A towering figure in British jazz, his career stretched back to the early days of bebop and modern jazz in the UK – a startlingly original pianist, whose love of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk came together in a style that was instantly recognisable as entirely his own. In years of playing piano with a procession of first division American soloists when he was house pianist at Ronnie Scott’s through the 1960s, he became admired as a master improviser, whose solo prowess transcended notions of nationality and background. In subsequent years, collaborations with soloists of a younger and more radical generation – Trevor Watts and John Stevens, Keith Tippett, John Surman, Evan Parker, Louis Moholo – proved that the great jazz musicians can create extraordinary music in any setting, without compromise, and without losing anything of their musical identity. Whatever the context, you always knew it was Stan Tracey at the piano…..
But it was his talent as composer and band leader that arguably made even more impact – in the 1960s, his haunting and evocative suite, inspired by Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood”, marked a crucial point in the evolution of jazz in the UK, as artists in this country developed distinct identities of their own, out of the African/American traditions of the music. Stan’s witty and eloquent themes, and the richly textured qualities of his big band writing, were – and remain - a massive inspiration to successive generations. Whether for small or large group, he continued to compose new music right up to his final years, the creative muse still hard at work.
On a personal note, I first heard Stan play live with Roland Kirk at Ronnie’s sometime in the 60s (some experience, albeit at an age that I probably shouldn’t have been there….), and I first worked with him way back in pre-Serious years, back in the 70s. “The Bracknell Connection” was the first piece of music that I ever commissioned, for the long-gone Bracknell Jazz Festival. After all these years, and after many other concerts with various Tracey-led bands of all shapes and sizes, this first encounter with Stan’s talents stays in the memory as something I’m very proud to have been associated with.
Stan was scheduled to play a special concert on the last day of this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival, revisiting his 1978 collaboration with John Surman, and performing his latest suite – “The Flying Pig”.
In the event, he was too ill to perform – of course, it couldn’t be the same without Stan, but the sheer energy of the music shone through in magnificent style, with Surman joining the band led by Stan’s talented son, Clark, long his father’s drummer of choice. An occasion tinged with concern and perhaps, a sense of premonition. But one that reminded us all – audience, musicians and Festival team alike – of the uplifting qualities of Tracey’s music, and that this was an artist who commanded enormous respect and affection.
Stan often looked faintly embarrassed when he was referred to as the Godfather of British jazz – his natural reticence balanced by a dry sense of humour. However reluctant a godfather he might have been, his reputation and importance reaches out, not just in the UK, but worldwide. Sonny Rollins – one of the many American jazz soloists who benefitted from Stan’s consummate playing at Ronnie’s during the 60s, and remained a long-time friend, asked at the time – “does anyone here know how good he is?”. He was then…and he still is……
On behalf of Serious and the EFG London Jazz Festival
John Surman wins award
Serious congratulates John Surman on his British Composer Award for Contemporary Jazz Composition. Read all about it here.
A resounding success for the 21st Birthday of the EFG London Jazz Festival
10 days | 60 venues | over 2,500 artists | over 650 hours of live music |with over 25 glistening 4* and 5* reviews
"The full houses at this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival displayed the confidence and energy of an art form getting on with it during difficult times.’" Financial Times
The EFG London Jazz Festival has celebrated its birthday in style, making 2013 a year to remember. London’s biggest city-wide music festival has brought together established stars and emerging talent, reflecting the traditions of jazz and illuminating its breadth and depth, in a vast programme made up of premieres, talks, family events, workshops and a fantastic series of free concerts. In total, over 280 performances in more than 60 venues took the Festival across London from Harrow to Greenwich and from Deptford to Finchley, with over 600 people participating in our Learning Projects. Across these 10 days, we’ve seen these venues jam-packed with jazz; once again proving that the EFG London Jazz Festival holds a very special place in the city's heart.
