• Ally J Steel

EFG London Jazz Festival 2021 - Top Picks

With 2020's festival having been forced to take place in the digital realm with COVID-19 restrictions in place, EFG London Jazz Festival 2021 and the Serious team have returned to collate and produce a fantastic series of over 300 live shows across 60 venues between the 12th and 21st of November.


EFG London Jazz Festival 2021

For those who aren't aware of the festival, EFG London Jazz Festival is London's biggest pan-city music festival, taking place annually in November. The award-winning festival has long been acclaimed for showcasing a heady mix of talent from around the world. Widely acknowledged for delivering world-class artists and emerging stars, the festival continues to take jazz to a massive audience, in one of the UK's landmark music events.



With so many exciting artists, shows, livestreams and talks on offer, we thought we'd recommend some of the top events that we're excited about.


FRIDAY 12 NOVEMBER

Daniel Casimir

Daniel Casimir


The award-winning bassist performs material from his upcoming debut full-length album.

Serious Take Five alumni Daniel Casimir has become a regular fixture across the UK jazz scene, providing his heavyweight upright sound for the likes of Nubya Garcia, Ashley Henry, Camilla George, and Binker Golding.


Having studied and performed with the likes of Julian Joseph, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Jean Toussaint, the turning point in Daniel’s career came in 2016 when he won the Worshipful Company’s Young Jazz Musician award, providing the catalyst for his first E.P. release Escapee to critical acclaim.


Having subsequently released These Days with Tess Hirst in 2019 on Jazz Re:freshed, Daniel spent 2020 recording his debut full length album due out later this year – a celebration of Black British Culture and a critique of the genres, labels and stereotypes which have traditionally been placed upon Black musicians. The music takes a step outside of prescribed ideas.


Tickets


Read Ben's interview with Daniel Casimir


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

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


Two jazz visionaries from different generations, Archie Shepp and Jason Moran released an intimate duo album at the beginning of this year. Stemming from a friendship which got nurtured on several occasions of playing and experimenting together at European festivals led to Let My People Go, a new collection of live recordings.


This duo is an embodiment of an exquisite dialogue shaped by their common inspirations like Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Thelonious Monk. They carve the sound with their own contemporary angles; Shepp ever-evolving from 1960s free jazz, and Moran combining compositional flair and spectacular improvisation.


Saxophone player, composer, pianist, singer, musical and political mastermind Archie Shepp and modern jazz icon, pianist, composer and multidisciplinary artist Jason Moran bring in their shared devotion for the African American cultural tradition, identity and history into this musical conversation.


Tickets


J to Z Late: Christian Sands, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Romarna Campbell

J to Z Late: Christian Sands, Sheila Maurice-Grey, Romarna Campbell


Jumoké Fashola presents a special live edition of BBC Radio 3's J to Z from the opening night of the EFG London Jazz Festival - J to Z Late broadcast live from Pizza Express Holborn. With an exclusive set from American piano star Christian Sands and his trio, a dynamic opening set from trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey AKA Ms Maurice best known for her work with KOKOROKO and a performance from gifted hip-hop influenced jazz drummer Romarna Campbell - spend the night with some of the best jazz has to offer!


(Free) Tickets


SATURDAY 13 NOVEMBER


ARTicle 10: Women V Culture


Join author and broadcaster Emma Warren and six special guests for a series of three insightful and challenging conversations on the complex relationship between women and culture, as well as the premiers of three newly commissioned films.


Over the course of the day, our speakers will consider the role the cultural industries have played, and still play, in the long struggle for equality, whilst our film premiers bring into focus the people and projects that are breaking down barriers.


As part of ARTicle10, She Is Jazz returns for its second edition.


Once more, womxn have claimed centre stage as the festival’s mass participation ensemble, having rehearsed newly arranged music, which celebrates the artistry of female composers and bandleaders, under the expert leadership of Cassie Kinoshi.


The filmed version of the live performance at Kings Place will be specially premiered in this EFG London Jazz Festival event, as will a behind-the-scenes mini-documentary, and a series of interviews from our cultural leaders.


(Free) More here


Lakecia Benjamin + Alina Bzhezhinska

Lakecia Benjamin + Alina Bzhezhinska


Charismatic saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin is showcasing her 2020 album Pursuance: The Coltranes alongside harpist Alina Bzhezshinska.


