We’ve come to the end of another edition of the EFG London Jazz Festival. The London Jazz Festival caters for every type of jazz fan, with large and small venues around the capital holding top class jazz over a ten day period.
One such venue is the Union Chapel in Islington, which hosted artists Fini Bearman and Elda Trio on a double bill last Sunday evening. The Union Chapel is an interesting venue based in Compton Terrace, just off Upper Street and five minutes away from Highbury and Islington tube station. Described as a “working church, live entertainment venue and charity drop-in centre for the homeless in Islington”, the church was built in the late 19th century and is a Grade 1 listed building. Large concerts take place in the auditorium, whilst this performance took place in the Upper Hall bar.
I arrived just after 2pm during the sound checks to conduct interviews; it is always fun to see the behind the scenes sound checks, watching musicians go through their paces for the main event; much like a sportsman does before their race or match, getting in the zone. We found a quiet spot away from the sound check where I interviewed first Fine Bearman for ten minutes, then Emilia Martensson for another ten minutes. Doors opened for the performances at 3.30pm and the room filled up very quickly indeed with the first performance commencing just after 4pm.
The Elda Trio were first up; comprising of Emilia Martensson from Sweden on vocals, Adriano Adewale from Brazil on drums / percussion and Janez Dovč from Slovenia on accordion and experimental loops. The Elda Trio are a true representation of the potential of world music, it is also true to say the Elda Trio have a unique sound which I haven’t heard anywhere else. Over the years we have heard many bands / groups / artists who perform world music and it sounds incredibly clichéd, as if you heard it 127 times before; that’s not the case with the Elda Trio, it is much more than that primarily because their combination is Brazilian rhythms mixed with Swedish and Slovenian folk is so unusual. Add to that Emilia’s vocals in English and sometimes Swedish and that’s the Elda Trio. The percussion and accordion is also interesting, Adriano played an assortment of instruments on his drum kit, whilst Janez played various effects and doubled up as a bass player through the accordion with electronic loops. Many of the songs are folk tales including their single called Aleksandrinke, a song about Slovenian women who went to Egypt to become nannies in the 19th century. This is precisely what Pat Metheny meant when he called jazz a “modern folk music”.
The Elda Trio performed a set of around 75 minutes which was very well received, after which there was a short break to get the stage ready for Fini Bearman and her band who were next up on the set. Fini’s band comprised a five piece of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards with Fini on vocals, showcasing tunes from her new CD entitled Burn the Boat on Two River Records, a title that definitely grabs the attention! Fini started off with the title track, an interesting philosophical song (you can hear an explanation on the podcast). Each song had a story behind it which was well told by Fini and beautifully performed as well. The set was quite different from the Elda Trio but still superb, Fini Bearman’s music is a mix of folk, pop, jazz with interesting melodies and time shifts going on at the same time, which is a combination I always enjoy if done well. For those who have heard music from the Galician region in Spain, there is an element of that contrast and counterpoint, Fini’s music has all of those elements which make it immediately interesting. With great lyrics and ideas thrown in, this should make her music playable on jazz and non-jazz stations.
Fini’s set lasted just under 80 minutes and the audience were treated to an encore at the end, which Fini used to perform a song that wasn’t on the new record; a nice way to finish the evening. The audience were treated to three hours of great contrasting music which showcases the best that British jazz has to offer. It also shows how many different directions the music of jazz has taken and continues to take, reflecting the influences and backgrounds of the performers, but also reflecting the diversity of current British culture, which despite Brexit has a strong European and international influence 😉 which I am sure will continue to be the case for years to come.