EFG London Jazz Festival Report – JLR Review Series
Part 1: Down for the Count Swing Orchestra, Jeff Goldblum, BBC Concert Orchestra with Shiva Feshareki
Day 1 – Friday 16th November
The Down for the Count Swing Orchestra is the perfect festival draw – steeped in old-school swing, powerhouse big band charts, smooth seductive ballads, and sprinkled with top-notch vocalists. The opening Sing Sing Sing (made famous by Benny Goodman in 1937) is the iconic opening expected from a “Big Band Bash” as advertised by the band, and the audience knew they were in safe hands when the clarinettist took the original Goodman clarinet solo. Amongst the stand out performers, was recent RAM graduate, lead vocalist Katie Birtill who effortlessly blended contemporary clean melodic phrases, with style-appropriate sassy scat. Being an eleven-piece unit as opposed to the eighteen-piece norm meant occasionally the band’s melodic lines were lost or overpowered, however, the musicians still managed to capture the fun and punchiness of the Big Band genre, captivating traditionalists and seasoned professionals alike.
Day 2 – Saturday 17th November
Opening with an accidental fire alarm, the 3pm performance at Cadogan Hall of Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra was set from the get-go to be a memorable afternoon. The Hollywood legend had the audience wrapped around his finger from the moment he apparated onto the stage, and kept the whole room engaged for the duration of the concert by combining a mix of music with spontaneous quizzes and trivia facts; a particular herculean task due to the dramatic age range of the sold-out hall.
Musically, Goldblum’s jazz improvisation was often slightly sparse, yet also stylistically sound and harmonically defiant. The five-piece band alongside Goldblum on keys and Imelda May’s unmistakable vocals – organ, tenor saxophone, guitar, bass, drums – spotlights some of LA’s top musicians including the roaring shady tone of tenor saxophonist James King which quickly became a highlight in each arrangement.
Day 3 – Sunday 18th November
In a bizarre BBC Concert Orchestra program where during a jazz festival, not a single saxophone joined the ensemble’s ranks on stage, the fantastic composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki guided the London Jazz Festival’s audience through her carefully constructed sound-world, making the unfamiliar familiar. After an opening half of stereotypically jazz associated charts such as the popular Wayne Shorter, Nefertiti and the Coltrane influenced Gordon Hamilton, Baby Steps First, the introduction of turntables to the stage brought a changed air to the performance venue.
Using both live musicians and the pre-recorded sounds of the audience, Feshareki’s work moved in retrograde to the orchestra’s performance, joining in the midsection to create a deeply satisfying cacophonous duet between electronic and acoustic. This moving performance from both Feshareki and the BBCCO should be hailed as one of the triumphs of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, as it successfully and accessibly welcomed in a new development of the ever-changing genre of Jazz.