Music festivals are typically reserved for the summer-time when stages crop up in parks and throngs of people camp out to see all their favourite artists in one place. Such events usually celebrate and thrive off of proximity – all of these musicians to see and things to do, all in one place. The EFG London Jazz Festival, however, celebrates jazz by spreading it all through the city for everyone to enjoy.
A 10-day festival, from November 10-19, the EFG London Jazz Festival sees jazz take over the city of London. We’re talking over 400 shows and events, at almost 100 venues, with more than 2000 performers. Global legends of the scene and young emerging talent will stand shoulder-to-shoulder on stage and in the audience, with performers from around the world in attendance.
Several now-established names can actually point to the EFG London Jazz Festival as being one of their first-ever live performances. It’s a celebration of the best the jazz world has to offer. 2023’s festival marks the 15th anniversary of their partnership with title sponsors EFG.
The festival strands
The EFG London Jazz Festival isn’t just a slapdash collection of a bunch of gigs. Instead, throughlines connect the festival’s many varied performances with categories that give visitors insight into the performances’ goals and makeup.
Performances are categorized and connected under the umbrellas of Voices, New Creations, Beyond Borders, Jazz Visionaries, Icons, Homegrown, and Beyond Margins. These categories encompass local UK talent (Homegrown), those who are pushing the boundaries of what jazz is and can be (Beyond Margins), living legends of jazz (Icons), music from all corners of the earth (Beyond Borders), and exciting new collaborations that result in something completely new (New Creations).
The festival’s spirit of collaboration results in new and exciting partnerships between completely different artists. The synergy and energy then create something wholly new and exciting. It’s the magic of jazz.
There’s also a handy little Free & Family category that (as the name might suggest) outlines performances and events that are either free or family-friendly.
And to honour the city’s tradition of jazz, they’re making sure to highlight some of London’s iconic jazz venues. The ‘Celebrating the Jazz Clubs‘ performances will take place in some of the venues that have fuelled London’s jazz scene. Expect incredible performances in locations ranging from the Royal Albert Hall to the Vortex Jazz Club, Pizza Express (yes, that Pizza Express), Café OTO, and more.
Don’t-miss performances at the EFG London Jazz Festival
If you just want to check out the absolute very best, festival-defining performances, head straight to the festival’s EFG Elements Series. These performances represent the festival’s driving ethos and spirit of collaboration. One such event, and one that definitely can’t be missed, is the Opening Gala itself at the Southbank Centre. 15 years of Jazz Voice performance are celebrated through a curated selection of soloists: Emeli Sandé, Clarke Peters, China Moses, Omar, Brendan Reilly, Naomi Banks, and more.
Another EFG Element Series performance that you’ll want to make a beeline for is Marcus Miller’s Southbank Centre performance with Camilla George on November 12. The night sees one of jazz’s most influential bass players (Miller) joined by a visionary saxophonist, composer, bandleader and innovator (George).
Other performances to keep an eye out for include Strangeness of Jazz with Edward George (November 15), the free-wheeling journey through Jazz’s history, Jazz Then and Now (November 16), and a supergroup’s debut performance with a re-imagining of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, London Brew (November 18).
Beyond the gigs
The EFG London Jazz Festival is about much more than just performance, with a variety of workshops, film screenings, and interactive experiences also available. The Barbican will host a trilogy of film screenings that showcase jazz on screen. Digital events, meanwhile, will allow anyone from anywhere to tune in to the EFG London Jazz Festival.
Parents can take their young children along to the Tots Tunes Family Band sessions for interactive creative shows. Or you can take part in a Music To Move To dance workshop that hearkens back to jazz’s origins as music to dance to. Or head over to Brazil (without the airfare) through the singing, dance, and drumming workshops at the Sounds of Brazil event.
As part of the festival, Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum is celebrating the influence of Jamaica on the vibrant British jazz scene with The Appleton Estate Jazz Sessions. They’re partnering performances from some of the jazz world’s most exciting voices with expert bar teams so guests can enjoy delicious Jamacia Rum Mai Tais while taking in the show.
To put it simply there is A LOT going on. London turns into a veritable wonderland for jazz lovers and fans of live music. The aim of the festival, even as it has grown incredibly since its launch, remains the same:
“celebrating the place of jazz in a city which is at ease with its rich cultural diversity, and drawing in a multitude of venues across London who present the music, week in, week out, throughout the year.”
It’s all jazz baby. And that sounds great to us.
The EFG London Jazz Festival will run from November 10-19, 2023. Head to the website to find out more.