in the clubs and bars – from Ronnie Scott’s in Soho to the Hideaway in Streatham – which together host a mass of music. With some of the headline concerts sold out, this Top Ten looks primarily to the periphery. Because there are ten days of music we’ve picked one event from each day of the festival.
Friday 11 November: Juliet Kelly & Jonny Phillips
Literally the first gig of the festival is given by LJF regulars singer-songwriter Kelly and guitarist Phillips. Under the intriguing title ‘From Seville to St Petersburg’, the duo performs music that traces a journey across Europe. It’s free and at the Southbank Centre’s Clore Ballroom at 1pm.
Saturday 12 November: Oren Marshall
There aren’t many tuba virtuosos out there so Marshall (pictured) is something special. At Charlie Wright’s bar in Hoxton Marshall leads his Charming Transport Band for what should be a pumping night. Expect world jazz par excellence, with a blend of west African styles, funk and jazz, all underpinned by Marshall’s thudding tuba. Click here for a film about the group.
Sunday 13 November: Christian Muthspiel
Come to think of it, there aren’t many trombonists with yodelling groups around either. Christian Muthspiel is a free-thinking Austrian instrumentalist and composer. His most recent project, with a band that here includes New York drummer Bobby Previte, takes a fresh look at the Swiss yodelling tradition. Expect far-out folk-influenced improvisation.
Monday 14 November: Regina Carter
Carter is one of a few world-class jazz violinists. The Chicagoan played a scintillating LJF gig at Ronnie Scott’s two years ago but plays at Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room this time around. Despite a scorching technique, her playing is never fussy or over-complicated, grounded as it is in the blues.
Tuesday 15 November: Gwilym Simcock Trio
In seemingly just a few years, the young British composer and pianist Gwilym Simcock has gone from talented emerging artist to one of the leading voices of UK jazz. Nominated for the Mercury Prize for his probing, intelligent solo album Good Days at Schloss Elmau, Simcock comes to LJF with his regular trio at Chelsea’s 606 Club. A good opportunity to see this man in a club setting.
Wednesday 16 November: Soul Rebels Brass Band
For those currently enjoying the box set of Treme, David Simon’s New Orleans-set drama, this cannot be missed. The Soul Rebels Brass Band follow up last year’s festival appearance with their high-tempo mix of New Orleans jazz, funk and hip-hop. There will be dancing in the aisles at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Thursday 17 November: Archie Shepp
He may cut a smooth figure in his suit-and-hat combo but Archie Shepp (pictured) has always been at jazz’s cutting edge. One of the few remaining godfathers of the form, the tenor saxophonist was at the heart of Sixties radicalism in jazz. He’s joined at the QEH by imaginative German pianist Joachim Kühn and is supported by MOBO Award-winning Empirical.
Friday 18 November: Dunajska Kapelye
Gypsy-spirited Euro-jazz played with fire, this violin-led band are regulars at the ever-excellent Vortex club in Dalston. Dunajska Kapelye play a mixture of folk tune from the Balkans and swinging jazz manouche.
Saturday 19 November: Tim Whitehead
Whitehead is known for being jazz artist-in-residence at Tate Britain, where he improvised in front of Turner’s paintings. The tenor saxophonist reprises his arty ideas here, this time at the Royal Academy in a gig that also features pianist Liam Noble.
Sunday 20 November: Outhouse Ruhabi
Yet another Dalston venue, Open the Gate, hosts Outhouse Ruhabi, a collaboration between British jazz quartet Outhouse and drummers from the Gambia in west Africa. The project’s album featured polyrhythmic, hard-driving music; live it should be a blast.
And one more for luck: Phronesis
You’ve heard of dining in the dark…but blind jazz? In one of this year’s most intriguing projects, highly regarded trio Phronesis present ‘Pitch Black’ at the Purcell Room on 16 November. The idea was inspired by bassist Jasper Høiby’s sister, who lost her sight through a cataract problem.