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EFG London Jazz Festival 2019 – Ally’s Guide

The EFG London Jazz Festival will be returning for its 27th year, running from the 15th until the 24th of November. The festival aims at showcasing the breadth and range of the jazz world across 70 venues and bars of London, earning itself the accolade of being the city’s biggest pan-city music festival.

With over 350 acts playing during the festival, both old and new, it can be difficult deciding which acts to see. So to make it easier, Ally has picked some of his favourite artists and acts performing at the festival you should check out!

Friday 15th November

(Southbank Centre / Queen Elizabeth Hall – 7.30 pm)

(JAZZLIVE at the Crypt, Camberwell – 9 pm)

On the opening night of the festival, there’s a selection of both fresh talent as well as a harking back to the past at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Total Refreshment Centre will be shining the torch on the legendary jazz label which helped produce some of the finest albums of the 20th century – Blue Note. At the Southbank Centre, Total Refreshment Centre label owner and curator Lex Blondin has picked a selection of tunes from the Blue Note catalogue (as part of the labels 80th anniversary) which are often overlooked and has called upon the finest young UK talent to reimagine them. The night will include performances from Maisha, the Rosie Turton Quartet and Emma-Jean Thackray.

Alternatively, you can see London-based Italian pianist and composer Maria Chiara Argirò who is teaming up with Milan-based guitarist Michele Caiati at the Crypt in Camberwell. You can read Ally’s interview and review of Argirò’s recently released album Hidden Seas.

Saturday 16th November

(Southbank Centre / Royal Festival Hall – 7.30 pm)

(EartH, Hackney – 8.30 pm)

(Ninety One Living Room, Shoreditch – 9 pm // Alternatively 20th Nov)

Returning from the inaugural We Out Here festival, Gilles Peterson's outfit has teamed up with the EFG jazz festival to present a night celebrating the legendary saxophonist and composer Gary Bartz. The illustrious player will be performing at the Southbank Centre and will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of his album Another Earth. Bartz will be joined by Brownswood singer Zara McFarlane, spiritual jazz outfit Maisha and soulful singer Dwight Trible.

Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Madison McFerrin will be opening the evening for the boundary-pushing trumpeter and composer Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who released his latest album Ancestral Recall earlier this year. The pair will be performing at EartH, Hackney. You can read Ally's take on Ancestral Recall here.

Alternatively, you can catch young London-based saxophonist Binker Golding performing for free at Ninety One Living Room, in Shoreditch. Golding has just released his latest record Abstractions of Reality Past & Incredible Feathers, which reaches back to the jazzers of the 60s and 70s. If you can’t catch him then, don’t worry as you can also catch him playing in Soho on the 20th of November.

Sunday 17th November

(Spiritland Royal Festival Hall – 1 pm)

(Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho – 6 pm / 9 pm)

(Islington Assembly Hall – 7.30 pm)

(Barbican – 7.30 pm)

You can kick off your Sunday afternoon with a free back-to-back jazzy DJ set from Jazz FM’s Chris Philips and Jez Nelson at Spiritland Royal Festival Hall.

Sunday evening sports two legendary performances – prolific keyboardist Herbie Hancock (at the Barbican) and then John Scofield & Jon Cleary (at Pizza Express Jazz Club, in Soho). The guitarists John Scofield and Jon Clearly’s performance is spread across two sets, giving you an alleviated choice!

In contrast to these household names, you can support the young talent of Jazz FM award-nominated singer-songwriter Judi Jackson, who will be performing at the Islington Assembly Hall.

Monday 18th November

(Crazy Coqs, Soho – 7 pm)

(Ronnie Scott’s – 8 pm // Alternatively 19th Nov)

(Hampstead Jazz Club – 8 pm)

Forward-thinking Gyil propelled trio Vula Viel will be performing at Crazy Coq, Soho, on the fourth day of the festival. The group released their latest project Do Not Be Afraid at the start of the year, and Ally spoke to Bex Burch as part of JazzLeeds festival in the summer.

With a long list of jazz icon admirers, legendary Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Hermeto Pascoal will be performing as part of the festival. The Brazilian performer will be appearing at Ronnie Scott’s over two consecutive evenings (18th and 19th of November), so there are several chances to catch him!

Alternatively, you can venture up to Hampstead Jazz Club to see a special one-off performance from tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson and trumpeter Graeme Flowers. Leo Richardson has recently released his latest album Move, and you can find out more about the saxophonist from Ben’s interview with him.

Saxophonist Leo Richardson

Tuesday 19th November

(Village Underground, Shoreditch – 7.30 pm)

(Heaven, Charing Cross – 7.30 pm)

(Cadogan Hall – 7.30 pm)

(Ronnie Scott’s – 8 pm // Alternatively 18th Nov)

(EartH, Hackney – 9 pm)

Now, Tuesday the 19th is one of the finest days for music at the festival, so some heavy thinking and decision making is required…

On the east side of the city, innovative Chicago-based drummer Makaya McCraven (whose standout 2018 album Universal Beings rocked the jazz world) will be performing alongside trombonist and composer Rosie Turton at Village Underground, in Shoreditch.

