One of the most celebrated events on the London music circuit returns in November, as the EFG London Jazz Festival returns with a 10-day programme of nearly 300 shows. Various venues from the Roundhouse to the Southbank Centre will be involved in the festival, brought to us by producers Serious, Arts Council England, the British Council and all sorts of other organisations that love a good saxophone.
From 14-23 November, some smashing acts from the world of jazz will line up for the festival’s 22nd annual outing, and we’ve picked out one show per day that we reckon might pluck your double bass, as it were. The full festival calendar is available at the event website and tickets are available via that same page.
Jazz Voice, Barbican
Friday 14 November
An opening-night gala featuring some of the current stars of the jazz scene, including Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kurt Elling and Georgie Fame. One of the finest singers on the bill is London-based Vula Malinga, whose soul-drenched voice you can hear below from a performance earlier this year.
Abdullah Ibrahim, Royal Festival Hall
Saturday 15 November
Abdullah Ibrahim could get away with just about anything on stage, as he produces the type of music that has audiences closing their eyes in rapt rumination. Sadly the chances of opening them up for a peek of a man unexpectedly cartwheeling around the stage are slim as to produce this effect the acclaimed South African pianist has to keep his hands on the instrument. Here he is from 2011 with his band, Ekaya.
Bill Frisell + Sam Amidon, Barbican
Sunday 16 November
One of the leading jazz guitarists of his generation, Bill Frisell has released something approaching 40 albums since his 1983 debut record, most recently Guitar in the Space Age, released just this month (and here’s an excellent ‘making of’ video of the new record). He won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for his 2005 album Unspeakable, and here is 1968, the first track from that LP.
The Bad Plus, Village Underground
Monday 17 November
Described as a ‘jazz piano trio’, The Bad Plus hail from Minnesota and have a habit of messing with traditional jazz expectations, not least by the unlikely array of cover versions they’ve made their own. We didn’t know a jazz version of Smells Like Teen Spirit existed until today and the world’s a happier place with that knowledge tucked away in the brain, believe us.
Randolph Matthews, St Peter De Beauvoir
Tuesday 18 November
Randolph Matthews is no less than a ‘vocal voyager’, with the occasional trip into beatboxing complementing a truly exceptional singing voice. He is performing at the EFG London Jazz Festival as part of a strand known as Groove Baby, which encourages parents with pre-school age children to bring them along to experience quality jazz before being corrupted by evil chart pop. Listen to a bit of Randolph below, and allow him to educate your kids at St Peter’s church.
Jane Monheit, Cadogan Hall
Wednesday 19 November
Those with only a passing interest in the career of Judy Garland may miss how famous a singer she was in her day, in addition to her acting work. She recorded over 20 albums and released numerous singles, and these will be the focus of this performance by American singer Jane Monheit. Here is Jane performing Garland’s The Man That Got Away, originally from the movie A Star Is Born.
House Gospel Choir, Ace Hotel Shoreditch
Thursday 20 November
Something about gospel has the power to shake even the most cynical soul into rapture, and one of its finest current proponents is the London-based House Gospel Choir. The show on 20 November will be the first of a three-night residency at the Ace Hotel, and here they are performing powerfully at Glastonbury earlier this year.
Chucho Valdés, Kings Place (Hall One)
Friday 21 November
One of the most famous stars of Latin jazz, Chucho Valdés is a Cuban pianist and bandleader who has racked up five Grammy awards over the course of his long career. This will be the second night of his three-night residency, and earlier on 21 November he will talk at a masterclass exploring his work and methods over the decades. Here he is performing Abdel from 2013’s Border-Free album.
Blue Note at 75, Royal Festival Hall
Saturday 22 November
Certainly one of the highlights of the entire festival programme, this show will celebrate 75 years of the famous Blue Note Records, considered one of the most important record labels for breaking and promoting modern jazz. A whole heap of artists from the labels’ current roster will perform, including Robert Glasper, Ambrose Akinmusire and Lionel Loueke, who you can watch in action below.
An evening with Robert Wyatt, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Sunday 23 November
For such a brittle voice to emerge from such a gruff exterior is one of the many surprises of Robert Wyatt, who will here discuss his long career hoping to shift a few copies of his first authorised biography, Different Every Time, from author Marcus O'Dair. One of his finest pieces of work, among a great many, is his 1983 cover of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding, which you can hear him perform on The Old Grey Whistle Test below.
The EFG London Jazz Festival takes place at various London venues from 14-23 November. Tickets are available via the festival website.
Image of Randolph Matthews courtesy of event organisers.