Gig Review:
Jazza Festival of Music London 2010
at Scala, 275 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NL,
Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th October, 2010

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Jazza Music Festival London 2010

presented by Jazza Productions in association with
the Free Palestine Movement

275 Pentonville Road
King's Cross
London N1 9NL

Tuesday, 12th October, 2010 at 7pm, and
Wednesday, 13th October, 2010, 7pm


Tues. 12th:

Gilad Atzmon - soprano & alto sax, clarinet, accordion
Frank Harrison - piano
Yaron Stavi - double bass
Eddie Hick - drums

Ros Stephen and the
Sigamos String Quartet

Cleveland Watkiss - vocals

Tali Atzmon - vocals

special guest
Shadia Mansour - vocals

Sarah Gillespie

The Unthanks

Nizar Al-Issa

Date of Review: 2010/10/15

Watch "Scenes from Jazza" - A film by Tali Atzmon - Scenes from Jazza Festival
Music for Gaza is Jazza!

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Jazza Festival Logo

Weds. 13th:

Gilad Atzmon - soprano & alto sax, clarinet, accordion
Frank Harrison - piano
Yaron Stavi - double bass
Eddie Hick - drums

Ros Stephen and the
Sigamos String Quartet

Cleveland Watkiss - vocals

Tali Atzmon - vocals

Jazza All-Stars:
Peter King - alto sax
Gilad Atzmon - alto sax
Cleveland Watkiss - vocals
Oren Marshall - orenophone
Seb Rochford - drums
Alex Garnett - tenor sax

Stormtrap (Abboud Hashem) (ex-Ramallah Underground)

Rory McCloud

Watch Robert Wyatt on Jazza festival 2010
A film by Tali Atzmon
Robert Wyatt talks to Gilad Atzmon on Culture of resistance
Photo of Gilad Atzmon with the OHE, Cleveland Watkiss & Ros Stephen
Jazza Festival headline act -
Performing the Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen album launch, For The Ghosts Within
L-R: Frank Harrison, piano, Yaron Stavi, bass, Cleveland Watkiss, vocals, Gilad Atzmon, alto sax, Ros Stephen, violin
All photos this page by Tali Atzmon and Copyright © Tali Atzmon 2010. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.

Jazza Festival of Music London 2010
at Scala, 275 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NL, Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th October, 2010
Photo of Sarah Gillespie
Incandescent! - Sarah Gillespie, the most exciting singer-songwriter since Janis Joplin!

Jazza Festival Turns Into Musical Event Of The Year

If you missed the Jazza Music Festival on Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th October, you just missed what turned into the most exciting musical event of 2010 in London.

The two day Jazza Festival's aim was to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people, and particularly so in Gaza, and hopefully to raise funds for humanitarian causes. In the just under four hours of the show each night, this was undertaken with barely a hint of rhetoric but rather, through an incredibly varied programme of music and through the often tender, sometimes sad, occasionally anguished and even angry, often joyful, sometimes humourous, emotions purveyed by the music, and above all its genuine compassion.

The festival was largely the inspired idea of fast-rising singer-songwriter star Sarah Gillespie, with already legendary jazz reedman Gilad Atzmon. They attracted a host of outstanding artists to take part, all sharing the same humanitarian ideals and the need to express their solidarity by performing for free. Nobody could fail to also want to respond to the great Robert Wyatt's "call to arms" as it were in the form of his statement that 'For the musicians who support the long suffering people of Palestine, silence is simply not an option.'

While the array of performers lined up for the two days, and the variety of musical styles represented, looked impressive on paper, the reality of their performances was astounding, gobsmackingly so. The first day's show opened with outstanding Palestinian singer and oud player Nizar Al-Issa, then moved on to the nothing short of stellar Sarah Gillespie, featuring Gilad Atzmon, and Northumbrian folk stars The Unthanks, before closing with the headline event, the performance for the launch of the just released Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen album, For The Ghosts Within, featuring Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, Ros Stephen with the Sigamos String Quartet, vocalists Cleveland Watkiss and Tali Atzmon, and Palestinian hip hop queen Shadia Mansour.
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The line-up for the second day was no less impressive. Palestinian hip hop artist/rapper Stormtrap (Abboud Hashem), formerly of Ramallah Underground, opened, and was followed by folk singer-songwriter, story-telling troubadour - hard to pin him down really - the extraordinary Rory McCloud. He was followed by a reprise of the previous night's album launch for the Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen album, For The Ghosts Within, this time with Stormtrap in place of Shadia Mansour. The night closed with the Jazza All-Stars, specially formed for the occasion and including the legendary Peter King, alongside Gilad Atzmon, Cleveland Watkiss, Oren Marshall, Alex Garnett, Seb Rochford, Frank Harrison and Yaron Stavi.

Both days of the Jazza Festival turned into a spectacular musical triumph, with sterling performances all round that simply took one's breath away, and with a glorious mix of musical styles that ranged from folk and traditional to singer-songwriter, from rap to jazz - something for most tastes. The humanitarian message of the festival fared equally well and came across loud and clear to anybody prepared to listen to it.

The sheer variety of music, combined with the extraordinary calibre of the performers and the equally extraordinary quality and sheer magic of their performances, turned the Jazza Festival into what was undoubtedly the most exciting, exhilarating musical event of the year in London. It would be impossible to think of another event that condensed so much variety and so much high quality of music into two short nights.

Attendance numbers were perhaps a little disappointing on the first night, though better on the second, but a more enthusiastic and appreciative crowd could not have been found anywhere. And this relative lack of numbers certainly does not detract from the overall achievement and success of this fantastic and unforgettable event.

As this was only the first Jazza Festival and it is hoped to remain an ongoing project, we may yet see a Jazza Festival filling a much larger venue such as the O2 or Wembley!

