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All that jazz: eight highlights from EFG London Jazz Festival 2018

The EFG London Jazz Festival’s ten-day musical extravaganza begins this week. Here are the gigs you don’t want to miss

By Rosie Hanley

The massive opening gig

The festival opens in the usual fashion: with a large-scale gala concert celebrating jazz vocals. This year’s ‘Jazz Voice’ concert includes a performance from Lisa Stansfield – whose powerful pipes actually adapt remarkably well to jazz – London-based vocalist Zara McFarlane, Portuguese fado queen Mariza and Canadian singer Laila Biali. Also performing is Lea DeLaria, best known for playing Big Boo on ‘Orange Is the New Black’, who’s also an accomplished jazz singer. The masterful Guy Barker will be at the helm, conducting his consistently brilliant 42-piece jazz orchestra. A mainstay of the EFG London Jazz Festival, this night is always pretty darn special.

Jazz Voice. Royal Festival Hall. Fri Nov 16.

The not-actually-jazz gig

One of the world’s best-loved fado singers, Mariza, will perform songs from her self-titled latest album. Though known for her exquisite renditions of traditional Portuguese fado songs that typically express longing and loss, she’s also skilled at working contemporary ideas into the genre. The result? Guaranteed goosebumps throughout.

Royal Festival Hall. Sat Nov 17.

The gigs for any curious ‘Jurassic Park’ fans

Jeff Goldblum, iconic star of our favourite dino flick, is also a pretty decent jazz pianist. He hits the capital to play both Cadogan Hall and Ronnie Scott’s with his band the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Goldblum formed the group around 20 years ago and they’ve been honing their craft in between his many Hollywood roles ever since. Expect jazz classics and tracks from their just-released album.

Cadogan Hall. Sat Nov 17. Ronnie Scott’s. Nov 22.

The fitting tribute gig

South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela died at the start of this year. His influence on the genre was immeasurable, and now friends and fellow musicians are congregating to pay tribute. Performances come from South African singer Sibongile Khumalo, revered Zimbabwean vocalist Oliver Mtukudzi and the young vocal ensemble Complete, as well as members of Masekela’s band. It’s a celebration not just of a music legend, but of South African jazz and the huge legacy Masekela has left upon it.

‘The Boy’s Doin’ It – A Celebration of the Life and Music of Hugh Masekela’. Royal Festival Hall. Sun Nov 18.

The tube station gigs

Fancy checking out one of the UK’s hottest jazz bands, for free, on your commute home? Course you do. Creating their now legendary pop-up jazz lounge at Old Street station, Empirical below) perform across three days to bring jazz to the underground. Comprising saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, bassist Tom Farmer, vibes player Lewis Wright and awesome drummer Shaney Forbes, Empirical are exactly what top-class modern-day jazz should be – trailblazing, yet also wholly respectful of tradition. Drop in for a whole set or just stay for one tune; either way, it’s a brilliant way to dip into the festival.

Old St. Nov 21-23.

The triumphant ‘welcome back’ gig

Three years have passed since Kairos 4Tet were last on the scene and their inimitable sound has most definitely been missed. But now they’re back with more glorious music, a seamless blend of jazz and folk. Led by saxophonist Adam Waldmann, a composer with a knack for enchanting melodies, the quartet is completed by bassist Jasper Høiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Jon Scott. Dreamy vocalist Emilia Martensson joins the line-up to breathe life into Waldmann’s hauntingly beautiful vocal lines.

Rich Mix. Nov 20. 

The not-so-standard dinner jazz gig

Vocalist Julia Biel is paying homage to one of jazz’s most iconic divas: the one and only Billie Holiday. Expect to hear classics such as ‘The Very Thought of You’, ‘I Hear Music’ and ‘Night and Day’ at what should offer the perfect introduction to classic vocal jazz. Biel has a meltingly beautiful voice and will be capably supported by bassist Ben Hazleton and guitarist Laurence Corns. This one will give you all the feels.

The Pheasantry. Nov 23.

The super-cool big band gig

Now, this one is a mouthwatering pairing: Bill Laurance, a key member of Brooklyn’s Grammy-winning jazz fusion band  Snarky Puppy, joins forces with Cologne’s prodigious WDR Big Band, who are definitely among the world leaders in their field. Tonight’s white-hot collaboration promises knock-your-socks off big-band sounds that showcase Laurance’s nimble and highly skilled piano playing. Honestly, you won’t want to miss it. 

Queen Elizabeth Hall. Nov 25.

The EFG London Jazz Festival runs from Fri Nov 16 to Nov 25 at various venues. Find out more at  

Check out more great jazz gigs in London here.


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