September’s Kings Place Festival is an epic three-day chance to cram in as much or as little cultural nourishment as required after a sports-heavy summer.

Jazz is one of the pillars of the programming at Kings Place, in central London near St Pancras station, all the year round, particularly the Saturday night strand in Hall 2, and while at times the atmosphere there despite the beautiful surroundings and quality of the bookings can be a little lacking in excitement, the festival judging by previous years does ramp up the buzz factor a considerable notch. This year overall there are some 100 performances taking place across the arts, including classical music, comedy, and spoken word.

The jazz programming is extensive and includes cellist Matthew Barley and Friends (that’s the shakuhachi of Adrian Freedman and the piano of Julian Joseph), the sax/piano duo of Jason Yarde and Andrew McCormack, and Yarde’s Trio WAH! Also on are the vibes/piano duo of Jim Hart and Barry Green; Alexander Hawkins; Tomorrow’s Warriors performing The Queen’s Suite by Duke Ellington; and saxophonist Denys Baptiste’s new trio Triumvirate featuring up-and-coming drummer Moses Boyd along with bassist Larry Bartley.

(Denys Baptiste, pictured, top)

The festival also hosts the Edition Festival, showcasing artists from the roster of the leading Cardiff-based indie jazz label. The Ivo Neame Ensemble, Troyka, the sax/tuba duo of Marius Neset and Daniel Herskedal, and tenorist Josh Arcoleo are among those taking part.

(Ivo Neame, pictured above)

Trumpeter and composer Jay Phelps (above), who features on the soundtrack and plays the role of a member of the Louis Lester band in Stephen Poliakoff’s upcoming television drama Dancing on the Edge, also appears at Kings Place in two line-ups. One of these features the talented Canadian’s quartet joined by the Koco Quartet led by violinist Miles Brett, who like Jay also acts and plays in the Poliakoff serial, which is set in the London of the 1930s and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jacqueline Bisset and John Goodman.

Free foyer events include octets and dectets by the National Youth Jazz Collective, the duo of bassist Ben Hazleton and singer Julia Biel, the duo of Emilia Martensson and Barry Green, plus singer Randolph Matthews with saxophonist Rob Hughes. The festival runs from 14-16 September. 

Stephen Graham

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Pedro Segundo on the drums, with Chris Crenshaw, trombone, and Marcus Printup, trumpet, at the Late Late Show in Ronnie Scott’s
Photo: Benjamin Amure

Updated with new pictures

The Late Late Show at Ronnie Scott’s, the jam session that draws in some of the cream of the capital’s jazz talent for informal performances after the main draw of the evening has finished, dedicated the Wednesday evening session to Abram Wilson whose death from colon cancer at just 38 on 9 June was such a cruel blow. With members of the widely admired and respected trumpeter, composer, and bandleader’s family in the club following a New Orleans-type procession from the South Bank Centre to a memorial service in Waterloo earlier in the day when musicians taking part included Wynton Marsalis, pianist James Pearson leading the jamming told the audience that Abram had been due to return to the club in a few weeks if death hadn’t taken him away.

In just 10 years living in the UK the Arkansas-born trumpeter made a big and lasting impact on the national scene, and with Tim Thornton, bass, and Pedro Segundo on drums, Pearson, the club’s artistic director and leader of the Ronnie’s All-Stars, called on Andy Davies who runs the popular upstairs hard bop jam on Wednesdays to play a few songs in tribute. Welshman Davies, with his love of Kenny Dorham and Chet Baker, a communicative ability on the trumpet and the expressive tone of a musician who knows what he wants to say and does so with aplomb, was able to squeeze out every little nuance in a lovely sparkling rendition of ‘The Nearness of You’ in particular as well as opener ‘If I Were A Bell’. Singer Emma Smith, newly blond, also joined, running through ‘Skylark’ and scatting with some ease before guests from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, trombonist Chris Crenshaw tall and lean and playing fine and mellow with ridiculous skill, and trumpeter Marcus Printup in immaculately subtle form at low volume came down to Ronnie’s to jam fresh from performing with JALCO and The London Symphony Orchestra as they premiered Wynton’s Swing Symphony at the Barbican under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle.

Above: Marcus Printup of JALCO at the Late Late Show
Photo: Benjamin Amure

As young up-and-coming players lined up to jam including a name to watch in the smartly tailored pianist Reuben James who Abram had himself mentored, a new generation of National Youth Jazz Orchestra players and Tomorrow’s Warriors alumni circulated in the club into the wee small hours to play their socks off. It was a night that you’d guess Abram would have enjoyed. His spirit lives on for sure at the heart of it all, on Frith Street. Stephen Graham

Wynton MarsalisSwing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) received its UK premiere last night with the London Symphony Orchestra joining forces with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.

Conducting without the score for the opening performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances it was a bit like being under the knife of the most remarkable surgeon in the world: the orchestra and the audience mere putty in his hands, the outcome never in doubt.

Wynton came on to the stage at the beginning of the second half almost in disguise, as the momentarily distracted audience settling into their seats took a while to spot the great New Orleansian as he walked to his seat right in the middle of the trumpet section of JALCO in front of the conductor’s podium, with the LSO spread out all around the jazz orchestra.

‘All Rise’ and ‘Blues Symphony’, the work’s predecessors paradoxically given that they were called that most classical of forms, ‘symphonies’, were actually experimental music in the sense that Wynton was trying out his solutions to orchestrating for symphony orchestra and jazz band. Neither succeeded particularly beyond their ambition and initial impact at the time, and I’m sure most fans of Wynton’s as well as critics see them more of a curiosity than say the oratorio Blood on the Fields, a much more significant achievement despite its massive length. Swing Symphony is different, a notch up in terms of the art of the composer, although the jury’s out as to whether it will be any more significant than say the likeable score Marsalis composed for Dan Pritzker’s silent film, Louis.

The symphony’s obvious sophistication and the multiple inspirations it summons, from ragtime and plantation dance forms, through Fletcher Henderson to Ellington, shares at least these links in common with the earlier works among the active ingredients at play. The heart of the matter, though, in his work is the parallel lines of the harmony, the scrabbling indeterminacy of the juxtaposing of chromaticism with classic song-like saxophone solos, at others echoing Leonard Bernstein in terms of romanticism, or Aaron Copland occasionally but as ever owing its creative core to Ellington. But without wishing to be trite, where were the tunes? Answer, for the most part absent, although one or two seemed to peep through which Ellington was always adept at drawing out. While Rachmaninov used the brass instruments in his Symphonic Dances only sparingly Marsalis liberally calls them into the action. Yet the carefully sculpted solo space for jazz tenor saxophone and clarinet and good use of the strings involved both orchestras to best effect, with the LSO zealous in their determination to enter into an accord with the spirit of the endeavour firmly intact.

Stephen Graham

Wynton MarsalisSwing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) is performed again tonight by the London Symphony Orchestra and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JALCO, above), conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.