So we all know that the Summer festival season is overloaded with boozy nights in the middle of a pollen-riddled field. Let’s be honest though: those are less about the musical appreciation and more about the group outdoor experience.
Those nights are much-needed and incredibly enjoyable, but sometimes we need to take it slow and appreciate the more refined side of music. That’s why we have put together a list of 5 incredible alternative festivals in and around London that you won’t want to miss out on!
Steinway Two Pianos Festival – PizzaExpress Jazz Club, Soho
Coming in first is the Steinway Two Pianos Festival, taking place at the PizzaExpress Jazz Club in London. What’s better than a lovely meal than an even better musical accompaniment?
This year Pizza Express Live will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the festival in March, with performances from some incredible artists including Joachim Kühn, Gwilym Simcock, Julian Joseph, Gary Husband, Liane Carroll, Alex Wilson and many more taking place across the week.
The festivities will begin on Sunday 17th March with the immensely popular and multi-award winning singer and pianist Liane Carroll, performing a soulful set of songs from early Songbook to contemporary material (Tom Waits, Todd Rundgren etc) with Ian Shaw, an international acclaimed singer and two-time winner of BBC’s Jazz Award’s Best Vocalist.
Celebrations will resume on the Tuesday with the extremely gifted pianist Gwilym Simcock, who has earned himself a reputation over the years as a gifted and imaginative composer. Effortlessly blending jazz and classical music, Simcock provides the perfect sound to pair the talent of rising sensation, Pablo Held, who’s skill and unique vision has seen him tour all over the world from Europe to South America.
The following evening will see Kit Downes and Bojan Z take the stage, Downes being a BBC Jazz Award winner and Mercury Prize nominee composer, pianist and organist from London, and Bojan Z a Belgrade-born Parisian performer who takes inspiration from blues, folk, Brazil, rock and more to push the boundaries of what jazz means.
On Thursday, two extremely talented virtuosos from either side of the Atlantic will come together to celebrate the ‘Maharaja of the keyboard’, Oscar Peterson, before heading into some Afro-Cuban music with Alex Wilson and Nicky Brown on the Friday.
As the festival draws to a close, the world renowned piano star Joachim Kühn and pianist-drummer Gary Husband will lead the charge on Saturday night, ready for Sunday to see two shows. In the early afternoon there will be a matinee perform from Tom Cawley & Elliot Galvin, followed by a beautiful performance from Ivo Neame & Alcyona Mick.
Then, later that evening Julian Joseph and Jason Rebello will be closing the week with their first reunion since their series of sold out jazz concerts in 1995 at London’s Wigmore Hall – performances that went on to be talked about for years. Even now, the recording of their 12-minute improvised rendition of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage is referenced as an instant classic.
This reunion won’t act to recreate the past, but to make new and exciting music with their additional 23 years of experience, brought together for another unforgettable evening of music as part of the incredible Steinway Two Pianos Festival.
Hampton Court Palace Festival, East Mosely
For those who do crave a little bit of those outdoor, fields-and-sub vibes, the Hampton Court Palace Festival may be the perfect one for you! This year they are due to be headlined by Nile Rodgers & Chic on the 14th and 15th of June after extremely high demand from fans, as well as Jools Holland on the 6th, The Jacksons on the 7th, Caro Emerald on the 12th, Tears for Fears on the 18th and 19th and legendary Pop Princess Kylie Minogue on the 20th and 21st!
Each of these artists will lead the stage in a huge open-air concerts set against the back-drop of Henry VIII’s magnificent Tudor Palace. The gardens make for a great picnicking spot, where visitors can pick up a lunch from Fortnum & Mason with the best of fresh, seasonal ingredients, or hire a waterside gazebo to add a little luxury to the evening.
Meltdown Festival, Southbank Centre
Each year, Meltdown Festival selects one person to curate their entire line-up, spanning from David Bowie to John Peel, Elvis Costello to Yoko Ono, M.I.A and last year’s Robert Smith. Each curator brings their own unique flavour to the festival, and this years’ Nile Rodgers (if you need an extra dose after Hampton Court Palace) promises to get London dancing with all the inspirations that have led to his prolific career, weaving in funk, disco, afrobeat, punk, electronic and more!
Due to run at the Southbank centre from August 3rd to 11th, the first details of the three time Grammy-Award winning musician’s line-up are due to be shared sometime this Spring, with ticket going on sale in April.
Brixton Disco Festival, London
Coming to Brixton this April will be a massive, multi-venue disco festival complete with some of the coolest acts around heading to the iconic Windrush Square. After their sold out 2018 edition, this years festival will see even more live music, live screenings, talks, roller discos, food and drink taking over the heart of Brixton with venues like Electric Brixton, Prince of Wales and the Ritzy lending their rooms to the cause.
Heading up the bill this year will be Horse Meat Disco and London’s own contemporary choir Some Voices, coming together for an immersive disco experience that celebrates over 40 years of Studio 54 with legendary hits from the golden era of disco. Joining them are Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, Greg Wilson, Francois K, Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, Low Life (Bill Brewster & Frank Broughton), Mi-Soul’s Windrush Square Roller Disco, Studio 54: The Documentary + Q&A, Brixton Chamber Orchestra and Stevie Wonderland, with more major headliner to be announced in early March!
The alternative festival season continues with the music flowing at the capitals biggest pan-city music festival, taking place once again this November!
As one of London’s landmark musical events, the EFG festival sees internationally acclaimed artists gather at venues across central London, ready to tickle ivories, strum cellos, and play beautiful and energetic jazz music together, with past artists including Stansfield, McFarlane, Laila Biali, Allan Harris and even even a certain Mr. Jeff Goldblum who graced Cadogan Hall’s stage last year with his band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
The festival officially began in 1992, emerging from the long-standing Camden Jazz Week which had been going since 1970. Producers of the Jazz Week, Serious, oversaw the evolution of the event into an all-encompassing extravaganza, celebrating the capital’s rich, cultural diversity in music. As of yet, the line-up for this year’s festival has not been announced but you can follow them here to get notified when any news comes out.