London Jazz Festival: We All Love Ella / Charlie Hunter / Gerard Presencer


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"I didn't want it to end," a woman in front of me was saying to her friend as the London jazz festival's We All Love Ella opening show wound up on a vocal-relay race through A Tisket a Tasket that threatened to blow the packed Festival Hall into the street.

I did. I wanted to get up to the West End to catch Charlie Hunter, the fearsome American avant-funk guitarist, and maybe get the word on double-bass legend Charlie Haden's gig opposite young UK piano star Gwilym Simcock. That's what the London jazz festival is like. You can't be everywhere at once, but you can revel in the thought that there is that much high-class jazz being played simultaneously all over the city.

Everyone from UK R&B and soul singers Jamelia and Terri Walker to haunting American chanteuse Melody Gardot, as well as jazz virtuosos such as Lizz Wright, Claire Martin, Lea DeLaria and Ian Shaw, came to pay their respects to Ella Fitzgerald. Between them, they spontaneously turned what could have been a cheesily respectful tribute show into a party.

Jamelia only came on once, for an uptempo Lady Is a Tramp; though she forgot the words, she got away with it thanks to her verve and rhythmic momentum. Lizz Wright swung coolly and reflected luxuriously on Lullaby of Birdland and Reaching for the Moon. Terri Walker's ditzy Makin' Whoopee, Lea DeLaria's percussive scatting on Too Close for Comfort, David McAlmont's eerie counter-tenor on Blues in the Night, Claire Martin's swooping S'Wonderful and Ian Shaw's yodelling, almost abstract Man That Got Away all made your skin tingle.

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