Tickets


Read Ally's interview with Lakecia Benjamin


Tony Allen: A Retrospective

Tony Allen: A Retrospective


The show is curated by Damon Albarn, Ben Okri, Femi Koleoso and Remi Kabaka, all of whom will be performing on the night.


They will be joined by an electrifying line-up to celebrate the continual innovation and diverse output of one of the most important artists of the last century. It promises to be a star-studded and spectacular celebration of Tony Allen's life and music.


Showcasing the full diversity of Tony Allen's musical output, from Afrobeat to jazz, techno to hip hop, the show will feature a staggering array of guests in a never-to-be-repeated one-off collaboration, masterfully brought together by MD Tom Excell (Nubiyan Twist/Onipa). The show will also feature full AV production including a never-before-seen interview and video footage with Tony himself.


Tony Allen needs little introduction. One of the founding fathers of Afrobeat, his drumming style has influenced generations of musicians over the past 50 years. An original member of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 and the inventor of the distinctive Afrobeat drum rhythm, Tony went on to collaborate with artists from King Sunny Ade to Damon Albarn, Theo Parrish to Oumou Sangare, Skepta to Jeff Mills.


Sadly passing away in April 2020, just shy of his 80th birthday, he remained a true innovator to the end, with his posthumous album There is No End showing his never-ending commitment to collaboration and experimentation, featuring guests including Skepta, Sampa the Great and Danny Brown.


Curated by longtime friend and collaborator Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz/Africa Express/The Good, The Bad and the Queen), alongside Femi Koleoso (Ezra Collective), Remi Kabaka and Booker-prize winning novelist Ben Okri, the show will pay tribute to his many-faceted 50-year legacy.


Tickets


Read Ben's interview with Nubiyan Twist here


PYJAEN

PYJAEN


Contemporary jazz/fusion act PYJÆN celebrate the release of their new album Feast, with live performances and DJ sets across two floors.


PYJÆN reach inside the deep, multidimensional well of what is broadly called Jazz and bring together all its diverse components in a singular, emotional sound.


After setting a blueprint for their multi-faceted artistry combining cross-genre sensibilities with ferocious talent on their first two releases, the band has been busy writing and recording music for their second album FEAST, their most accomplished offering yet.


Showcasing their growing abilities and confidence as a group of 5 individuals with strong personalities and varied sets of influences, their new album fearlessly navigates the world of funk, jazz, hip-hop and punk, with their trademark raw energy and the common objective of bringing people together in their love for music.


Formed in 2016, the band comprises of Dani Diodato (guitar), Dylan Jones (trumpet), Ben Vize (sax), Benjamin Crane (bass) and Charlie Hutchinson (drums).


PYJÆN'S new album was recorded at Peter Gabriel's legendary Real World Studios over a full week, an experience that elevated the music and created an unrivaled connection between the band members and featured artists such as Nix Northwest, Elisa Imperilee, Renato Paris and Corto Alto.


Adventurous songwriting, meticulous timing, incredibly tight horn arrangements and an obvious joy to play together are PYJAEN's hallmarks


Tickets


Read Ally's interview with PYJAEN here


SUNDAY 14 NOVEMBER

Rebecca Vasmant

Rebecca Vasmant


The renowned Glaswegian promoter, DJ and broadcaster Rebecca Vasmant's jazz-infused sets have taken her to many of the coolest and most exciting clubs and festivals that Europe has to offer.


(Free) More here


Read Ally's interview with Rebecca Vasmant here


J to Z: Chelsea Carmichael, Mark Kavuma, Nikki Yeoh and Myele Manzanza

J to Z: Chelsea Carmichael, Mark Kavuma, Nikki Yeoh and Myele Manzanza


BBC Radio 3's primte time jazz programme J to Z Presents is hosted by Kevin Le Gendre and is joined by saxophonist and member of mercury nominated SEED ensemble, Chelsea Carmichael, The Banger Factory's Mark Kavuma and his quartet, A solo performance from Piano virtuoso Nikki Yeoh and Drummer, Myele Manazana as they present ground-breaking jazz, that will stop you in your tracks!


(Free) More here


Read Ben's take on Myele Manzanza's Crisis & Opportunity Vol.1


Greg Foat + Kassa Overall

Greg Foat + Kassa Overall


Greg Foat has become a versatile mainstay in UK jazz through an acclaimed series of albums on Strut, Jazzman, and Athens Of The North, moving from soul-jazz workouts to library music to cinematic, haunting compositions and pastoral acid folk. He's played with the likes of FKA Twigs, Questlove, Bob Lind, Curtis Lundy and Wendy James for shows and recording sessions. His recent release Symphonie Pacifique goes expansive and widescreen, building a lush soundscape using choral textures, harp and tubular bells.


