Now that autumn is here, the London Jazz Festival can't be far behind. This year, the LJF runs from Friday 10th November until Sunday 19th November. In those ten days, the festival will include its usual mix of jazz superstars and legends, rising stars, crowd pleasers, cult heroes, great freebies, pluswith nearly twenty gigs on some daysa large slice of frustration that one cannot be in two (or more) places at once. Birthday celebrations abound this yearDave Holland's 60th, Mike Westbrook's 70th, Stan Tracey's 80th... Here are some of the many highlights plus tips on how to get the most out of the festival.
The first event of the festival will also be one of the most spectacularand it's free. Andy Sheppard has assembled a 200-strong (yes, 200) saxophone ensemble called The Dalston Saxophone Massive, in order to give a rousing official opening to Gillett Square, home of the new Vortex club. Sheppard will be joined by Orphy Robinson, Tony Kofi, James Morton plus at least 196 others. Kick off is at 6pm. Unmissable, I'd say.
The opening evening starts the difficult choices; at the Barbican, the Wayne Shorter Quartet is supported by the Stan Tracey Trio (not so difficult a choice, as it is already sold out! But see tomorrow for more Tracey.) At the South Bank, in the Front Room at QEH, there is a free gig, from the Mike Westbrook (pictured) Village Band to start celebrations of Westbrook's 70th birthday, while in the QEH itself, Marc Ribot Spiritual Unity "re-imagines the music of Albert Ayler." London Calling choice: After Gillett Square, if time allows, go to QEH and catch Westbrook then Marc Ribot.
You are unlikely to be able to get tickets for Herbie Hancock at the Roundhouse. But you won't need a ticket to see Gathering Ghosts for free at the Front Room, QEHMaggie Nichols on voice, Caroline Kraabel on saxophones, John Edwards on bass, in an Ayler-inspired programme. The Stan Tracey Trio plus Guy Barker plus Benjamin Herman begin a four-night residency at Pizza Express, Soho, to celebrate Stan's 80th birthday; essential to attend at least once. London Calling choice: Dash from QEH to Pizza Express to catch both Gathering Ghosts and Tracey.
Mike Westbrook plays twice todayat the Bulls Head in Barnes then at the Spice of Life in Soho. London Calling choice: Catch Billy Jenkins Songs of Praise at Spitz.
More hard choices tonight if you are after superstars or legends. Should it be Cassandra Wilson at the Barbican or Lee Konitz at Wigmore Hall or Abdullah Ibrahim at QEH? London Calling choice: Go for intimacy: check out Bheki Mseleku at 606 club in Chelsea; the venue is currently celebrating its own 30th birthday.
London Calling choice: Only one choice tonightMoscow Composers Orchestra at Cargo. A rare opportunity to see the likes of Sainkho Namchylak, Anatoly Vapirov, Vladimir Tarasov, Vladimir Miller.
A classical take on a not-quite-jazz maverick, as Britten Sinfonia presents Bach meets Moondog at QEH. For proper jazz, catch pianist Nicki Yeoh at the Vortex. London Calling choice: Hmmm... Norwegian improvisers Supersilent at Cargo by a very short head over Moondog.
EST + Polar Bear at the Barbican is already sold out. An intriguing alternative is Fast 'n' Bulbous, a Captain Beefheart tribute led by former Magic Band guitarist Gary Lucas. London Calling choice: The great adventurer, saxophonist Trevor Watts at the Purcell Room.
London Calling choice: There is only one place to be tonight, the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Start with Lol Coxhill free at the Front Room QEH, then go inside for Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble at QEH itself, followed by Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog free at the Front Room. See three great gigs but only pay for one. What a result!
Dave Holland Quintet play Holland's 60th birthday gig at the Barbican, supported by Jim Hall. London Calling choice: Have a break from music! Chelsea v West Ham at Stamford Bridge, 3pm, followed by the joyful anarchy of The People Band at the Vortex.
The Soweto Kinch Family Show, 3pm at QEH, is a low cost, intro to jazz, ideal for kids and adults alike. In the evening, Cascade at the Purcell Room blends Scottish fiddles, Indian music and Andy Sheppard's saxophone, at the start of a national tour. London Calling choice: Catch Soweto Kinch in the afternoon, then finish off the festival in mellow reflective mood with a perennial favourite, pianist Lola Perrin at Spitz.
I was first exposed to jazz as a child in Boston and at a Sun Ra concert.
I met Jaco Pastorius as a teenager in NYC.
The best show I ever attended was The Gap Band.
The first jazz record I bought was Heavy Weather.