Heads Up: Bluesfest London

Bolt from the blues – the UK's original festival returns
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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about?

A new, week-long festival of blues, soul and jazz taking place at venues across London.

Elevator Pitch

London sings the blues, again.

Prime Movers

Leo Green, jazz saxophonist and radio presenter, is the festival's director.

The Stars

There are many...in its inaugural year BluesFest has managed to book legendary performers of the likes of B B King, Liza Minnelli, and Booker T. Visit the doctors for a dose of rhythm and blues – both Dr Feelgood and Dr John will be performing. American stars such as the Blind Boys of Alabama, Rat Packer Buddy Greco and Treme star Trombone Shorty will be heading to the capital, along with such home-grown talents as Georgie Fame, Sandi Thom and Paul Jones.

The Early Buzz

Jazzwise magazine has deemed the line-up "a stellar list of international blues and jazz stars". Jazz Journal has written: "Leo Green, saxophonist and son of broadcaster Benny Green, is the mastermind behind BluesFest London, which he sees as the first event of its kind since the late lamented Capital/JVC Festival of the 1980s ... Despite the title, there'll be bluesy jazz as well as blues proper."

Insider Knowledge

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the first blues festival in the UK: the National Jazz and Blues Festival at Soho's Marquee Club, established by Harold Pendleton and credited with paving the way for the great British music festival (it eventually morphed into today's not-very-bluesy Reading and Leeds weekenders).

It's great that...

Chris Barber, the British jazz trombonist who played at the original National Jazz and Blues festival all those years ago, will be closing the circle by also appearing this year.

It's a shame that...

While the gigs take place at some of London's best venues, from the Royal Albert Hall to the 100 Club, these are spread out right across the city over a week, meaning that any festival feeling or sense of occasion might be somewhat dissipated.

Hit Potential

For a first year, the line-up is impressive and the bigger names are sure to be swift sellers. Whether it's felt to be a successful "event" and goes on to become a calendar staple – which is presumably the organisers' hope – is perhaps less certain.

The Details

BluesFest London takes place at various venues, 27 June to 3 July.