PHOTO GALLERY: ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO | Jazz Cafe, London

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A full house, came saw and above all listened to The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 75-minute set at the Jazz Cafe on Monday. What first stays in the mind is the opening. All seven musicians stood stock-still and silent and faced in the same direction. The way they instantly brought a sense of shamanistic ritual, of respect, of dignity into a chatty club had more than a touch of magic. And they held that mood. Starting with a deep thrum – pulseless long notes from the deep from the basses… and then the cello of Tomeka Reid started to skitter over them.

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Then there were the moments of surprise: like Hugh Ragin’s trumpet intoning a simple melody with the classically purest of timbres.

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Or Don Moye (later to be introduced to the audience as “philospher”) on congas and then at the drum kit laying the basis for the deepest of all known grooves

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Or Roscoe Mitchell’s circular breathed-multiphonics on soprano sax and on Ab sopranino sax giving way to clarity – a passionately intoned melody on alto.

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This group demonstrates in a way that perhaps no other can the contrast between asserting the freedom of the individual and the depth of a shared commitment. It is a powerful message. And Monika Jakubowska’s photos portray a lot of that intensity, that concentration – and that joy. \

Check out more of Monika’s photographic work here.

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Too Many Zooz | Ronnie Scott’s, London

Music review

I had two tickets for the rave at Ronnie Scott’s last night. Queues all down Frith Street for the fusion trio beloved by Beyoncé, and a regal appearance from the Zooz themselves some forty minutes after their scheduled slot began. They walked on stage wordlessly, and after a small pause began one of the most relentlessly paced and technically extraordinary shows I’ll probably ever see.

Masters of fresh, fierce, discordant revels, they whipped the crowd into a frenzy of Englishly awkward head-banging and shoulder rolls, with their carnival speed, Leo Pellegrino’s commanding gestures, and the trio’s intense improv. Laconically fronted by the furiously concentrated Matt Doe (trumpet) who never once removed his sunglasses, Leo Pellegrino (baritone sax, mainly) left me open-mouthed as he leapt, thrust, and cavorted over the stage, barely stopping for breath as he produced the sound of six saxophones from one. Operating on a register from squawk to didgeridoo, he was supported and punctuated by Doe, and all this was bound together by David Parks’ uniquely ferocious drumming. It was rebarbative, insouciant New York invention at the top of its game. Looking around, I saw a packed house full of the possessed, with a few bewildered – or frankly incredulous – faces, still ensnared by sheer bedazzlement.

Since they’ve just been signed by the Ministry of Sound (as a thoughtful Parks broke his silence to tell us), I’m curious to see where the stardom that must, surely, be about to overtake them will direct their music. Commercialisation seems the last thing that could happen to this unique trio – especially when they pulled an unexpected card from their sleeve halfway through. A glimmer of romance (with a swing rhythm and insistent drumming, naturally) suddenly shone out when Doe sat down at the piano to take on Pellegrino’s sparkly black alto sax. Wherever they’re going next, long may Too Many Zooz keep surprising us.

Too Many Zooz are touring the UK throughout May: https://www.songkick.com/artists/8221618-too-many-zooz

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JOEY DOSIK | The Jazz Cafe, London

Music review

If we had things our way, there would be a weekly (daily?) residency of Vulpeck at The Jazz Cafe.  Their live shows are a funky wonder to behold and we’ve made no secret of it: ‘the most mind-blowing group on the planet‘.  Instead, visits from the Vulfs are a rarity to be savoured and devoured upon delivery.  For those whose appetite just cannot wait, dinner will be on 16th May served in the form of pianist Joey Dosik.  His golden vocals and irresistible hooks make for a potent recipe.

This is Dosik’s biggest London show to date and it’s certain to be a fun one.

Be sure to grab one of the few remaining tickets.

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THE WORM | Katzpace, London

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Hot on the heels of his New Zealand transfer of COFFIN, Elliott Langsdon brings a short ‘Work-In-Progress’ production of his new dark dramady to Katzpace in a strictly limited run of just five performances, all about “worming” one’s way back into a relationship. COFFIN received a phenomenal reception in London, and one New Zealand critic called it “the funniest play I’ve ever seen”.