South London-based vocalist, guitarist and composer Oscar Jerome will be performing at Heaven, Charing Cross, his biggest headline performance to date.

Another choice for Tuesday evening is pianist Christian Sands first London gig with his trio, which is opened by the sensational saxophonist Camilla George. The pair will be performing at Cadogan Hall.

Alternatively, talented London-based pianist Ashley Henry will be performing at EartH, Hackney, playing material from his wonderful new album Beautiful Vinyl Hunter.

As if the choice wasn’t hard enough, Tuesday also sees the second performance by Hermeto Pascoal at Ronnie Scott’s...

Drummer Makaya McCraven

Wednesday 20th November

(Foyles, Soho – 6 pm)

(Royal Albert Hall, Elga Room – 9.30 pm)

Wednesday sees the second performance by Binker Golding at the festival, but this time teaming up with pianist Elliot Galvin. The performance follows on from their joint live album Ex Nihilo which was released earlier this year. The duo will be performing free improvisation at Foyles, Soho.

Another option is the energetic and in-demand Nigerian trumpeter Etuk Ubong, who will be performing with his quartet at the Elgar Room in the Royal Albert Hall.

Thursday 21st November

(London Calling Sweden, Bermondsey – 8 pm)

(Jazz Café, Camden – 9 pm)

(Spiritland Royal Festival Hall – 9 pm)

(Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho – 11.30 pm)

Leeds-based 7-piece jazz collective Têtes De Pois will be performing at London Calling Sweden, Bermondsey, on Thursday evening. The in-demand group released their debut extended-play release, Framework, earlier this year, and was reviewed by Ben.

The legendary Philadelphian-born neo-soul artist Bilal will also be playing on Thursday evening, performing a set at the Jazz Café in Camden.

22a will also be spinning tunes at Spiritland at the Royal Festival Hall. The Tenderlonious founded label will be providing a free DJ set. Ally reviewed Tenderlonious’ Hard Rain earlier this year.

Another tantalising option is a late-night set by jazz drummer and producer Kassa Overall, who will be performing at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho. In January of this year, the drummer released his debut album Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, which is still one of Ally’s top albums of the year.

Friday 22nd November

Ruby Rushton + Ebi Soda

(Corsica Studios, Elephant & Castle – 8 pm)

(Ronnie Scott’s – 8 pm)

(Jazz Café, Camden – 9 pm)

On the final Friday of the festival, Ruby Rushton will be performing at Corsica Studios in Elephant & Castle. The Tenderlonious-led quartet, who draw on the spirituality of John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef and UK underground culture, released their energetic record Ironside earlier this year. Brighton-based experimental jazz group Ebi Soda will open the evening.

Another option is the fiery trumpet playing of the Ferguson-born artist Keyon Harrold, who will be performing at Ronnie Scott’s. The trumpet player rose to prominence following his 2017 debut The Mugician and his work on the GRAMMY-winning soundtrack of Miles Ahead.

London six-piece Cykada will also be performing on Friday evening at the Jazz Café in Camden. The group draw raw energy, spirituality and deep grooves to create their sound. Ben reviewed their self-titled debut album earlier this year.

Saturday 23rd November

(Cadogan Hall – 5 pm)

(Spiritland King’s Cross – 8 pm)

(Ninety One Living Room, Shoreditch – 9 pm)

(606, Chelsea – 9.30 pm)

On the penultimate evening of the festival, you can catch a celebratory performance by Jean Toussaint, paying tribute to the centenary of drummer Art Blakey’s birth. Toussaint rose to prominence when joining Art Blakey’s legendary Jazz Messengers in the 1970s. The GRAMMY-winning Saxophonist will be playing at the Cadogan Hall.

Worldwide FM broadcast and DJ Tina Edwards will also be performing at Spiritland, King’s cross, which will be sure to be an invigorating (and free) set.

Prominent young trumpeter Mark Kavuma, who has recently released the great album The Banger Factory, will be providing a free set with his quartet at Ninety One Living Room in Shoreditch.

Alternatively, the fantastic British saxophonist Denys Baptise will be paying tribute to the Blue Note albums of legendary tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.

Saxophonist Jean Toussaint

Sunday 24th November

(Jazz Café, Camden – 8 pm)

To round off the festival, it would be fitting to see the recently Mercury-nominated group SEED Ensemble. Made up of some of the finest young London talent, the ten-piece band, led by alto saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi, will be performing at the Jazz Café alongside bassist Daniel Casimir & Tess Hirst, who are about to release their joint album These Days on jazz re:freshed.


Make sure to check out the EFG London Jazz Festival's full line-up here:

The festival is produced by Serious, one of the UK’s leading producers and curators of live jazz, international and new music. Serious produces events that range from major concerts, festivals and national and international tours through to learning and participation programmes, conferences and specially commissioned bespoke events. Alongside its core role as a live music events producer, it works in artist and rights management. Alongside this exists the registered charity, Serious Trust, which has been established to support the next generation of artists and audiences through our artist development, learning and participation and commissioning programmes.

You can find out more about Serious here:


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