What London can give jazz music — beyond an audience in its concert halls — is a setting to match the music’s diversity. The city offers access, culturally, to what is European, American, African and more. And so it is with the London Jazz Festival (9–18 November), whose extensive programme is significant both for its cultural mix and for its line-up of jazz’s greatest living musicians.
2012 marks the festival’s 17th outing, with over 250 concerts, 40 hours of which are to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Performers will include the legendary saxophonist Sonny Rollins (16 November, Barbican), who recorded with Miles Davis before he was 20. Now aged 82, Rollins is passing through London on a seven-date European tour. Acoustic pianist Chick Corea (above) — one of the most prominent jazz musicians of the past 50 years — takes the stage with drummer Brian Blade and bassist Christian McBride (17 November, Barbican). And Herbie Hancock is given his first UK solo show (12 November, Southbank Centre), playing music devised for the event and hopping, with his habitual charisma, between electronic and acoustic sounds.
As for world jazz, long supported by the festival, listen out for the iconic flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia (16 November, Southbank Centre) as part of ‘Jazz in New Europe’, a presentation of pan-European music. Here, musicians from countries as various as Norway and Armenia will come together to show just how far jazz has travelled. London’s stage, after all, is worldlier than most.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 3 November 2012