Festival director Pelin Opcin presents the EFG London Jazz Festival 2021

Ahead of this year’s EFG London Jazz festival, its director Pelin Opcin hopes it will mark a return to the kind of high-profile event, both geographically and stylistically, that it was until last year. .

“2020 has been an incredible roller coaster,” she says. “It started out looking like a regular edition, then it was going to be hybrid, and it ended up being purely digital. It wasn’t easy, but the silver lining for us was that we had to fully embrace new media and find new ways to support our artists. 2021 will be a year of transition, but we have planned live events in a range of different sizes and types of venues, while using our best efforts to keep our audience and musicians safe. “

The festival has always been sensitive to the jazz tradition. A highlight is the concert featuring Archie Shepp and Jason moran at the Barbican: “I was aware of their new album Let My People Go, which is a very intimate and spontaneous collection of times they came together at various other events where they were both playing. They weren’t deliberately considering working together or touring, but when I asked them if we could get them together for a full-scale concert, they both immediately replied, “Yes! »We can therefore expect a very intimate, uncluttered duo, and although the Barbican is a large space, we have successfully presented solo and duo artists there, such as Cecile McLorin Salvant, in 2019 – She is also back this year at Cadogan Hall!

Speaking of Cadogan Hall, this is the venue for two back-to-back performances by the guitarist Julien lage, and I suggest to Pelin that he embodies the link between tradition and the contemporary scene.

“Yes, he is such a fascinating musician and one of the few who has succeeded in passing on the virtuoso tradition to a younger generation of listeners. He uses traditional forms, melodies and grooves, but he can also be very avant-garde, like his projects with the music of John Zorn. He’s really developed his own language and we’ll see how that connects with what I think is an audience of guitar fanatics and jazz enthusiasts!

The intergenerational aspect of the festival will also be in the spotlight in the double programming with pianist / composer Greg Foat and drummer Kassa overall. Pelin points out that Greg’s wide range of musical interests and activities will be reflected in a lineup that will bring together young musicians with personalities as experienced as Art Themen. And Kassa, whom some British audiences will have heard with trumpeter Theo Croker, combines jazz and hip hop rhythms in his own work.

“I’m excited about the venue where they both play,” Pelin adds, “Because I think the Color Factory in Hackney is a place where we can bring this music to a younger generation. But we are not ignoring the jazz venues that have always been part of the festival, like that of Ronnie Scott, where the bassist Richard bona and Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez will work together on the back of their album Tocororo, which was produced by Quincy Jones. And then there are artists who work in more than one place, like the pianist Jamie Safir who is at the Hampstead Jazz Club (where he was artist in residence) with his trio, but will also perform at Crazy Coqs with Barb Jungr. He is another musician with a wide range of work.

“And speaking of range of work, one thing that is most important to us is the Serious Take Five showcase, at the Purcell Room. This is a professional development program designed to help young artists develop their skills. For a long time, this was primarily an internal, industry-oriented, mentoring program, not a public showcase. Each year, eight artists came in residence to work on marketing, advertising, publishing, etc. And it doesn’t stop at the residency, we keep working with them: if they need any advice, we give them, and we help with things like album launches. I think it was sort of a closely guarded secret. This year, therefore, we want to make the program much more public. And this showcase is important, because not only will we invite UK promoters to come and see them, but we will also add an international dimension.

“Of course, many players are no strangers to the international audience. Drummer Romarna Campbell, for example, worked and studied in the United States, and saxophonist Samuel Eagles performed extensively in Europe after winning an award at the Bucharest Festival. But there is no doubt that it will help put them on the world map! “

Check out this year’s festival: efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

Willie J. Johnson