EFG London Jazz Festival 2021: Twelve fantastic shows to see

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EFG London Jazz Festival is the capital’s largest pan-city music festival. This 29th year boasts over 300 events in more than 60 venues, from world-class in concert halls to rising stars in the back rooms. It is a lively celebration of the cultural diversity of our capital and of the reputation of jazz as a living music – a genre that renews itself by absorbing elements while still preserving its identity. Here are 12 different festival highlights.

Jazz voice

Ego Ella May

/ Keziah Quarcoo

A celebration of singing with soloists selected from this year’s 300-plus event program. Among them are London’s brightest rising stars: singer and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson and neo-soul stylists Georgia Cecile and Ego Ella May. Chicago-born crooner Sachal starred and dynamic NYC saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin. They join Guy Barker and the EFG London Jazz Festival Orchestra to perform jazz soundtracks from the films.

Royal Festival Hall, Friday 12 November at 19.30

Archie Shepp & Jason Moran: ‘Let My People Go’ + Shirley Tetteh

A lively musical exchange between the iconic saxophonist and activist Archie Shepp, 84, and the esteemed pianist Jason Moran, 37 years younger Shepp, was recorded in 2017 and 2018 and released in tribute earlier this year. Now the duo are reunited for a further conversation shaped by freejazz, compositional flair and the African-American cultural tradition. The sought-after London guitarist Shirley Tetteh opens.

Barbican, Friday, November 12 at 19.30

Tony Allen: A look back

Tony Allen

/ PhotoPress

The legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen was the engine room of Fela Kutis Afrobeat. When he died last year at the age of 79, he left a dazzling legacy that includes collaborations with artists from Skepta to Damon Albarn; who along with drummer Femi Koleoso, Gorillaz producer Remi Kabaka and writer and poet Ben Okri lead a star-studded prayer for their beloved uncle Tony.

Royal Festival Hall, Saturday 13 November at 19.30

Sarathy Korwar

Sarathy Korwar

/ Dan Medhurst

The US-born, India-raised, London-based kit drummer and percussionist Sarathy Korwar has created an original sound with her UPAJ Collective, where jazz, hip hop and Indian classical music meet in an earthy and uplifting way. 2019’s award-winning more Arriving – a meditation on immigration – and this year’s improvised Night dreams tapped Korwar’s magic. Grab this chance to see him live with special guests.

London EarthH, Sunday 14 November at 20.00

Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble

Chicago’s Black Monument Ensemble is a lively ensemble of musicians, poets and dancers created by artist and educator Damon Locks and a collective that explores black artistic expertise. For this festival show – featuring cult clarinetist / singer Angel Bat Dawid – BME presents their new, digitally powered album NOW, a work that resists darkness, embraces Blackness and post Covid and BLM marches, asking ‘What’s up now?’

London EarthH, Monday 15 November at 20.00

Cecile McLorin Salvant + Xhosa Cole

Cecile McLorin-Salvant

/ Distribute

Triple Grammy winner Cecile McLorin-Salvant is one of the best jazz vocalists in the world, a singer and composer whose phrasing and purity are reminiscent of the great divas of American music, but whose identity is unmistakably her own. She takes her quintet to interpret familiar, forgotten and new songs with an opening set by the Birmingham-based saxophonist, flutist and whiz-kid Xhosa Cole.

Cadogan Hall, Tuesday, November 16 at 19.30

Woodkid + Alban Claudin

The Frenchman Yoanne Lemoine is a real Renaissance man: a producer, lyricist, illustrator and director of videos for people like Lana Del Ray and Taylor Swift. But it’s his alter ego Woodkid, a cinematic pop composer known for spectacular live shows – including from the top of the Eiffel Tower – that worries us here, playing his only British concert around his new album, S16.

Royal Festival Hall, Wednesday 17 November at 19.30

Joanna Duda Threesome

A rare London concert by Polish pianist, composer and improviser Joanna Duda, whose new trio album Fumitsuke mixes keyboards, double bass and drums with electronic sounds and homemade samples – which she triggers from a portable synthesizer resting on her piano edge. Layered motifs merge into a sound she calls ‘a search for collective consciousness’. Prepare to be swept away.

London Sanctuary Walthamstow, Wednesday 17 November at 20.30

Hedvig Mollestrad Trio

The free-flowing Norwegian guitarist Hedwig Mollestrad has the aesthetics of a jazzman and the soul of a metalhead; Ding Dong, you’re dead, her current fifth album with drummer Ivar Loe Bjørnstad and Ellen Brekken on acoustic and electric bass, is a glorious jumble of spacious ballad and creative riffing. A living proof of the formability of jazz and the ease with which it absorbs new elements; devil horn hand gestures are welcome.

Café Oto, Thursday 18 November at

Terje Isungset: Arctic Ice Music

After live streaming from an igloo early this year, the pioneering Scandinavian composer / percussionist Terje Isunget continues to celebrate twenty years of ice music – that is, music played on the instruments he carves from ice. The evening’s line-up features video artists, Inuit and Siberian neck singers, the Sami vocalist Sara Marielle Gaup Beaska and musicians including the Swedish double bassist Anders Jormin from the acclaimed ECM label.

Kings Place, Friday, November 19 at 20.00

Charles Lloyd + Nérija

Neria

/ Perry Gibson

American saxophone titan Charles Lloyd, 83, has previously lent his graceful golden truths to BB King and The Grateful Dead and maintained the popularity of his late career via a series of albums on Blue Note. This hot ticket concert finds him supported by Nérija, the prismatic British septet with guitarist Shirley Tetteh, trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Gray and saxophonist of the day Nubya Garcia.

Barbican, Saturday, November 20 at 19.30

Kim Cypher, Wendy Kirkland, Esther Bennett, Lara Jones, Ashaine White and Rouhangeze + JSteps

Women in Jazz Media presents an evening with stars of female jazz talent, including vocalist / saxophonist Kim Cypher, singer / pianist Wendy Kirkland, saxophonist / producer Lara Jones, grunge-soul-jazz artist Ashaine White singer / songwriter / producer Rouhangeze and the indomitable jazz vocalist Esther Bennett. The support comes from J Steps, an under-18 ensemble of female and non-binary musicians led by saxophonist Hannah Horton as part of the Guildhall Young Artists initiative.

Toulouse Lautrec Jazz Club, Sunday, November 21 at

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