Photo Credit: Jens Thekkeveettil

A Guide to the EFG London Jazz Festival

Will Rathbone

London Calling looks ahead to this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, a 10-day musical feast featuring mix of live shows and live streams across the city.

2020 has, of course, affected this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival however the organisers have responded with positivity and creativity to programme a line-up which combines live shows, internet streams and televised broadcasts from some of the finest jazz musicians in the world. 
One of the major highlights sees Shabaka Hutchings - a saxophone player whose driving rhythms, stirring melodies and innovative arrangements make him one of the most exciting musicians around - combine with the Britten Sinfonia, a fluid ensemble of musicians who specialise in collaboration, for a one-off concert at the Barbican Centre on 18 November. Tickets to see it live are sold out, but you can still purchase a link to the live stream.

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Saxophone fans are spoilt for choice this year, with the Mercury Prize-nominated SEED Ensemble also performing at the Barbican Centre on 14 November in a special concert celebrating the work of seminal saxophonist and composer Pharoah Sanders. Binker Golding’s frenetic, captivating compositions are performed live at King’s Place on 21 November while Camilla George - star of Jazz Jamaica and MOBO-nominated solo artist - plays the Jazz Café on 19 November.
Record label 22a has been at the forefront of the London jazz scene since its inception in 2013, and at Shoreditch Town Hall on 15 November, label head and multi-instrumentalist Tenderlonius presents a showcase of artists from across 22a’s output. Spanning jazz through to hip hop while taking in garage and Indian classical along the way, the evening will take you on a journey through the scope of music the capital has to offer.
Zara McFarlane’s recent exploration of her Jamaican heritage culminated in ‘Black Treasure’, her 2019 album which blended experimental electronic production with traditional Jamaican music and Zara’s wonderful voice, to huge success. Her voice is a warm blend of crystal-clear notes and subtle depth, and spending an evening watching her perform at the Jazz Café on 18 November could be one of the best decisions you’ll make this year.

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If brass is what tickles your jazz fancy, then you’re in luck. Emma-Jean Thackray is a trumpeter-come-composer in a constant state of evolution. Her quest for new sounds makes for an unpredictable live show, which you can see for yourself online on 13 NovemberRosie Turton is also performing online in a special stream-only show on 21 November, a chance to catch the rising trombonists soothing blend of electronica and roots music. Yazz Ahmed, meanwhile, weaves her own brand of psychedelic jazz fusion with a group led by her mesmerising trumpet-playing. Fall under the spell live at Kings Place on 19 November.

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Finally, if catching the hottest young acts before they break through is your thing, the Tomorrow’s Warriors school (which many of the artists mentioned here came through) have a number of showcases throughout the festival. 19 November at Karamel and online, 20 and 21 November downstairs at the Spice of Life in Soho, and an online-only tribute to Charlie Parker on 20 November - all opportunities to see the freshest jazz talent London has to offer. Then, on 14 November at Cadogan Hall, it’s the final of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020 - an annual opportunity to stare open-mouthed at the sheer genius of these young people and their inspiring talent. Wonderful.

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