Roll On Jazza - Day 1, With Nizar Al-Issa

Renowned Palestinian singer and oud player Nizar Al-Issa opened the first night of the Jazza Festival with a passionate performance of traditional Palestinian instrumental pieces songs, accompanied on his oud.

Flawless as Al-Issa's performance was, the amplification especially of his oud could have benefited hugely from toning down just a touch. The excessive volume sometimes distorted the rich, round and subtle sound of the oud to a certain harshness. This was particularly evident as the auditorium was still filling up slowly.

All the same, this was a rousing as well as touching opening to the evening.

A Nuclear Furnace

Sarah Gillespie's album Stalking Juliet is brilliant. Sarah Gillespie live is like being in the presence of a nuclear furnace. And so it was on this first night of the Jazza Festival. The heat emanating from the Scala stage was completely overpowering. Gillespie's voice has more balls than a lot of men, and her stage presence is palpable.

With a mixture of material from Stalking Juliet and her forthcoming second album (to be released in January 2011), accompanying herself on guitar and supported by Gilad Atzmon on soprano and alto sax, clarinet and accordion and Ben Bastin on bass, Sarah Gillespie gave the kind of performance that makes her easily the most exciting, exhilarating, even exasperating singer-songwriter since Janis Joplin. Make no mistake about it, this lady is surely headed for the big time, big time.

Strong, well-written lyrics that have something to say and say it with wit, and a vocal delivery that is both razor-sharp and powerful, combined with good, strong melodies distinguish Ms. Gillespie. An electrifying high-voltage performance that first singes then burns. Add in the exquisite arrangements by Gilad Atzmon and you've got pure magic.

On the power front, again, the amplification was just a touch excessive at least for the first part of this set.

But one really couldn't care less - hearing Gillespie live is an almost overwhelming experience anyway, and one really didn't want this magnificent set to finish.

The Unthanks were simply glorious. The highlights of their outstanding performance included a traditional clog dance, performed with great style and aplomb by sister Rachel and Becky Unthank, a beautifully subtle and charming unaccompanied song, in which the sisters were joined by fiddler/vocalist Niopha Keegan, sung off-mic, that nonetheless carried perfectly and was just enchanting, and a glorious rendition of Robert Wyatt's Sea Song that was utterly mesmerising and formed, all too soon, their finale.
Photo of Rachel & Becky Unthank
Sisters Rachel & Becky Unthank - mesmerising and delightful

Folk has never really been away, but it's still delightful to have it presented in such a mixed setting as the Jazza Festival, rather than in a purely folk context.

The Haunting

Closing the first evening of the Jazza Festival was the 'headline' launch for Robert Wyatt/Gilad Atzmon/Ros Stephen's album, For The Ghosts Within, released on Domino the previous day. Of course, guru and one of the fathers of prog-rock, genius and great humanist, legend and all-round national treasure Robert Wyatt has not performed live for a while now (in a recent radio interview he put it down to chronic stage fright), and, at his own suggestion, Cleveland Watkiss, Britain's finest male jazz singer, took up Wyatt's vocal parts. With minor changes to that of the album, the line-up further consisted of that other great genius, Gilad Atzmon, with his full Orient House Ensemble, Ros Stephen and her Sigamos String Quartet, Tali Atzmon, and Palestinian hip hop queen Shadia Mansour.

At heart, Wyatt has perhaps always been a jazzman. For The Ghosts Within certainly is a full-on commitment to jazz, and is indeed the finest contemporary vocal jazz album. But that is what you get when two such colossal geniuses as Wyatt and Atzmon, not forgetting string genius Stephen, get together; either that, or a complete disaster. The album is exquisite and simply sublime and divine.

Photo of Gilad Atzmon, accompanying Sarah Gillespie
The magnificent Gilad Atzmon, with Sarah Gillespie (not in shot)

The Jazza Festival's opening night's performance was, in spite of - or perhaps, because of - only minimal rehearsal time, all that and then some. The sheer raw energy and spontaneity of this exquisite performance were quite simply out of this world and practically brought the house down. Watkiss and Atzmon in particular were sensational and amazing and just took one's breath away. Atzmon's wife, Tali, also excelled and bewitched on her share of the songs, particularly on the title track, The Ghosts Within, with her sublimely sensuous yet assertive vocals. This hauntingly beautiful, simultaneously sad and

Thanks, The Glorious Unthanks

After the highly charged intensity of Sarah Gillespie, an excursion into more traditional English folk music courtesy of The Unthanks, a Northumbrian band led by two fine Geordie lasses, vocalist sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, came as a delightful "mood lightener."

With a repertoire of traditional Northumbrian and border songs as well as more contemporary material, presented in just the right blend of traditional and contemporary styles, The Unthanks gave the kind of exquisite performance, filled with subtleties, humour and wit, that has made them some of the biggest stars on the contemporary English folk scene.

hopeful song, rendered so hypnotically and with such conviction by Tali Atzmon, concerns itself with the plight of the Palestinian people. It could, however, serve as the universal anthem for all oppressed peoples anywhere and at any time.

Shadia Mansour's special guest contribution on Where Are They Now? may have been brief, but was nonetheless powerful and memorable.

Perhaps the crowning glory of this set came with Watkiss' beautifully subtle, even understated interpretation of What A Wonderful World, the finale. Alongside Wyatt's own splendid performance on the album, this was the only time I have found myself able to listen through somebody else's version of this song other than Louis Armstrong's. What a wonderful world this could be indeed if we could all learn to live in it together peacefully, with compassion, and with beauty such as this music.

An evening to haunt anybody, and to haunt anybody's conscience. And a set that ought to have been recorded!

© 2010 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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Photo of The Unthanks
The glorious Unthanks - English folk with style and charm

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