Singer, producer, drummer, and MC Kassa Overall is a product of New York City's jazz scene who melds avant-garde experimentation with hip-hop production techniques, reflecting a panoramic musical background from West Coast G-Funk to the sounds of the New York underground.


In the past two years, Kassa has released three critically acclaimed projects: Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz, I THINK I'M GOOD, followed shortly by a SHADES OF FLU inspired by Madlib's Shades of Blue. Whatever the experiment, Overall remains faithful to the pocket of jazz drums in the tradition of his mentors, the late Elvin Jones and Billy Hart, with whom he studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.


Tickets


Read Ben's thoughts on Kassa Overall's I THINK I'M GOOD | Greg Foat's Symphonie Pacifique wins Album of 2020


MONDAY 15 NOVEMBER

Damon Locks - Black Monument Ensemble + Angel Bat Dawid

Damon Locks - Black Monument Ensemble + Angel Bat Dawid


The music and dance collective Black Monument Ensemble presents their new album NOW, released on International Anthem.


Originally conceived as a medium for Chicago-based multi-media artist/activist Damon Locks’s sample-based sound collage work, Black Monument Ensemble (BME) has evolved from a solo mission into a vibrant collective of artists, musicians, singers, and dancers making work with common goals of joy, compassion, and intention. Galvanized by Locks’s conceptualizing, poeticizing, and guiding vision, the contributors come from all facets of the diverse wellspring of Black artistic excellence in Chicago, bringing their unique perspectives and experiences to uplifting, anthemic, and highly animated musical performance.

NOW was created in the final throes of summer 2020, following months of pandemic-induced fear & isolation, the explosion of social unrest, struggle & violence in the streets, and as the certain presence of a new reality had fully settled in. Set up safely in the garden behind Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio, the music was recorded in only a few takes, capturing the first times members of BME had ever played or sang the tunes.


BME is a genuinely multi-generational collective; ages of the members range from 9 to 52 years old. In addition to Locks, current and consistent BME members include: instrumentalists Angel Bat Dawid, Ben LaMar Gay, Dana Hall, and Arif Smith; singers Phillip Armstrong, Monique Golding, Rayna Golding, Tramaine Parker, Richie Parks, Erica Rene, and Eric Tre’von; and dancers Raven Lewis, Cheyenne Spencer, Mary Thomas, Bryonna Young, Tiarra Young, and Keisha Janae.


Ensemble-member Angel Bat Dawid will open the show with her own powerful, spiritual music.


Only a few years after her emergence in Chicago's jazz & improvised music scene, composer, clarinettist, singer and spiritual jazz visionary Angel Bat Dawid is already a phenomenon in Chicago's avant-garde with her daring sound, spirit and magnetism of her cosmic musical proselytizing.


Her debut on International Anthem, The Oracle, recorded on cassette tape, includes tracks that Angel created entirely alone – performing, overdubbing & mixing all instruments and voices by herself – recorded using only her mobile phone in various locations from London to Cape Town, but primarily from her residency in Bronzeville, Chicago.


Tickets


Gilles Peterson Selected: Zola Marcelle + Pokus

Gilles Peterson Selected: Zola Marcelle + Pokus


This Gilles Peterson's Selected show features young jazz-influenced singer Zola Marcelle and Pokus, a project which grew out of a collaborative effort by Brichard and drummer Dave De Rose. With the addition of keyboard player Sam Crowe, the band released a self-titled album in August 2020.


Zola Marcelle


The intergalactic young jazz-influenced singer Zola Marcelle will be making her debut at the EFG London Jazz Festival this year after the release of her unique EP Done. Undone. Redo.

The young woman, born and partly raised in Zimbabwe has been a part of the music industry since age 11 singing on stages as well known as The Royal Albert Hall, Wembley Stadium, The Jazz Cafe and so many others.


Following on from the release of her bass & vocal EP, Marcelle's ethereal sound and creative mind brings her to the festival this year with her live set up of simply bass and vocals – the first of its kind.


Pocus


Leon Brichard is a French born bass player and producer based in London UK. He is a founding and active member of the bands Ill Considered and Wildflower as well as French electro meet post-punk band Madmadmad. Leon has also performed, produced and recorded with a wide range of artists including Salif Keita, Rachid Taha, Batida, Melt Yourself Down, Plan B, Bilal, Francois and the atlas mountain, Sara Creative Partners amongst others.