“I’ve always been drawn to Machiavellian characters like Iago,” says Langsdon, “and this play is almost a little bit like a modern-day Othello in structure, but crammed with some absolutely mad humour and surreal moments. We’ve been having an absolute ball in rehearsals. I’m really excited for people to see it.”

Meet Stefan (Sam Goodchild) and Mica (Mica Williams): two young millennials just trying to get through their hectic lives whilst maintaining their relationship and paying off their student debt. Meet Sam (Sam Stay) and Faye (Melissa Coleman): Stefan and Mica’s best friends, and closest allies, as things seem to be going south. Meet Ben (Robert Frimston): Mica’s ex, down on his luck. Returned from the past. And ready to “patch things up”.

With adult themes, strong language and nudity, audiences can expect to do plenty of worming and squirming of their own. If COFFIN is anything to go by, Elliott Langsdon is one to watch, so get on down to Katzpace and get ready for THE WORM.

3 – 7 March 2018. Book online for £10 tickets.

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PARADE | Pleasance Theatre, London

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Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts is renowned as one of London’s leading universities for musical theatre, with many of its graduates moving straight into jobs in the West End. The chance to see a cast of these talented students, in the final year of Mountview’s three-year Musical Theatre BA, is an opportunity not to be missed.

Parade (1998) — with sophisticated, Tony Award-winning music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown — tells the true American story of how in 1913, factory owner Leo Frank was falsely accused of rape and murder, revealing horrific, institutional antisemitism.

The last major London production of Parade was in 2011 at the Southwark Playhouse, so Jason Robert Brown fans are going to be thrilled about the chance to see it again, even in a strictly limited run of just five performances.

Award-winning director Josh Seymour worked at the Donmar Warehouse for many years as assistant and associate director, as well as more recently for the National Theatre and West End. It will be exciting to see his take on this dark, jaw-dropping musical. So come to Islington and join the Parade.

Parade runs at the Pleasance Theatre 7-10 February 2018.

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TÜMANZ: TÜK18 | Leicester Square Theatre, London

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This is sketch comedy as you’ve never seen it before: camper than a Gilbert and Sullivan away day; it’s a sort-of musical; it’s topical satire; costume quick changes; very silly accents. There are also sketches that stretch from the traditional to the inexplicably macabre.

Yes, Unleash The Llama are back with an hour of dystopian sketch-comedy about a totalitarian dictatorship not too far away (cough—America—cough). Saul Boyer (pictured: psychotically grinning) and Joe Bence are being forced to rewrite and perform all known audiovisual media to the exact specifications of their televisual overlord, Big Dick.

The opportunity to see these two sensational performers in their idiosyncratic wünder-show cannot be missed. And in the West End, no less. (Well — an intimate fringe venue with limited tickets. But still. Good enough for Audra McDonald.)

TüManz: TüK18 is likely to end up leaving you Tü shook for words on the first viewing, so you might have to go Tü timez, but not more than three (they are only doing three dates). Best to go see this dynamic duo now, before the TV commission and the arena tour begins.

TüManz TüK18 is on at the Leicester Square Theatre 18-20 January 2018. Tickets £10.

Milestones Presents: THE SOUNDTRACKS OF JOHN WILLIAMS

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Wednesday 3rd January 2018 19:00-23:00

The UK has gone John Williams mad in 2017, with many concerts over the country celebrating the iconic film composer’s 85th birthday, including an entire BBC Prom dedicated to exclusively to his work.

John Williams’ scores are known for being enormous and lush, with gargantuan orchestras packed to the rafters with percussion (think Star Wars; Harry Potter; Jurassic Park; Indiana Jones; E.T.; the list is endless).  John Williams has a close association with the London Symphony Orchestra, known for the original Star Wars soundtrack recordings, often reaching up to a hundred musicians for those real fortissimo moments.

How exciting then that the intimate, rock-gig-esque setting of The Jazz Cafe in London is putting on a show of John Williams’ music but with only a twenty-piece ensemble.  It will be fascinating to appreciate Williams’ breathtaking music up close and personal; and not swimming in reverb but where we can appreciate the individual musicians.

At the John Williams BBC Prom, about 1,350 people stood in the Royal Albert Hall’s central “arena” for the best views, while a further 4,000 sat around the outside.  The Jazz Cafe has only standing room, for 420 people maximum, with a restaurant on the upper circle if you do fancy sitting.

