With the full programme confirmed for this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, which runs from 16 to 25 November, it’s the festival’s huge number of free concerts that are set to tempt in the wider public, with a dizzying range of international music, live radio broadcasts, panel discussions and workshops on offer. Heading up the myriad European musicians appearing are 15 of the brightest young stars in the Italian jazz firmament (Barbican Free Stage, 17 and 18 Nov, as well as at a special free concert at the Italian Cultural Institute, Belgravia on 19 Nov). These include silken-voiced guitarist/singer Simona Severini (above right) and piano soloist Giovanni Guidi, swing-influenced rockers Clock’s Pointer Dance, sonic architects Yellow Squeeds and the groove-led Drive!, as well as a guest appearance by elder statesman, saxophonist Francesco Bearzatti. Elsewhere the Next Generation Takes Over programme features two full days of performances from emerging young UK jazz talent (Clore Ballroom, 24-25 Nov).

Acclaimed keyboardist Kit Downes performs spellbinding ambient organ soundscapes at a special free matinee show with saxophonist Tom Challenger (1pm, RFH, 23 Nov), with Nordic keys man Sigbjørn Apeland providing another idiosyncratic take on the ‘organ recital’ with his first-time collaboration with keyboardist Danalogue (The Comet is Coming/Soccer 96) and saxophonist Helen Papaioannou at the Union Chapel (12pm, 17 Nov).

Another Southbank free-show highlight comes from tuba-man Andy Grappy, who leads a small army of young brass players in the foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, under the banner of James Reese Europe Marches, in tribute to the inspirational wartime bandleader (6.45pm, 18 Nov). An equally uplifting sound is sure to come from the combined forces of high-energy Vula Viel gyil player Bex Burch, leading UK saxophonist Jason Yarde and Ghanaian master percussionist Afla Sackey, who perform as Mwalimu Express for some intense Afro-jazz grooves (2.30pm, Rich Mix, 18 Nov).

Something a little more chilled comes courtesy of alto saxophonist Martin Speake who leads his new project, Charukesi, featuring Alyson Cawley (tenor/clarinet), Rob Luft (guitar) and Will Glaser (drums/perc) (2.30pm, Cadogan Hall, 19 Nov). Pizza Express Jazz Club opens its doors for two free lunchtime gigs from a pair of Serious ‘Take Five’ alumni, with gigs from exciting latin-jazz influenced pianist Al MacSween (1pm, 22 Nov) and fiery guitar virtuoso Ant Law (above left, 1pm, 19 Nov).

Among the numerous talks and workshops at the festival, Jazzworks presents a day of discussions and shared insight for everyone working in, or interested in working in, the music industry (Level 5, Southbank Centre, 24 Nov), with a series of showcase performances in the Clore Ballroom from undergraduate jazz musicians. There’s also the danceable Chicago X London night, which sees UK saxophonist Nubya Garcia and US drummer Makaya McCraven (top centre) unite for an evening of free-flowing, forward thinking jazz and beats (EartH, Hackney Arts Centre, 24 Nov).

Other significant concert hall gigs include a stellar Jazz Cubano triple-bill, with Alfredo Rodriguez, Omar Sosa and Arturo O’Farrill (Barbican, 23 Nov); the heavyweight Dave Douglas UPLIFT band with Bill Laswell and Mary Halvorson (QEH, 16 Nov); Hammond hero James Taylor Quartet‘s cinematic ‘Electric Black’ show (Cadogan Hall, 21 Nov) and visceral Chicagoan trumpeter Jaimie Branch‘s two nights at Cafe OTO (21-22 Nov).

And fans of jazz photography should keep an eye out for works by renowned jazz snapper William Ellis, with his ‘The One LP Project’ on display in the main foyer at Cadogan Hall during the festival. Prints from his ‘Miles and Beyond’ show – featuring images of Dizzy Gillespie, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nancy Wilson, Kurt Elling, Herbie Hancock and many more – will be on display at Omnibus Theatre, Clapham Common North Side from 16 to 28 November.

All these events join those previously listed in Jazzwise, who is festival media partner.

Mike Flynn

For full listings and tickets visit www.efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk

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