At three years old, and one of the youngest on the block, Cambridge International Jazz Festival packs an increasingly powerful punch. Running from November 11th to 26th this year’s event features a galaxy of major international stars, some of the UK’s finest female instrumentalists, emerging and boundary-pushing talent, workshops, tributes and so much more. With backing from major sponsor Brewin Dolphin, the festival runs 80 events and workshops in 25 concert halls, university venues, schools, churches, clubs, pubs, bars and bistros all over the city. Full listings and tickets here.
Saxophonist Andy Sheppard (14 Nov) opens the Festival at the stunning Stapleford Granary, to bring a new project ‘Beyond the Dancing Sun’, while legendary vibraphone icon and Godfather of Neo-soul, Roy Ayres winds down the Festival at Cambridge Junction (Nov 25), bridging the gap between generations of music lovers. Soft Machine (Nov 16) headlines at the ‘intimate’ underground cocktail bar, Hidden Rooms and look set to bust the ceiling, while Alison Rayner follows on with her ARQ Quintet (Nov 23) and are sure to blow a fuse or two there.
One of the brightest contemporary jazz scene stars, Zoe Rahman presents a vibrant and individual performance of music from her solo album ‘Dreamland’ at St Catherine’s College Chapel (Nov 17). International master of percussive improvisation, Evelyn Glennie will be giving a master class open to all: ‘What’s Your invoice’, guiding a gathering of young musicians through their musical journeys at Fitzwilliam College Auditorium (Nov 19).
Mumford Theatre hosts Whirlwind bassist and MOBO Award nominee, Michael Janisch as he imports an all-American quintet on their first European tour date (19 Nov), while Get The Blessing (Nov 22) are set to blast monstrously infectious beats with Portishead rhythm masters. Black Top, multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas duo featuring award winning vocalist, Cleveland Watkiss and bassist Tiago Coimbra, will be performing with daring spontaneity with loops, samples and dub beats at Unitarian Church (Nov 22).
As part of the Festival’s ‘Gypsy Jazz Jamboree’, International gypsy jazz rock star, Robin Nolan (Nov 25) will be giving both a morning guitar workshop and a late afternoon performance with his trio, a dramatically entertaining mix of Gypsy Jazz, AC/DC, The Beatles, Ravi Shankar, 80’s pop hits and of course Django Reinhardt.
Presenting four very different big bands: multi award winner Trish Clowes guests with Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra (Nov 24) for a joyous evening of both standards and original compositions at West Road, while ‘energetic, hard-rocking’ contemporary 15-piece Beats & Pieces (Nov 25), will be presenting fresh and original music at Mumford Theatre. French horn player & composer, Jim Rattigan and his 15-piece band Pavillon (Nov 17), present Strong Tea, original jazz compositions reflecting the bands’ multitude of personalities and styles. To celebrate 100 years of jazz (#jazz100) and community big bands, the sensational London Gay Big Band (Nov 19) will be performing with a chance to ‘Learn to Swing Dance’ with the Cambridge Lindy Hoppers (Nov 19 & 25).
As always at Cambridge, young boundary pushing talent feature prominently: Strobes (Nov 25), double bill: Blue Lab Beats and The ElecTrio (17), Alex Hitchcock Quintet (19), Camilla George Quartet (21), Trope (25), award winning vocalist Emilia Mårtensson (26) and Fini Bearman (19). MOBO award winning Binker & Moses with friends (Nov 26) headline an all day NextGenJazz Cambridge Corn Exchange event with 10 bands including Native Dancer, Resolution 88, all female 6 piece Nerija, Flying Machines, Zenel, Three Step Manouevre and The Brass Funkeys. Cam Lates presents a double bill: Entropi + Phil Meadows Project (Nov 22) with a spectacular interactive Sound & Light Art Installation during the performances under a 70ft whale at the Zoology Museum!
There’s no shortage of notable tributes to mark this year. ’Stan Tracey’s Hexad’ (Nov 18) celebrates the 90th Birthday of ‘The Godfather of British Jazz’ with a formidable band led by drummer son Clark Tracey. Blues & Roots Ensemble will be presenting The Music of Charles Mingus with both a concert and workshop (Nov 19) while Gil Scott Heron is remembered with music from protégé, Malik Al Nasir’s ‘Malik & The O.G’s’ (18), Classic Album Sunday’s hi-end presentation of ‘Pieces of A Man’ (Nov 19) and a special screening of both ‘Word Up – From Ghetto to Mecca’ and ‘Who is Gil Scott-Heron’ (Nov 19). Ella Fitzgerald is celebrated in two affectionate tributes: Embraceable Ella: Joanna Eden & Chris Ingham (Nov 20); and Ella: Queen of Jazz (19) with children’s author/illustrator Helen Hancocks and award winning vocal/piano duo, Miriam Ast & Victor Gutierrez.
As in previous years the Brewin Dolphin Cambridge International Jazz Festival 2017 aims to punch way above its weight, and as always it aims to succeed.