Dave De Rose is an Ango-Italian multi-instrumentalist, who has toured with Moloko, Mulatu Astatke and Mark Ronson. Producer, keyboardist, composer and educator, Sam Crowe has recorded, produced and performed with an array of artist


Tickets


TUESDAY 16 NOVEMBER


Akin Soul & The Soul Tribe

Akin Soul & The Soul Tribe


19-year-old jazz and soul singer Akin Soul is a multi-instrumentalist & songwriter from South East London. Raised on a diet of Marvin Gaye, Stevie, Lalah & Donny Hathaway, Kim Burrell & Corinne Bailey Rae. In 2018 Akin founded the 12-piece band - Akin Soul & The Soul Tribe who have gone on to perform across London at All Point's East Festival, Off The cuff, The Garage, Pop Brixton and many more. Akin is currently studying Jazz at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London and has blessed the mic at Steam Down, McNasty’s Fireball Session and Belmont Villa.


He will be presenting a variety of his soulful compositions.


Tickets


Gilles Peterson Selected: Jelly Cleaver + Charlie Stacey

Gilles Peterson Selected: Jelly Cleaver + Charlie Stacey


This Gilles Peterson's Selected show features London-raised guitarist, producer and singer-songwriter Jelly Cleaver. The evening will also introduce gifted young British keys player Charlie Stacey.


Jelly Cleaver


Jelly Cleaver is a guitarist, producer and singer-songwriter based in South London. She's received the Steve Reid InNOVAtion award, signed to tastemaker indie label Nice Swan Records, is a Serious Take Five artist and was nominated for an Ivors Composer Award. With an eclectic taste in music, Jelly is heavily involved in both the jazz and DIY/punk scenes in London, hosting her own Jelly's Jams at Windmill Brixton as well as having a radio show. She's also an activist, and a strain of political dissent runs through her music.


Charlie Stacey


Charlie Stacey is one of the young British keys players combining jazz with different genres and exploring new textures and sounds. He has worked with many of the leading lights of the London jazz scene at the moment, such as Yussef Dayes, Ezra Collective and members of Empirical. He has also had an association with Knoel Scott, alto saxophone player of the Sun Ra Arkestra since 1978, for the last two years which has taught him a lot.


Tickets


Read Ben's review of Jelly Cleaver's The Dream Jazz Manifesto

Myele Manzanza

Myele Manzanza


World-renowned drummer/composer, & producer/beatmaker Myele Manzanza has proved that he's an artist who continues to dissolve the borders between modern jazz and electronic beat production.


Myele is already developing a strong live presence in his new London base; his quartet has shared stages with the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, The Bad Plus, Alfa Mist, and drawing packed houses to top venues such as The Jazz Café and Ronnie Scott’s.


Tapping into the vibrant scene of his adopted home, Myele now readies his next project on the London-based label DeepMatter. Crisis & Opportunity Vol.2 - London features a top tier cast of young London based talent including; Aron Sellars (keys), Jay Phelps (trumpet), Matt Dal Din (bass), with Myele Manzanza (drums) captaining the ship.


Tickets


Read Ben's take on Myele Manzanza's Crisis & Opportunity Vol.1


WEDNESDAY 17 NOVEMBER

Ishmael Ensemble

Ishmael Ensemble


The Bristol-based collective are an explosive new force in the UK jazz scene. Led by producer and saxophonist Pete Cunningham, the group broadly experiments within the realms of jazz and electronics but boasts a diverse range of influences in defining its sound.


The innovative 2019 debut A State of Flow marked them out as ones-to-watch with its unique energy and adventurous exploration of Bristol’s musical heritage: at times minimal and cosmic, at others club-oriented, and always unpredictable. Their recent involvement in the Blue Note Re:imagined project alongside contemporary trailblazers such as Ezra Collective and Nubya Garcia solidified their status as a powerful new presence in the scene.

As the UK’s jazz renaissance continues to flourish Ishmael Ensemble are an exciting proposition as they continue to push boundaries and unsettle genre tags.


Tickets


Listen to Ally's premiere of Ishmael Ensemble's remix of Dundundun's 'Dun in Outer Space'


Rachael Cohen, Raquel Martins and Plumm

Rachael Cohen, Raquel Martins and Plumm


A more gender-balanced night of jazz music comes to Woolwich Works for two nights this November.


