A Jazz Musician’s Guide to the EFG London Jazz Festival 2021 – News, reviews, articles and commentary from the London jazz scene and beyond



From November 12 to 21, 2021, the EFG London Jazz Festival will feature nearly 400 concerts – an impressive feat, but how the hell do you decide what to watch?

When Sam Leak wrote his first ‘EFG London Jazz Festival Jazz Musician’s Guide’ for LJN in 2019, he described his role as that of a tour guide – ‘to take you through the festival program and you. let people know what a jazz musician might choose to watch ”. This preview focuses on the popular jazz venues that are the heart of the stage all year round.


The Vortex is a firm favorite with jazz musicians. Some highlights of their program are Allsopp-Edwards-Forbes (12/11), the Leo Richardson Quartet (18/11) and the Shirley Smart Sextet (19/11).

From left to right: James Allsopp, Shaney Forbes, John Edwards
  • James allsopp is an award-winning saxophonist and composer with a unique improvisational voice, particularly evident on his recordings with “Fraud” and “The Golden Age of Steam”. By his side, the much admired duo of double bassists John edwards (Evan Parker, Roscoe Mitchell, Derek Bailey) and “Empirical” drummer Shaney Forbes (Steve Grossman, Jason Marsalis, Soweto Kinch).
  • The hard bop saxophonist Leo Richardson‘The Chase’ debut album was ranked by The Times as one of the Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2017. For this concert, his quartet will feature music from the latest album “Move” as well as new written material during locking.
  • Cellist Shirley SmartThe sextet will feature his original music, drawing on a 10-year history living in Jerusalem and working with the interwoven worlds of jazz, Arab, Turkish and North African music.


Pizza Express will present an impressive range of music in their venues in Dean Street (Soho), Holborn and The Pheasantry (Chelsea).

Emma Rawicz. Advertising photos
  • Dean Street venue’s busy schedule features performances by rising star saxophonis Ant Law (12/11)t Emma Rawicz (12/11), acclaimed pianist (and a personal favorite) Ivo Neame (15/11) and saxophonist winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award “Satori” by Joséphine Davies. ‘ Also note the performance of the winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year Deschanel Gordon (16/11), on Sultan Stevenson 3o (19/11), and The Nikki Iles Jazz Orchestra (21/11).
  • Iles will also appear at The Pheasantry, performing “A Time Remembered – The Music Of Bill Evans” alongside British jazz legends. Norma Winstone, Stan Sulzmann and Dave Green (13/11 & 14/11).
  • Their Holborn Hall features an impressive trio of double draft pianos from Andrew McCormack and Rob barron (19/11), and also a performance by the multi-award winning jazz supergroup ‘Empirical‘(21/11).
  • For those looking for a bit of jazz, I will be hosting the Holborn Club Jam Session on 11/20. an informal setting.


CheThe 606 Club de lsea will also welcome amazing talents.

  • Loose Tubes / Polar Bear Saxophonist Mark Lockheart will present his ‘Generations Band’ (15/11)
  • Multi-instrumentalist Gary Mari (John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck) to present his ensemble ‘The Speed ​​Racers + 1’ (17/11)
  • Mercury Award nominated pianist Gwilym Simcock (Pat Metheny) will perform with his quintet (11/18).
  • Also note the Alex Hitchcock Xhosa Cole Quintet performing ‘The John Coltrane Songbook’ (20/11), Shane Forbes explore the music of Blossom Dearie (11/16), and the multi-award-winning singer Liane carroll (21/11). Plus, in memory of the recently lost saxophone legend Pierre Roi, Mornington Lockett will present a ‘Memorial Sax Summit’ featuring the winner of the British Jazz Awards Alex clarke, and the Deschanel Gordon Trio.


Gareth Lockrane Big Band

Soho is in many ways the birthplace of jazz in London. Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club has a rich history and reputation as one of the best jazz clubs in the world, and they’ve put together a fantastic program for this year’s festival.

The focus of this tour is on local talent, so I’m going to draw your attention to two concerts in particular.

  • After a successful livestream during confinement, the pianist James beckwith was invited to replay a set of original music inspired by the impact of confinement on our collective mental health (16/11). He says, “Ups and downs are a part of life, but the pandemic has really taken its toll on the arts and musicians, me included… To help with that, I created these dedicated sunrise meditations. . , Moon and Earth on the horizon, and use elements of ambient music and multiple synthesizers to create the huge climaxes at the end.
  • 11/14 Simon spilletThe quartet will mark the 60th anniversary of British jazz legend Tubby Hayes’ groundbreaking debut in New York City, an appearance that paved the way for a flood of American jazz giants to visit Ronnie Scott’s.

Just around the corner at The Spice of Life, you can witness some incredibly searing performances from Gareth Lockrane Big Band (14/11) and the Quentin Collins Sextet (11/15).


