Read on for our pick of the must-see performances…
Jazz Voice 2021
When: Friday 12 November, 7:30pm | Where: Southbank Centre, Royal Festival Hall
The festival kicks off in time-honoured fashion with its signature opening-night gala celebrating the best of vocal jazz music. This year’s grand opening is dedicated to jazz classics from the world of film and brings together a tantalising selection of special guests, from singers Georgia Cécile and Ayanna Witter-Johnson to saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin. It’s the perfect way to ease yourself into the rest of the festival.
Richard Bona & Alfredo Rodriguez Band
When: Friday 12 November, 6:30pm & 9:15pm | Where: Ronnie Scott’s
If you’re in no need of a variety show to get back into the swing of things, the opening night also sees dozens of artists holding court on their own in venues throughout London. One event that’s sure to be a highlight is the collaboration between Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and American bassist Richard Bona at Ronnie Scott’s in Soho. Both are hot property these days, having featured together in the 2018 Netflix documentary about their shared mentor, Quincy.
When: Saturday 13 November, 6:30pm & 9:15pm | Where: Ronnie Scott’s
Connecticut-born pianist Christian Sands has performed at the London Jazz Festival several times before but is always worth catching when he’s in town. A two-time Grammy Award nominee, he thinks and feels deeply when it comes to his craft and never fails to deliver something fresh. This time, he presents compositions from his celebrated new album, Be Water: it’ll be fluid, conceptually ambitious and delivered with his usual charisma and self-assurance.
Cleveland Watkiss and Django Bates – Arts and Crafts
When: Sunday 14 November, 7:30pm | Where: Kings Place (Hall One)
Cleveland Watkiss and Django Bates are two veterans of the British jazz scene, both having performed with and composed for an endless list of legends for some 40 years. Here, they join forces for (remarkably) the very first time to explore Afro-Caribbean, American and English folk culture through song, jazz and improvisation. There’s no doubt the programme will be eclectic, with everyone from Louis Armstrong to David Bowie reportedly on the set list.
Chick Corea's The Vigil Songbook with Tim Garland, Jason Rebello & friends
When: Monday 15 November, 8:30pm | Where: Kings Place (Hall One)
The jazz world suffered a huge loss earlier this year with the death of legendary keyboardist Chick Corea: a genius who had been pushing the boundaries of the genre ever since he rose to prominence in the 1960s. In fitting tribute to the great man, saxophonist Tim Garland performs tracks from The Vigil, the Grammy-winning 2013 album they made together, joined by host of fantastic British jazzers including the much-celebrated Jason Rebello taking Corea’s place on keys.
Cécile McLorin Salvant + Xhosa Cole
When: Tuesday 16 November, 7:30pm | Where: Cadogan Hall
There’s hardly a hotter name in jazz singing these days than Cécile McLorin Salvant. Returning to the London Jazz Festival with a new quintet, she now has tracks from no fewer than five monstrously good albums to choose from – not that she won’t throw in plenty of other tunes, of course. What’s more, she has Xhosa Cole, 2018’s BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year, opening for her – which, all in all, just about makes this an unmissable event.
What’s Going On: Nu Civilisation Orchestra
When: Thursday 18 November, 7:30pm | Where: Southbank Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall
2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of Marvin Gaye’s landmark concept album What’s Going On. Famed for its deeply soulful fusion of the personal and the political, the album will be celebrated in style at the Southbank Centre by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra, two years on from their memorable debut at the 2019 BBC Proms. Spoken word and immersive visual projections will be layered on top of Gaye’s music too, delivering a powerful tribute to what many see as the greatest album ever made.
Heidi Vogel, Marcina Arnold & Eska Mtungwazi
When: Thursday 18 November, 9pm | Where: St Giles’ Church, Camberwell
For something that’s a bit more off the beaten track, head to the crypt of St Giles’ Church in Camberwell to hear some of the best and most innovative singers on the UK music scene. Heidi Vogel, Marcina Arnold and Eska Mtungwazi may not be household names (though Mercury Prize aficionados may remember Eska from the 2015 shortlist), but they are class acts who will effortlessly draw on a gorgeous array of musical influences on their way to bringing the house down.
Piazzolla x 100 with Daniel 'Pipi' Piazzolla
When: Friday 19 November, 7:30pm | Where: Wigmore Hall
In another major musical anniversary, this year is the centenary of the birth of Astor Piazzolla, the renowned Argentine tango composer. (Refresh your memory by listening to Libertango if the name doesn’t ring a bell.) Only the inimitable ensemble of piano, bandoneon and double bass would be fit to bring the maestro’s music to life – supported here by Piazzolla’s own grandson Pipi on drums – and placing it all in the intimate, classical setting of Wigmore Hall will surely prove a master stroke.
Billie Holiday at Carnegie Hall
When: Saturday 20 November, 7pm | Where: Crazy Coqs, Brasserie Zédel
Billie Holiday sang three legendary, sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in her lifetime: one in 1948 and two in November 1956, featuring passages read out from her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues. The penultimate night of this year’s festival sees singer Vimala Rowe recreate the latter performances at the Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly. It might seem an odd setting compared to the splendour of Carnegie, but for die-hard Holiday fans this is a must-see.
Brad Mehldau Trio
When: Sunday 21 November, 7:30pm | Where: Barbican Centre
The festival’s closing night is packed with stellar musicians performing all over the capital – yet Brad Mehldau’s name still manages to stand out. Revered by critics and ordinary listeners alike, he’s a musician whose brilliance lies in his ability to ‘play jazz’ without being constrained by it, never fearing to turn to the language of popular or classical music to express himself more clearly. The pianist returns to London with his trio for what is sure to be an unforgettable evening for those lucky enough to be in attendance.
|What||EFG London Jazz Festival 2021|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
12 Nov 21 – 21 Nov 21, Times vary depending on event
|Price||£ prices vary|
|Website||Click here to find tickets|