Historically, very few femxle instrumentalists, composers, arrangers, and bandleaders have been part of the music history books. The W.Led Jazz Series has been curated to help recognise and celebrate their contribution to the industry. This collection of performances will feature a more gender-balanced night showcasing amazing talent of Raquel Martins, Plumm, Rachael Cohen, Juanita Euka, Ms Maurice and Rosie Frater-Taylor across two evenings at Woolwich Works.


Rachael Cohen will be joined by Raquel Martins and Plumm, to bring you a jaw-dropping evening of contemporary jazz.


Raquel Martins


Raised under the sun in Portugal, she grew up listening to the endless classics from the Brazilian and jazz repertoire. It was only when she discovered the world of contemporary hip-hop, soul and jazz music that she realised she could create something new with all the sounds she had been absorbing over the years. Whilst accompanying many established London jazz artists, including upcoming talent Poppy Ajudha, Raquel has been establishing her sound with her debut EP. Influenced by the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Amy Winehouse, Djavan, and João Gilberto.


Plumm


Plumm is a hybrid of vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and producer hailing from South London with Welsh heritage. Graduating from the BRIT School and then a SOAS degree in Ethnomusicology specialising in North Indian Classical, Plumm constructs mood-driven soundscapes and gritty timbres. After being invited to play a live set at Maida Vale Studios with Moses Boyd for BBC 1Xtra, playing with Taylor McFerrin at Oslo in Hackney and championed by BBC Introducing London, Plumm is branching into genre-less territories and feminine power.


Tickets


Read Ben's take on Raquel Martins' 'Freedom'


Joanna Duda Trio

Joanna Duda Trio


Innovative Polish pianist and composer Joanna Duda and her trio present music from the highly anticipated album Fumitsuke using acoustic instruments (piano, double bass, drums) together with electronic sounds and of self - made samples Joanna Duda Trio is a project including acoustic instruments (piano, double bass, drums) together with electronic sounds and of self - made samples.


The music idea is to improvise in a very consistent way - focus on the moving, rhythmic irregular motives as little independent beings in themselves; melted into one piece searching for collective consciousness in every single moment. The concept of the band is to sound like one organism, creating narration using layers, not solos in a straight meaning.


Joanna Duda is a pianist, composer and visual artist. She does not avoid the apparent ugliness of dilapidated instruments and looks for sound aesthetics where it seems to be lacking.


Tickets


THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER


Emanative

Emanative


Appearing at King's cross' Spiritland, producer, drummer, percussionist and DJ Nick Woodmansey aka Emanative has produced records for Brownswood, On The Corner, Ninja Tune and most recently a double gatefold LP for Jazzman.


(Free) More here

What’s Going On: Nu Civilisation Orchestra

What’s Going On: Nu Civilisation Orchestra


Nu Civilisation Orchestra celebrate the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On

The Nu Civilisation Orchestra (NCO), led by Peter Edwards, is a world-class ensemble brought together by Tomorrow’s Warriors’ Artistic Director Gary Crosby OBE.


During this special evening, the 23-piece NCO, featuring Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), Noel McKoy (lead vocals), Cara Crosby Irons (backing vocals), Kianja Harvey Elliott (backing vocals), Romarna Campbell and Rod Youngs (drums), Sarah Tandy (piano) and Ife Ogunjobi (trumpet), as well as the orchestra’s formidable horns, strings and backing vocalists, will make a perfectly timed creative exploration and celebration of Gaye’s seminal masterpiece, five decades after its release, with immersive visual projections by Yeast Culture, plus a special guest performance from spoken word artist, and one of Britain most renowned actors, Colin Salmon.


Widely recognised as one of the most important albums of all time, 50 years later What’s Going On continues to resonate. The show will begin with a prelude based on Gaye’s Trouble Man, that will create the cultural setting for the album through music, projections and spoken word. The second part of the show will focus on the genius of What’s Going On, conjuring up Gaye’s extraordinary song cycle and the tumultuous personal and political circumstances that drove the singer’s music-making.


What’s Going On will be a fitting homage to a legend that inspired and connected generations and promises to be a magical, powerful and unmissable evening.


Tickets


Anthony Joseph

Anthony Joseph


Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician, Anthony Joseph, performs music from his critically-acclaimed recent album, The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives, alongside his all-star band led by Jason Yarde.

Anthony Joseph is an award-winning Trinidad-born poet, novelist, academic and musician. The author of four poetry collections and three novels – his 2018 novel Kitch: A Fictional Bi