Event Review: Ealing Jazz Festival @ Walpole Park (London, 29th July 2017)

Much like a charming village fete with a complimentary cleansing mud bath, Ealing Jazz Festival provided both entertainment and healing from the music and comedy of sliding from one stage to another. Unfortunately for the locals, this was the second week that the Walpole celebrations had been washed out. However, the festival still played out loud, despite the bad weather.

One of the liveliest acts, Faith I Branko, had a small but spirited crowd cavorting in the puddles with their infectious Roma gypsy fusion songs. Faith is a British accordion player who formerly performed with a circus but later travelled to Serbia in search for a Balkan violinist. She found not only her ideal musician but a husband in Branko, a virtuoso violin player from a rural town with a gritty history.

The duo opened their set with an admirable solo on violin, with rapid ferocious melodies fashioned for dancing, their songs cut through the storm with force. Each number tells a story of hardship, woes, and revelations. Faith’s accordion provided the syncopated backbone that pulsed through the brave sodden dancers.

Nubiyan Twist later lifted the crowd with their brand of reggae, carnival, and afrobeat rhythms. Under the roof of a big top, everyone was warmed by the strength of sound from the sizeable band. Mixing contemporary samples with a powerful horn section, the band is commanded by the sultry and seductive vocals of Nubiya Brandon as she both raps and sings with street-cred and refined style.

Matuki are a Bristolian band playing their own essence of Nigerian afrobeat and were unfortunate to have to battle the rain on the open air stage. However, they were dressed for the occasion in camouflage. The set felt a little pastiche but an impressive rhythm section fuelled the feet even if they did lack musical depth.

James Taylor Quartet replaced one of the headliners, Ebo Taylor, last minute due to his refusal of visa. Although Ebo Taylor was highly anticipated, the James Taylor Quartet received a hearty welcoming. Unfortunately, the sound on stage obliterated the flow with James stopping a couple of songs part way through to berate the sound man. Despite his apparent stress, nobody can deny that his acid jazz Hammond organ licks are powerfully addictive. Tight and funky, these players know how to groove.

Courtney Pine closed the festival with his technically adept saxophone playing, collaborating with singer, Omar. Pine is a big name with speed and skill but he lacks the detail and attention for storytelling that builds that chemistry and bond between the audience and performer.

For only five pounds a ticket, this is most definitely a London festival worth visiting with a great lineup of musicians. Fingers crossed, next year we are able to receive more global acts and pray that they can bring some sunshine with them.