“It's at times like this, when the annual EFG London Jazz Festival rolls around, that revered figures in the music form seem to unify the concert-going jazz community into one loving whole.” ****Evening Standard
“The large and inventive EFG London Jazz Festival has always been much more than a sequence of set-piece headliners in big-name venues such as Ronnie Scott’s and the Barbican. It taps into the capital’s growing network of jazz clubs and collectives, pulling in the likes of Streatham’s Hideaway and Hammersmith’s Polish Jazz Café POSK.” Financial Times
EFG Excellence Series
"This was a big year for us, our first year as title sponsor. Having been associated with the Festival since 2008, we already knew that it was one of the world's great celebrations of jazz and music. And this year was another tour de force, with great performances, extraordinary diversity, and infectious enthusiasm. We could not be happier with this year's EFG London Jazz Festival, and cannot wait for 2014!" Keith Gapp, Head of Strategy and Marketing, EFG International
We were delighted to welcome EFG on board as the title sponsor of the Festival, building on five years of their valued support through the EFG Excellence Series. The Excellence Series kicked off this year in exquisite fashion with the Festival’s gala opening night Jazz Voice, followed in the coming days by Courtney Pine + Monty Alexander, Marcus Miller + Carleen Anderson and closing with Madeleine Peyroux. Here is just one quote from the rave reviews:
“Harp glissandos, trilling flutes, the heft of a swinging brass section. Yes, last night's Jazz Voice once again kick-started the EFG London Jazz Festival in typically exuberant fashion...the 40-piece orchestra dazzled at every turn.” The Arts Desk
Living Legends, trail blazers and rising stars
As ever, it was the music and its audience that lay at the heart of the Festival. Our 21st year delved into the past, present and future of jazz. John McLaughlin, Archie Shepp, Carla Bley, Dianne Reeves, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, and Hugh Masekela were just a handful of Festival artists who have had a profound influence on the evolution of the music over the past 60 years. Wayne Shorter’s 80th birthday celebration at the Barbican was a sparkling highlight.
“The trick to making it work seems to be to jazz-infuse the classical band…that's what the still-inspired Wayne Shorter pulled off with astonishing aplomb at the EFG London Jazz Festival.” *****The Guardian
The Serious Trust is thrilled to announce that Hugh Masekela, who played the opening night, has become a Patron of the Trust.
“That effortlessly cool old tale-spinner Hugh Masekela fittingly turned his personal jazz story into a universal one.” ****The Guardian
“An inspired reunion for the EFG London Jazz Festival… the five virtuosi soon made music of beauty, technical wizardry and phenomenal precision that seemed to draw on the best of each hemisphere’s cultures.” *****Evening Standard on Remember Shakti
“A diva in the true sense of the word, she was at her expansive best last night, thrilling an appreciative audience with a performance of typical warmth and power.” ****Evening Standard on Dianne Reeves
The creative energy that distinguishes today’s jazz generation shone through with unforgettable performances from Snarky Puppy, Sons of Kemet, Nik Baertsch, and Phronesis.
“Performing in-the-round and playing like men possessed, the music felt like their most complete artistic statement to date – a fine mix of their incendiary grooves, memorable melodic hooks and spellbinding interaction.” Jazzwise on Phronesis
Fresh sounds for the 21st Birthday
For the very first time, the Festival commissioned new music from 21 composers and groups that crossed jazz generations and nationalities. Amongst many highlights, one of the great jazz composers, Carla Bley captivated the Wigmore Hall with a characteristically witty mini-suite, whilst, in the preceding days, precocious talents such as Laura Jurd, Troykestra, Chris Sharkey and Alexander Hawkins tapped into the energy of today. Nik Baertsch, Celiné Bonacina and Tigran brought an international dimension whilst Tim Whitehead spoke for London itself, in his evocation of Turner’s drawings of the Thames. Sons of Kemet created sparks with the youthful exuberance of the East London Creative Jazz Orchestra, Adriano Adewale charmed legions of children in Catapluf – and the Festival came to a celebratory climax with two signature, large-scale participatory projects – Carleen Anderson’s glorious Big Sing choir, and Jason Yarde’s massed ranks of brass and winds raising the Festival Hall roof in Bold as Brass.
“Finally I saw the sparkling 21 – a 21 minute commission by the festival to celebrate their 21st anniversary – composed and performed by Chris Sharkey with his exciting new band Shiver. Fierce rock-orientated jazz with all sorts of surprise melodies threaded through the piece – another one that needs recording!” Londonjazz
The spirit of Take Five took over the last day of the Festival, with the European Sunrise Band.
