JAGA JAZZIST + SINIKKA LANGELAND | London, Royal Festival Hall

The 25th edition of the EFG London Jazz Festival drew to a multi-coloured, light-pulsing close at the Royal Festival Hall as two halves of contrasting but majestic Norwegian music lit up the Southbank.

Sitting centre stage, Sinikka Langeland was a beacon of scarlet who quickly cast a spell over the hall. Singing while tickling and tapping the kantele (a zither-like instrument), Sinikka’s music has the universally-respected ECM stamp of authenticity and her varied approaches to folk songs quickly demonstrated why. There is a ponderous darkness to her music and the icy voices of Trio Mediaeval added a prophetic dimension to her rather peculiar tales. Heard the one about the bear being sacrificed in a forest who awakes into an outer-body experience, watching its own bear carcass on an alter from a tree? Although not exactly ‘Goldilocks’ Sinikka’s power of communication and gift for arranging created a liminal atmosphere where these songs could sparkle in the air.

Jaga Jazzist take a leaf out of the wooded theme that occurs in the songs of the first half in their stage design, sitting amidst a forest of LEDs which are soon having their own party around the band. Launching into their set with trademark energy and experimental verve, the crowd-pleasing group deliver a show that possesses the magic mix of beats, melodies, licks and tricks to attract and dazzle huge festival crowds. The Festival Hall crowd is maybe more sedate (and certainly more seated) than the dance parties they can inspire in standing venues, but it’s not surprising that the sophistication of their music has built a loyal following of fans who will take the time to sit and enjoy the show in such glorious sound and vision conditions. They know how to build a song like Arcade Fire and have Snarky Puppy’s gift for fun and funk. Arve Henriksen’s guest appearance in both bands this evening is also a poignant moment of baton passing/sharing given his idiosyncratic impact on this music scene in Norway.

‘We love people who dance,’ shouts drummer Martin Horntveth, dedicating the next song to some kids up in the balcony who are throwing mad shapes like there’s no tomorrow (or at least no work tomorrow). Both the band and the lighting designer leave it all out there on the stage, departing a hugely satisfied jazz festival audience in a glow of satisfaction. On the closing night of this anniversary EFG London Jazz Festival, to see a hall filled with such a broad range of people unified by a love of such eclectic music is to see the festival at its multifarious best. Thank you, EFG London Jazz Festival. You rock.


(Twenty stars: one for each of the Serious team who produced this colossal festival)


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