Thursday 20 November 2014

Rachael Cohen - London Jazz Festival 2014

Rachael Cohen - alto saxophone
Rachael Cohen kicked off the EFG London Jazz Festival this year on the Southbank (14/11/2014). The Royal Festival Hall is not only one of London's great public spaces but a hub, meeting point and cultural cauldron. It is the heartbeat of the jazz festival. It offers the everyman and everywoman the chance to experience this most innovative of genres for free.

Jim Bashford - drums
This year's festival is better than ever with an even broader mix of styles, ages and venues to choose from. Rachael Cohen played it relatively safe, for this was a lunchtime concert that embraced an audience from toddlers to those surfing the silver freedom-pass wave. The majority of tunes were from her debut album Halftime on Whirlwind Recordings which was released this time last year at the suitably named Whirlwind Festival.

Steve Marchant
That launch gig showcased the talents of Phil Robson on guitar and once again he gave us what we hoped for here. He has been thrilling the jazzerati recently with the latest Partisans'  album  'Swamp'. They have toured North America and are now at the end of their UK leg. It is Leeds tonight at Seven Jazz and then the Vortex, London tomorrow (21/11/2014).

Phil Robson - guitar
Rachael Cohen socked us a couple of easy punches with 'The Manor' and Ornette Coleman's 'Just for you' to start proceedings. It was packed out in the Festival Hall, and I perched in the crow's nest above the bar. 'Groove Envy' gave us the chance to sail to more ambitious shores. The tune steps up and steps down like riding the escalators in a department store but when you hear Rachael Cohen alone it conjures more naturalistic sentiments. Maybe it her height and elegance alongside her playing that makes you think of reeds and rushes. From afar she sways in the wind, soft and mesmeric, yet you know the edges are sharp and whippy.

Before a finale of the warmed toned 'Intermission' and boisterous 'Riggins Higgins,?' we were treated to a new tune. Mark Lewandowski warmed to it too, looking a little pale and with sleepy eyes at first, he brought the colour to 'Green screen'. It was cheeky and joyous, it made you wonder what gems are contained in Rachael Cohen's second album.

Mark Lewandowski - bass
A final note goes to the London Jazz Festival's most devoted jazzface, Steve Marchant, who I sketched listening intently. At the time of writing this he has racked up 20 gigs in just 6 days. He will inevitably make the marathon distance but will he become the first Jazz Ultra and hit the 50. You wouldn't bet against it.


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