‘The talent-nurturing Take Five project presented a young tentet that revealed improv fearlessness, multi-thematic originality and complete technical assurance. At the end of the nation's biggest jazz celebration, it powerfully represented the music's ever-enticing future.’ ****The Guardian
Into the clubs
The London-wide programme encompassed London’s major concert venues alongside clubs in all four corners of the capital and provided the opportunity to hear major artists and talented newcomers - up close and personal. Packed out clubs provided many of this years performance highlights.
“Gogo Penguin makes rhythms so catchy they could snare a greased pig…very addictive…in a setting like XOYO it hit just the right groove.” The Arts Desk
It’s not all about performances, of course. Workshops, master classes and participatory projects are always an essential element within the Festival’s programme, with a continued commitment to reach out as widely as possible. This year was no exception and provided our biggest number of participatory events yet, with an unbelievable showcase of talks and mass participation projects. From toddlers to full grown adults, jazz was enjoyed by all at this year’s Festival and on the final day we saw a packed Royal Festival Hall, astounded by the exuberant Bold as Brass performance.
“We loved it! Fantastic intro to jazz and pitched perfectly for this age- group and great fun for adults too – great to have something that’s a cut above!” Parent on Jazz for Toddlers
“After experiencing first hand the quality of Serious' outreach work and the commitment of its workshop leaders, I would be very keen indeed to talk further with you about how my school might work with you at some point in the future. In the meantime, thanks again for two unforgettable weekends.” Head Teacher and Carleen Anderson Big Sing participant
Each year strands emerge in the programme that takes the audience on a journey, sometimes into the unknown. This year we looked East, tracing the interplay between jazz and cultures from Eastern Europe and deep into Asia, from Albania’s Elina Duni to Remember Shakti. Freedom Jazz traced the response of jazz to the civil rights movement and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s seminal “I Have a Dream” speech, through landmark projects from Wadada Leo Smith, Denys Baptiste and Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues Orchestra. Built out of last year’s Jazz in the New Europe, this year’s Festival introduced artists from across the Continent, many of them whom performed in the UK for the first time – with a particularly special focus on jazz from the Netherlands.
“The EFG London Jazz Festival vibrated with so much pop-jazz energy… The young Armenian is guided by one of the maestro's (Herbie Hancock) most enduring lessons: it's possible to be a multi-stylistic jazz virtuoso and a groove-powered hitmaker simultaneously – and hugely enjoy all of it.” ****The Guardian on Tigran
“It was beautiful and sobering music, and one of the festival's big triumphs to have helped stage it.” ****The Guardian on Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers
Thank you to EFG for their vital support in their first year as title sponsor, also to Arts Council England for their continued support without which a festival of this size, scale and quality would not be possible. The Festival would also like to thank BBC Radio 3 whose broadcast programme reaches out to audiences nationally and around the world.
The Festival also extends its warm thanks to the many partners and supporters who made the Festival possible including Decca, PRS for Music Foundation, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel London, Jazzwise, Creative Scotland, Foyle Foundation, Caffe Nero, CityJet, Musicians’ Union and Adnams, as well as the many embassies and cultural institutions whose support enabled this Festival to be a truly international celebration of Jazz.
Next year the EFG London Jazz Festival runs from Friday 14 – Sunday 23 November 2014.
Adriano Adewale discusses his Festival Commission: Catapluf’s Musical Journey
To celebrate the 21st Birthday of the EFG London Jazz Festival, we commissioned 21 artists to write pieces.
Watch Adriano Adewale talking about his piece Catapluf's Musical Journey, which was written for an audience of 5-7 year olds and performed in the Purcell Room on Tuesday 19 November
Gilad Atzmon and very special guests Wilko Johnson, Norman Watt-Roy with the Orient House Ensemble
Special guests join the line-up.
It's twenty years since Gilad first landed in Britain and since then, he's made a huge impact as a composer and saxophonist. This concert celebrates his best-known group Orient House Ensemble (Frank Harrison, Eddie Hick & Yaron Stavi), with friends including the Sigamos Quartet led by Ros Stephen, Sarah Gillespie, Asaf Sirkis, Jennifer Bennett and Yair Avidor.
They will be joined by two very special guests - the legendary Wilko Johnson, who will be playing a few numbers to close the show, and Norman Watt-Roy, Gilad's compadre in The Blockheads.
Click here to listen to Gilad's album and for ticket information.