EFG London Jazz Festival 2014
Branford Marsalis, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Snarky Puppy are just some of the performances at this year's EFG London Jazz Festival
On the contrary, the latest incarnation will get off to a flying start this Friday 14th of November, with two sets from star saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his quartet. Steeped in jazz tradition, yet always looking to push the boundaries, the group are among the most exciting and versatile in contemporary jazz, as capable of conjuring tender ballads as ferocious swing.
BBC Radio 3’s Jazz on 3 will also kick off a series of broadcast events with a free festival launch at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho (14th November) featuring bass luminary Stanley Clarke and legendary diva Dee Dee Bridgewater. If you missed the free tickets for this event you can catch Bridgewater at the Southbank Centre on Saturday 15th instead. She has vowed that the performance will be ‘a retrospective journey through her career’, a tantalising prospect given that it stretches as far back as the sixties and features the likes of Sonny Rollins, Max Roach and Dexter Gordon along with award winning stints on Broadway. Like so much of this year’s festival, Bridgewater’s set looks sure to be unmissable.
This will be followed by a special edition of Jazz Line-Up from the Southbank Centre’s Clore Ballroom (15th November from 2pm) with sets from singer Christine Tobin and drummer Ollie Howell. Veteran jazz critic Alyn Shipton will host a recording of Jazz Record Requests on the 16th (2pm, Barbican Freestage), the big draw a live set from acclaimed British saxophonist John Surman, leaving Jazz on 3 to finish what they started with a Clore Ballroom takeover showcasing the talents of guitarist Lionel Loueke and former Mercury Prize nominees Roller Trio among many others (23rd November, 2–5pm).
MOBO Award and Barclaycard Mercury Prize nominees Roller Trio will be bringing their signature blend of jazz, rock and electronica to the Southbank Centre's 'Clore Ballroom' on the 23rd.
Other highlights include a performance by Kenny Barron, who was spotted by Dizzy Gillespie when just a teenager and has since established himself as a leading voice in modern jazz piano. He shares the stage with bassist Dave Holland, whose list of collaborators includes Miles Davis and Chick Corea. Whether or not you've bagged a ticket to this, one of the biggest acts of the festival, don’t miss Hear Me Talkin To Ya (21st November, 6.30pm, Southbank Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Free), a pre-concert talk in which they’ll discuss their musical influences.
Jazz-funk fusion outfit Snarky Puppy, riding high on their recent success at the Grammy Awards, are another hot ticket, appearing at the the Roundhouse on the 18th. Though this event is sold out, you can catch them at Ronnie Scott's Late Show on the 17th. Also to keep an eye on his the great Bill Frisell, known for blending jazz with classical and folk influences to enchanting effect.
Talks and Cinema
The festival isn’t just about word class musicians playing jazz. Thanks to a comprehensive lecture and cinema programme, there are also plenty of word-class musicians talking about playing jazz, not to mention screenings of classic films and new releases with a jazz connection.
In addition to Hear Me Talkin To Ya, worth catching is Blue Note at 75 (22nd Nov, 6pm, Southbank Centre, Level 5 Function Room, Free), a conversation between Don Was, head honcho of the legendary record label, and Richard Havers, author of Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression, which promises to be similarly enlightening.
Don Was will be in conversation with Richard Havers on the 22nd of November
Of the three showings at the Barbican Cinema, produced in collaboration with the festival, Whiplash (20 Nov, 8.40pm), a film about a jazz drummer which won Best Picture at this year’s Sundance Film Festival has had the biggest billing. But don’t overlook Roman Polanski’s 1962 classic Knife in the Water (15th November, 3pm), preceded by a live set from pianist Marcin Masecki, or The Connection (16th November, 3pm), a 1961 film by Shirley Clarke about addiction, which will be followed by a musical response from saxophonist Nathaniel Facey to pianist Freddie Redd’s original score.
Other free events
Between 17th and 21st November you’ll also find nightly appearances (6pm onwards) from festival artists at Ray’s Jazz in Foyles, Soho, along with lunchtime shows from hotly tipped American trumpeter Andre Canniere (18th November, 1pm) and experimental Swiss piano trio Plaistow (20th November) at the nearby Pizza Express Jazz Club. Pianist Aaron Goldberg (Pizza Express, 20th November, 11.45pm) is another hot ticket. As is young saxophonist Nathaniel Facey who presents a festival commission on the Barbican Freestage at 5.30pm on the 16th.
With such an eclectic line up, there's sure to be something that catches your eye at this year's EFG Jazz Festival. Click here for full listings and to book.