The Prickle (@ThePrickle) November 17, 2017
The EFG London Jazz Festival has a habit of forcing you to choose between equally brilliant artists playing on the same night at the same time. As it happens, tonight they solved one such conundrum on our behalf be programming Justin Kauflin’s trio and the Besson/Ségal partnership on the same stage, and what a double-bill.
Opening with the suitably titled ‘Blossom’, the blooming musical relationship between Airelle Besson’s trumpet and Vincent Ségal’s cello seemed to thaw the cold winter air as wistful bowed harmonics underscored the horn’s melodic wandering. The playfulness of the duo led the audience through dances to more Parisian soundscapes with both artists evolving their technique throughout the set. Ségal’s ability to produce unfamiliar sounds from his cello is a sonic marvel to behold without allowing novelty to intrude on musicality. The distortion effect Vincent created by attaching something resembling a flat tea strainer to his bridge or the kora-like plucking patterns was the perfect accompaniment for Airelle’s tapering melodic lines (and smiles as he produced strung-bound maracas to accompany her).
Stage and audience reset, pianist Justin Kauflin took to the stage for the second half joined by Billy Williams (drums) and Thomas Fonnesbaek (bass) for a set that would usually find its home in a traditional jazz club. Here too we find another rather brilliant trait of the jazz festival: creating opportunities to hear emerging bands in some of the city’s most famous acoustics. It was a point not lost on Justin who remarked in typically gracious fashion what a pleasure it was to be able to play almost entirely ‘unplugged’. The set showcased Justin’s heartfelt, warm compositions and interpretations in a style that is both pleasing and free from pretension. ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Country Fried’ demonstrated his fondness for writing about his home state of Virginia while jazz standards like ‘The Best thing for You is Me’ and ‘Just In Time’ allowed for a lot of fun in the solos offered out to Billy and Thomas.
Kauflin’s talent and generosity glow in such a welcoming fashion that it is impossible to resist the charm of his set. Covers of Sufjan Stevens and John Lennon give an insight to his musical world outside of jazz which further explains the folk-y sensibilities of his style and temperament. With the festival tipping over the middle of the festival and into the closing weekend, this was as fine a concert as any to exhale and enjoy the abundance of talent present in London this week. It’s almost too much for one city but this was the perfect amount for one stage.
The 2017 EFG London Jazz Festival continues until Sunday 19 November.