Heads Up: London Jazz Festival - Features - Music - The Independent

Heads Up: London Jazz Festival

Blowing its trumpet: London Jazz Festival swings into town

What are we talking about? It's the 20th year of the London Jazz Festival, with more than 250 gigs and concerts at 50 venues round the capital.

Elevator pitch Blowing its trumpet: the UK's biggest jazz fest hits 20.

Prime movers The festival director is John Cumming, who helped found the festival in 1992, as a member of jazz music producers Serious.

The stars Take your pick: there are "jazz giants" of the likes of Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, and Jack DeJohnette (celebrating his 70th birthday). Fresher performers include the Robert Glasper Experiment with Doom, Hyperpotamus, Esperanza Spalding and Mara Carlyle. The opening gala promises to kick things off with a swing, with Guy Barker's celebration of "a century of song" featuring the vocal talents of Imelda May, Patti Austin, Juliet Roberts, Claire Martin and Junior Giscombe. Lucinda Williams gets a whole weekend at the Barbican, while two big bands – the UK's Beats & Pieces and Norway's Ensemble Denada – join forces to blow you away, as may Macy Gray with the David Murray Big Band.

Early buzz Website LondonTown wrote: "If jazz is dead, someone forgot to tell the thousands of performers and fans who flock to the annual London Jazz Festival. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the 10-day festival returns to the capital with a flamboyant programme which reflects the diverse roots of our great city." Another website dedicated to the capital, Londonist, commented that "Themes this year include a look at the roots of American music but, to be honest, the programme feels more like a great big pile of jazz than a cleverly curated programme."

Inside knowledge Astonishingly, Herbie Hancock is playing his first ever UK solo gig – and will apparently blend "acoustic piano and electronic innovation" to re-invent his own classics, such as "Canteloupe Island", "Watermelon Man" and "Chameleon".

It's great that… if you can't make it to London for the festival, you can still listen on Radio 3, which will broadcast more than 40 hours of highlights.

It's a shame that… tickets to the really big names will already have been snaffled… so be prepared to venture into uncharted jazz territory!

Hit potential Bound to please jazz lovers, but an eclectic programme should reach beyond traditionalists.

The details The London Jazz Festival is at various venues across London, 9 to 18 November

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