London Jazz Festival 2011 – through my eyes and ears

London Jazz Festival was like Xmas for me: an event once a year with lots of positive feelings, surprises, qualitative music and with the best of the best in the town.

On Day 1 i went to listen to a talk with Steve Coleman. I always find it very interesting to actually hear musicians talking about the music they do, their thinking/ feeling/ ideas behind musical notes, their interpretation of their work and their own musical/ creative development which has led them to the level they are in. This time however a couple of very talkative (read – drunken) listeners at times by being as loud as Steve Coleman did not allow me and few other listeners to focus on musician’s story, so unfortunately i think i missed some parts of this talk. My plan to attend a gig of Robert Mitchell later in the evening was ruined when I realized that tube’s Norther line was not working that evening. at times London transport can be really demotivating…

On Day 2 i spent all afternoon at Southbank centre listening to Julian Siegel and after – Arun Ghosh. Arun Ghosh is probably my discovery number 1 of this festival. I’ll be honest, though i knew about him, i never went actually to his gig as i thought that this synthesis of Asian influence and jazz (and whatever else) will not appeal to me. However, i was absolutely amazed. Combination of great a la Asian style solos with at times hard rock, funky rhythm and interesting improvisations made it all extremely enjoyable. My knees were swinging, my head was nodding to the beat..Next, i liked that Serious was continuing tradition from the last year and offered Jazz History talks by musicians. Last year Soweto Kinch and Shabaka Hutchings were leading listeners through the history of jazz based on their own understanding, perspective and  interpretation. This year Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes (Empirical) told their story with emphasis on those jazz history heroes who have had also a great influence on their own musical development and understanding of jazz. Such ‘talk sessions’ are very interesting and educational as it really gives a new perspective on what we hear and how music is ‘made’ an has been developing over years and decades and even centuries.

Day 3 was a beautiful sunny day (in London you really learn how to appreciate sun) and i went to Greenwich to listen to Martin Speake.  This was the first time i heard him live and well – in such a special venue – National Maritime Museum. Wow. Though music is music, i think, venue often can be such an added value and make it all so much greater. There is not much to say except – absolutely perfect music for Sunday afternoon (most of the pieces were Martin’s own compositions) in a perfect venue in the middle of the sunshine lit park.

On Day 4 i went to see Regina Carter who is one of the few violin players on the jazz scene and she must be seen for this reason alone. Beautiful performance mixing in Afro rhythms, traditional/ folk song elements and ‘cooking’ it all with a nice mild hot jazz sauce. 🙂 Some may want to categorize this as world music probably, however, i think, the improvisation with instruments (how often you can hear accordion in jazz music?) and melodies (from wherever they come) was there and nicely fit in the LJF programme.

Also, worth mentioning, before Regina Carter the audience was ‘warmed up’ by Trish Clowes led by female (!) saxophone player. As there are not many female jazz musicians in general, it was even more surprising to find one to be a leader of the band. For this courage alone to break the standard tradition, i applaud her. 🙂

On Day 5 i went to Dalston to see British Piano night led by Julian Joseph and with participation of Jonathan Gee and one more piano player whose name i cant remember. 😦 I love piano trios. My all time favorite is Bill Evans trio, so whoever gets near to that, breaks my heart. 🙂 This gig was what I would call a proper jazz in an intimate atmosphere and in a not-overcrowded, relatively small venue. An evening was like my mental yoga.

On Day 6 i went to see Nik Bartsch band from Switzerland. I saw them for the first time in 2009 in Bath Jazz festival and was totally ‘killed’. You cant find anything even close to this band. What they are doing is so unique, you just have to check them out. It’s kind of a hypnotic, at times trans jazz, sophisticated and at times completely minimalistic. What’s interesting, he does not give titles to his songs. Those are just numbers. Modules. I think, the venue was again crucial here (Kings Place) giving enough space for their music and visual ‘choreography’ to express and tell what they have to say.

On Day 7 I went to see Empirical and Archie Shepp. Empirical who have just released their third album Elements of Truth are getting a more and more distinguished voice on UK jazz scene and being recognized by their special style and musical ideas. I bet, it’s just a beginning and much greater things are still yet to come from this musical collaboration. Watch them out. Archie Shepp in duo with Joachim Kuhn  was beautiful combination of Joachim’s playfulness and Archie’s meaningful, juicy melodies. at times it felt like i was traveling back in time around 1960s or so.

On Day 8 i saw the performance which, i think, i was waiting for more than any other. Ladies and gentlemen, Gretchen Parlato! I just cant help myself but to repeat and repeat how much i like her latest album Lost and Found. It is fantastic and there is no other album to which at the moment i can relate my own state of mind, soul and heart so clearly as to this one. I have posted my favorite Gretchen’s song before in my blog, but i will do it again. Just in case, you have not yet heard it, but if you have, i am sure, you would love to listen to it again.

This was the end of my this year’s LJF due to unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, due to those unforeseen circumstances, i lost all my photos and videos i took during the festival and i am not able to neither add to my own collection nor to share some of them with you here. For this reason i’m using here some youtube material for reference.

But well, next year, they say, there will be another LJF. 🙂

One thought on “London Jazz Festival 2011 – through my eyes and ears

  1. The intersection between jazz and film is explored in this year s London Jazz Festival 11 20 Nov , with a strand of programming that celebrates the relationship between music and the big screen.

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