Saturday 26 November 2022

A day at the EFG London Jazz Festival

BBC Young Jazz Musician - winner Ewan Hastie (Photo Tricia Yourkevich BBC)
BBC Young Jazz Musician - winner Ewan Hastie (Photo Tricia Yourkevich BBC)

EFG London Jazz Festival at Southbank Centre including BBC Young Jazz Musician
Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders, 19 November 2022

From sets by upcoming British jazz musicians to the outrageously talented finalists of the BBC Young Jazz Musician, a day at the EFG London Jazz Festival

The 2022 EFG London Jazz Festival came to a conclusion last weekend including an all day event at the Southbank Centre on the penultimate day (19 November 2022). Composer Florence Anna Maunders was there to sample the delights including sets from Mischa Mullov-Abbado, Charlotte Keefe, Marcus Joseph, Infinitum Trio, Ralph Porrett, Luke Bacchus, Emma Rawicz, Ewan Hastie, Nick Manz, plus the final of BBC Young Jazz Musician.

Going from strength to strength, there was easily enough jazz in the 2022 EFG London Jazz Festival to fill a year – but crammed into just ten days of music-packed performances across the capital. The penultimate day featured an all-day programme at the Southbank Centre, with performances occurring simultaneously across the main venues as well as in the open foyer areas in the Royal Festival Hall – making it impossible to catch more than a fraction of everything going on!

A particular highlight of the Saturday afternoon was a triple bill of upcoming British jazz musicians, who each brought a a band with a set of about thirty minutes to the Purcell Room. Starting with superstar bassist and composer Mischa Mullov-Abbado, who presented a mixture of his own compositions and standards, in direct, straight-ahead and hard-swinging arrangements. Mullov-Abbado was a generous presence on the stage, sharing solo and supportive roles even-handedly with his band and using subtle, but absolutely clear, directions to help the whole ensemble to shine – a real bandleader as well as a bandmember.

He was followed on the stage by the outstanding trumpeter & composer Charlotte Keefe with her band. She immediately brought the stage alight with her electric playing and free-flowing, painterly improvisation. Using both trumpet and flugelhorn, her bold, confident solos had the air of utter confidence and fiery focus, with strong support throughout from the rest of her hand-picked ensemble of star musicians. It was clear to hear why Keefe is becoming so much in demand across London and the global jazz scene, with her mastery of free jazz alongside more straight-forward head/solo arrangements.

BBC Young Jazz Musician - Ralph Porrett & Infinitum Trio (Photo Tricia Yourkevich BBC)
BBC Young Jazz Musician - Ralph Porrett & Infinitum Trio (Photo Tricia Yourkevich BBC)

The triple bill was completed with a set from Leicester-based Marcus Joseph, a spoken word artist, saxophonist and composer, who brought an intriguing blend of hip hop, reggae, dancehall and jazz to the stage, and, in addition to a seriously hard-grooving back line, demonstrated an ability to perform vocal gymnastics and saxophone acrobatics along with laptop playback (something not all members of the large London audience were very supportive of, as it sidelined the rest of the band for a whole song)

Later on, at the conclusion to this jazz-filled day, the final of the BBC Young Jazz Musician competition took place in the Queen Elizabeth Hall – five outrageously talented young musicians competed for the title in a televised concert. Each competitor presented a set including their own compositions and arrangements, accompanied by the outstanding Infinitum Trio (Nikki Yeoh, piano, Mark Mondesir, drums, Michael Mondesir). The programme began with a prog-rock infused set from guitarist Ralph Porrett, which was technically accomplished, clinical and original. Luke Bacchus then brought a soulful and fluent set of pianistic fluidity and cool. He was followed by the confident and sparkling saxophone playing of Emma Rawicz, after which Scottish bassist Ewan Hastie delivered a mature and creative set, demonstrating his ability to lead, accompany and solo. Another pianist, Nick Manz, rounded off the evening with his rapid, shimmering pianism and virtuosic melodic fluency.

Faced with a tough decision, the all-star jury, featuring some of the biggest names in UK jazz, eventually settled on Ewan Hastie as their prizewinner, but it was by no means a clear-cut choice as all five finalists were uniformly excellent. The final remains available to view on BBC iPlayer, although the compressed and levelled recorded sound doesn't do justice to the electrifying playing and broad dynamic contrasts experienced live in the hall.

Reviewed by Florence Anna Maunders 

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