#letthecultureshine: Win tickets to the Royal Pavilion


London Jazz Festival 2021 Preview

12 November 2021 to 21 October 2021 London

Tony Allen - Credit: Bernard Benant, Navire Argo

A highlight of every calendar year, the EFG London Jazz Festival sees hundreds of the world’s finest musicians descend upon London armed with instruments and primed to expand our musical minds. We couldn't possibly cover everything the festival has to offer (hundreds of gigs take place across ten days, all over the city) so it’s well worth checking out the website to browse the full line-up.

We’ll start with some big hitters, all taking place at the Southbank Centre, one of the festival’s flagship venues. On 12 November, Mercury Prize-nominated black midi take to the stage ready to blow our tiny minds with their high-octane blend of noise, jazz and rock. On the other end of the spectrum, Bryter Later: A Nick Drake Celebration sees a host of musicians perform tracks from the celebrated songwriter’s beautiful second album on 13 November. The very same day at the very same venue also sees a star-studded line-up (including Damon Albarn and Femi Koleoso) come together for Tony Allen: A Retrospective which celebrates the late drummer’s pioneering music.

We’re big fans of an orchestra here at Culture Calling, and there’s plenty to be found at this year’s festival. One of the finest saxophonists of his generation, Soweto Kinch and London Symphony Orchestra is the world premiere of Kinch’s latest work for orchestra, White Juju, written in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, at the Barbican on 19 November. Four of the current generation’s finest musicians also premiere new orchestral work for London Third Stream: London Sinfonietta and Laura Jurd, Elliot Galvin, Cassie Kinoshi and Shabaka Hutchings at the Southbank Centre on 17 November. We love a trip to Union Chapel, and on 20 November it’ll be especially magical as Bill Laurance and The Untold Orchestra perform works from Bill’s pioneering keyboard explorations. The ever-inventive trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and the BBC Concert Orchestra are a match made in heaven or, more accurately, at the Southbank Centre on 21 November where Ahmed’s virtuosic melodies will receive the finest of accompaniment.

We weren't kidding when we said musicians from across the globe would be appearing at this year’s Festival. In-demand bassist and composer Avishai Cohen takes his trio to the Barbican on 16 November to perform his idiosyncratic blend of Hebrew folk music and modern jazz. There’s a rare opportunity to see the legendary Ethiopian keyboard and accordionist Hailu Mergia play at the Jazz Café on 15 November while Cuba and Senegal collide as Omar Sosa and Seckou Keita perform at the Southbank Centre on 19 November - both these gigs will move your heart with melody and your feet with rhythm in equal measure.

All this without evening mentioning Group Listening’s stirring blend of baroque composition and modern electronica at Servant Jazz Quarters on 15 November, Saxophone extraordinaire Lakecia Benjamin paying her respects to the Coltranes at Cadogan Hall on 13 November or the stars of tomorrow performing together as Tomorrow’s Warriors Presents TW Junior Band at the Chocolate Factory on 20 November. We told you it was a jazz-packed ten days! We simply can't wait.