It’s all set to be a cracking gig, and a chance to hear John Williams’ stunning music like never before.  The John Williams Prom sold out well over 5,000 tickets in a few days; make sure you get your tickets for this intimate gig asap.

For more information and to book tickets, visit The Jazz Cafe website.

FESTIVAL: EFG London Jazz Festival 25th Anniversary

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November is an odd time of year in London. Skies that darken quicker ally themselves with dipping temperatures; outdoor spaces of the city’s bars and clubs are the reserves of smokers and hypothermic drinkers crowded out of the warmth. Sometimes it can seem like the capital has pressed pause on merriment, storing up good-will for the festive season.

However, for the artistically intrepid and culturally aware, this is also the month of one of the most varied and glorious musical events of the calendar: the EFG London Jazz Festival. 2017 marks 25 years of the city-wide jazz celebration that grew from Camden Jazz Week and now fills London with one of the most broad showcases of the genre as 10 consecutive days swell with over 300 shows across more than 50 venues of all shapes and sizes.

Anyone who’s been near the organisation of the festival (or just consistently in the mood for good music and good chat) over the past 25 years will know the seismic impact that John Cumming has had on the London (and UK) jazz scene in that period. His hand has guided the festival from its inception and as we look forward to this landmark edition, Gilles Peterson had the good sense to sit down with John to have a bit of a chinwag with a time limit (brave man).

We’ve got our top picks for the festival (Brad Mehldau and Chris Thile, Knower and Justin Kauflin to name a few) but for a real expert’s eye on November, go to 1 hour 4 minutes in the link below to hear Gilles and John doing their thing: talking about music, the festival and the London scene as only they can.

The EFG London Jazz Festival runs from Friday 10 – Sunday 19 of November. You can browse the full listings here and find out about the ever-popular free programme here.

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TRACK: Espa. Lover to a Liar

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Most blockbusters are released at the start of the summer so it’s a rare joy for such a strong track to peep its head out as autumn is taking hold.

‘Lover to a Liar’ foams with the hutzpah of classic Christian Aguilera or contemporary Ella Eyre. Co-written/produced with Mike Kintish and KÅIKÅI, the raw lyrics are musically weaponised with Espa’s powerhouse vocals while tub-thumping drums and breaks set the purposeful pace of the track (with a modulated millennial whoop thrown in for good measure).

Announced with little fanfare, this is an absolute storming utterance that easily holds its own alongside the year’s most commercially-supported releases. More please, Espa.

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FESTIVAL: International de Jazz de Montréal

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Montreal is into jazz. How much? Well, the festival features 600 concerts, 400 activities and events and 3000 musicians from 30 countries over the course of 10 days. So yeah, loads of jazz. Founded in 1979 with the intention of bringing the best musicians on the planet to the city and its visitors, the 2017 programme delivers on this mission statement as well as giving stage time to artists that are headed in that direction.

Browsing the full schedule (which you can do here) it’s wonderful to see an event that has everything from the ‘indisputable legends, beg-borrow-steal a ticket’ category through to ‘oh yeah, I’ve heard they’re kinda cool and I’ve got a free afternoon’ gigs. To look forward to just some of this enticing mix, it’s great to see Michael League and Shabaka Hutchings each touring their new projects — Bokanté and Shabaka & the Ancestors respectively. For those who think that a Nobel Prize is exactly what you should look for in a musician, the freshly decorated Bob Dylan is in town. Speaking of decoration, the stage of Maison symphonique de Montréal will be heaving with talent in a double-bill that features Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Scofield, John Medeski, Charles Lloyd, Gerald Clayton, Reuben Rogers, and Eric Harland. What?? Amazing.

For the young guns, the line-up sparkles with rising stars like Cory Henry, Jacob Collier, Anderson .Paak, Too Many Zooz and many more. For fans of the hang (as an instrument as well as a late night dram) it’s exciting to see the return of Portico Quartet, part of a British contingent that include GoGo Penguin and the burningly ear-catching Binker & Moses.

Think that sounds like a lot? We’ve barely scratched the surface and if the staged gigs seem too formal, 130 non-stop street artists are on a mission to make the city swing. We can’t wait.

Montreal International Jazz Festival runs from 28 June – 8 July and you can explore the full programme here.

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