EFG London Jazz Festival – 12/11/2021 – 13/11/2021 – God Is In The TV

After years of bubbling below the surface in corners of London like Deptford and Hackney, the jazz scene has indeed been boiling into the mainstream lately. Given this development, you can imagine that the London Jazz Festival is a show of the strength of the stage.

While, yes, it most certainly was, the two-week affair was something even more meaningful than that – it was also a demonstration of the breadth of the music and the many fingers of influence. musical that she has inserted in various pies around the musical sphere as well.

So, as well as the hottest acts on the jazz scene and tributes to late heavyweights like Alice coltrane, there were moments on the fringes of the event that you just suspect would not have happened ten or twenty years ago. The always wonderful Gazelle Twin, for example, whose work links English folk traditions with the clash of ultra-modern technology.

Or Black midi, who play what is effectively the first night’s afterparty in the foyer of Queen Elizabeth Hall. They seem to incorporate equally generous amounts of punk, prog, and jazz into their edgy, aggressive sound, but in many ways their love of improvisation embodies rather than bypasses jazz.

Fresh off a previous night’s tour de force at the Alexandra Palace Theater in north London the night before, they head back south to really blow up the cobwebs of events. There is a lot of talk about the musical education of Londoners at Brit School in Croydon, which is much more used to seeing the Adeles and Amy Winehouses of this world churned than this unholy scum. If they learned anything there, it wasn’t how to be mainstream and acceptable, but quite the opposite – the power to stray from the path most frequently taken. That and trusting each other enough to really let themselves be torn apart, like they are doing tonight. There’s always an element of improvisation when this lot plays, but tonight they seem to have pushed that particular element to its maximum, mostly moving away from the structures that made them their “Cavalcadeone of the most desirable album of this year.

It’s definitely a by-the-seat-of-the-pants approach, and you get the feeling that without BM’s drummer – surely one of the most spectacular drummers playing right now – Morgan Simpson, everything’s gone. would collapse. . Singer / guitarist Geordie Greep may be their nominal leader, but in musical terms, it looks like Simpson is pulling the reins and showing as much versatility as he is power.

It’s another drummer’s turn – the recently deceased Tony Allen – to take the spotlight the following night, when the larger and more formal limits of the village hall. Organized by the writer Ben Okri and Damon albarn, who worked extensively with Allen in his later years, it shows that while the Nigerian can be synonymous with Afrobeat thanks to his time with Fela Kuti’s band, his influence extends much further. Where else, for example, would you find the Finnish techno icon Jimi Tenor and great Asian underground hero who has become an institution of composition Nitin Sawhney rub shoulders on the same bill?

Okri and Albarn make guest appearances, alongside a cast of seemingly hundreds, but ultimately it is the sprawling ensemble themselves who are the real stars of the evening, taking down the Fela Kuti anthem. ‘Water has no enemy’ like a happy punch at the start. It is their efforts, once again maintaining a fantastic balance between chaos and discipline that never quite resolves to one side or the other, that put the concert hall on its feet and cut a rug, transforming the evening of a carefully curated culture in sweaty knees. it deserved to be. Allen would undoubtedly have approved.

Tony Allen retrospective filmed by The Guardian.

black midi by Alex Waespi

Willie J. Johnson