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Twickenham’s Jazz Sanctuary is a new venue which, as a personal point of interest, is right next to my primary school. They present a varied program of concerts, including the pianist “Quintet Blue” by Alex Webb with Denys Baptiste and Nigel Price (14/11, support from Alice Auer), the Quintet Kielan Sheard (17/11), and the exploratory saxophone trio ‘Partikel‘(11/18).

In Wood Green you can see the famous singer-songwriter and guitarist Rosie Frater-Taylor performing original music that blurs the lines between jazz, folk, pop and soul, with influences ranging from Joni Mitchell to George Benson (11/18). On 21/11, the guitarist of Soft Machine John Etheridge and Vimala rowe will perform music from their album “Out to the Sky”, described by the Sunday Times as “a rare blend of visceral emotion and jazzy intelligence”.


Camden’s “The Green Note” hosted my first gig at the London Jazz Festival (I won’t try to remember what year it was…). It is an intimate place with a large listening crowd. The stage is barely big enough for the band to hold on, but the vibe is incredible. Notable concerts on their program include vibraphonist / multi-instrumentalist David Mrakpor and guitarist Nick Costley White in doubles with Glasshopper (14/11), and the Dave Storey Trio (with James Allsopp) in doubles with Howl Quartet (19 / 11).


In Camberwell, The Crypt presents guitarist James Kitchman’s new quartet playing austere and refreshing music with influences from classical jazz to chamber music to contemporary folk (11/19). On 20/11, Larry Bartley, Shaney Forbes, Jean Toussaint and Jason Yarde will come together to play music supported by a commitment to pushing the boundaries of interaction and composition (20/11).


Another important venue on the London scene is Kennington’s Toulouse Lautrec, featuring music by Jas Kayser, Daniel Higham and Jay Phelps (17/11), and Georgia Mancio (19/11), as well as an improvisation workshop with trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe and saxophonist Lara Jones (21/11).


Another place to visit is the Hampstead Jazz Club, with a performance by the brilliant pianist Jamie Safir Threesome a special highlight (12/11). I will also play it myself with my trio on 11/15.


Those with a taste for live jazz may wish to check out some of the music programmed at Barnes’ ‘The Bull’s Head’, Piccadilly’s’ Crazy Coqs – Live At Zédel ‘and Cadogan Hall Foyer.

The Cadogan Hall foyer will feature swing trios of people like Gabriel Latchin (16/11) and Nick Costley White (17/11).

The Bull’s Head will see performances by British jazz legend and former orthopedic surgeon, Artistic themes (12/11), and the Jessica Radcliffe Quintet play the music of Burt Bacharach (14/11).

At Crazy Coqs, you will be able to see the incredible vocal talents of Sara dowling (18/11) and Liane carroll (19/11), as well as an exploration of the evolution of jazz piano music from house pianist Ronnie Scott James pearson (17/11). Pearson will dive into the realms of Ragtime, Stride, Boogie Woogie, and more.

On 20/11, “Ninety One Living Room” by Brick Lane will feature the alto saxophone star Rachel cohen and popular trumpeter Marc Kavuma, play alongside a group of stars.


Sam Leaked. Advertising photo

This brings me to a music program that I composed myself. The “Sam Leak Presents” series at “Oliver’s Jazz Bar” in Greenwich will feature the following acts:

• 13/11: The continuation of the liberation (dedication to the “Musical orchestra of the liberation”) – Sam Leak / George Crowley / Miguel Gorodi / Simon Read / Jon Scott

• 11/15: Helene kay

• 16/11: Tuesdays Turnt: The Huw Williams trio double billing with Gwilym Jones‘Teimlad

• 17/11: “Grooveyard Unplugged” by Gareth Lockrane

• 21/11: Jason brown with Orrin evans (formerly of The Bad Plus)

It goes without saying that I am a big fan of all these musicians. It’s a great experience to have an annual opportunity to provide a platform for some of my favorite acts to perform at the festival.

Club owner Olivier Revault has also programmed his own excellent series, which includes Francesco LoCastro (12/11), Nicolas meier (14/11), Maciek Pysz (19/11), and Robert castelli (20/11).

Here we are, we have completed our tour through the incredible array of performances that will take place at this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. Obviously there are a lot of gigs that I couldn’t mention, so I recommend you take a look at the full schedule for yourself as well. It’s going to be ten very musical days!


Sam Leak is a London-based jazz pianist described by Helen Mayhew of JazzFM as “one of the brightest stars in the jazz piano galaxy, a heavenly improviser and a bright prospect for the future”. This EFG London Jazz Festival, he will perform:

• 11/13: The Liberation Suite – Oliver’s Jazz Bar, Greenwich (9 p.m.)

• 15/11: The Sam Leak Trio – Hampstead Jazz Club (8 p.m.)

• 20/11: Samuel Eagles’ Spirit – Southbank, The Purcell Room (3 p.m.)

• 20/11: House trio for the Pizza Express (Holborn) Jam Session (9 p.m.)

CONNECT: Full program of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2021


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