After decades on the sidelines of the mainstream music scene, it would seem that jazz has found itself in a new golden age. US rapper Kendrick Lamar shined a spotlight on the genre late last year with his critically acclaimed album To Pimp A Butterfly, as did Lady Gaga in pairing up with crooner Tony Bennett for not one but two albums.
Closer to home, David Bowie’s final album Blackstar topped the charts with a jazz backing on every track, while up-and-coming acts like Manchester trio GoGo Penguin and South East London duo Yussef Kamaal are breaking all the rules and blending in genres like hip hop, rock and dance.
It is clear that jazz in 2016 wears many hats, as reflected in the diverse programming of the 24th annual EFG London Jazz Festival, which starts next week. Producer Serious has pulled together more than 2,000 artists for the largest UK jazz festival, with 10 days of performances, screenings, panels and installations across the Capital.
The Barbican’s programme of events makes it ground zero for City jazz fans as host to several of the festival’s standout acts:
Art Spiegelman / WORDLESS
Celebrated American cartoonist Art Spiegelman will team up with jazz composer Phillip Johnston to deliver an “intellectual vaudeville show” leading audiences on a personal tour of the first graphic novels. Spiegelman is lauded for elevating comics to literary texts with his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel MAUS, and will discuss further expansion of the medium accompanied by an all new score from Johnston and his sextet, The Silent Six.
Barbican Hall, 11 November, 7.30pm
Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen made his name with a blend of pensive improv and hymns from his homeland. In the lyrical ECM album What Was Said, he gives the whole lot a healthy injection of contemporary jazz, reinterpreting the hymns from his childhood with the help of drummer Jarle Vespestad and German Afghan vocalist Simin Tander.
Milton Court, 12 November, 7.30pm
Miguel Atwood-Ferguson / Suite for Ma Dukes
Multi-talented composer, instrumentalist and producer Miguel Atwood-Ferguson will pay tribute to legendary American hip-hop producer J Dilla, 10 years after his untimely death. Atwood-Ferguson has partnered with Carlos Niño, a co-producer on the original live dates and recording, and a 17-piece ensemble to interpret Dilla’s music as a radical take on contemporary chamber music. The pair first began working on a tribute to Dilla in 2007, and this Barbican show will be the first live realisation of the project since it was performed in 2009 at a J Dilla tribute concert in LA.
Barbican Hall, 16 November, 7.30pm
It has been a big year for Barking-born saxophonist YolanDa Brown. The double MOBO award-winner has been zig-zagging all over the UK with her Reggae Love Songs tour, taking her smooth rhythms from Coventry to Cardiff. Now, she is kicking the show into high gear for the Jazz Festival, debuting new material from her upcoming album, with the help of her 10-piece band and vocalist Shingai Shoniwa from The Noisettes. Jazz inflections and electronics give Brown’s diverse musical roots the unique flavour that made her the first musician ever to receive the Best Jazz MOBO award two years running.
Barbican Hall, 15 November, 8pm
Time knows no boundaries for the extraordinary Elza Soares, who first burst on to the Brazilian music scene way back in the 1950s. The samba artist has since featured on more than 50 albums, including collaborations with the likes of Caetano Veloso, Chico Barque and Jorge Ben Jor. Her latest album, The Woman at the End of the World, is a groundbreaking combination of experimental samba that has been savaged by rock ’n’ roll and free jazz, offering a snapshot of 21st-century music in Brazil.
Barbican Hall, 13 November, 7.30pm
For the full line-up, visit efgjazzfestival.org.uk