Gypsy Jazz Festival of London

4-7 May 2023

Following the success of the inaugural event in 2022, the Gypsy Jazz Festival of London returns this Spring with four nights of performances at some of the capital’s favourite live music venues, between the 4-7 May.

Supported by a generous grant from Arts Council England, GJFL is the brainchild of violinist and producer Tobie Medland and takes place this year at The Vortex Jazz Club, LSO St Lukes, The Jago Dalston, and Crazy Coq’s Soho with a line-up of internationally renowned musicians from Europe and New York.

Building on a near sold-out first edition, the festival is headlined on May 5th by celebrated Belgian guitarist Fapy Lafertin, who is widely recognised as the modern heir to Django Reinhardt’s crown.

Julien Cattiaux brings an authentic taste of Paris Gypsy Jazz, Olli Soikkeli comes direct from New York’s modern scene and Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis showcases an innovative approach which has seen him hailed as  a “current-day improvising Paganini”. 

The event also pays tribute to the vibrant – and sometimes overlooked – UK Gypsy Jazz scene

Cellist Shirley Smart brings her unique mix of jazz and Middle Eastern sounds to LSO St Lukes, whilst prolific guitarist and host of the popular podcast ‘Gypsy Jazz Hangouts’ Cornelius Corkery hits Crazy Coqs. British RAKA Balkan Band gives a taste of how the music has evolved on its travels across Eastern Europe and rising star guitarist Sol Grimshaw gives a glimpse into the future guardians of the style.

As organiser & violinist Tobie Medland comments: “Some of the world’s best gypsy jazz musicians live and play across the UK. As a member of the LGBT community I have a personal stake in diversifying and promoting the scene, in which I am an active member, and why I founded this festival.”

Gypsy jazz may have been born in Paris back in the 1930s with artists like Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, but its high energy, sophisticated style and virtuosic demands has kept its popularity with audiences and musicians alike. 

As jazz fans around the world know all too well, the much talked-about London scene is in rude health. GJFL aims not just to entertain those existing converts of the style, but to show the wider community how gypsy jazz is still evolving and sounding fresh a century later.

About Tobie Medland (Founder)

Tobie is a violinist, composer and producer from South East London. Starting out as a busker in the North of England, they now balance a busy performing career with his work directing both the Gypsy Jazz Festival of London and Future Fable Records. 

As a producer (and often player too) Tobie has worked with some of the world’s foremost jazz musicians, including John Etheridge, Ian Shaw, Mozes Rosenberg, Fapy Lafertin and Antoine Boyer.

A Note The Term “Gypsy Jazz”

Some of our fellow creatures may worry that the word Gypsy is a slur. Though the word has its origins in a mishearing, was and is used occasionally as a slur (as well as a crass instagram adjective), and the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities continue to suffer persecution in many forms and in many places, context is everything. 

In this context, Gypsy is not a slur. It is the term preferred by the Sinti people of Central Europe for Gadji and non-Romanes speaking people to use. This is mainly because it avoids confusion, particularly with regards to misnaming diverse groups of people – Sinti are not Roma, for example, though both are Romani.

It’s complicated,  possibly imperfect but we’re always ready should the weather change.

Full schedule

Thursday 4th May: Vortex Jazz Club – Olli Soikkeli Quartet feat. Julien Cattiaux

Olli Soikkeli was born in Nurmes, Finland, and is now based in NYC. Despite his modest age he has performed with Pasquale Grasso, Bucky Pizzarelli, Tommy Emmanuel, Cyrille Aimee and Stochelo Rosenberg. He has also featured at legendary American venues including Birdland Jazz Club, Blue Note and The Lincoln Centre.

Legendary Parisian guitarist Julien is one of the most in demand rhythm guitar specialists in the world and has played with a huge roster of profoundly influential gypsy jazz musicians, including Tchavolo Schmitt, Romane and Raphaël Fays.

“One of the most adept and resourceful contemporary guitarists” – The New Yorker

Friday 5th May: LSO St Lukes – Fapy Lafertin Quartet | Shirley Smart Trio

Possibly the most celebrated Gypsy guitarist, Fapy Lafertin is widely recognised as the heir to Django Reinhardt’s crown. Lafertin was responsible for the 1970/80’s resurgence of the Django Reinhardt style with his first band Waso. His fifty years of performing has distinguished him as a truly great artist: harnessing an unmatched melodic sense, clarity of articulation and technique.

“Simply Irresistible” – The Guardian

Shirley Smart is recognised as one of the UK’s most versatile and creative cellists – being equally at home and well versed in jazz and Middle Eastern music, as well as classical music, she has worked with international artists including Avishai Cohen, Mulatu Asastke, and Alice Zawadski.

“One of the best improvising cellists in the UK” – The JazzMann

Saturday 6th May: Jago Dalston – RAKA Balkan Band, Coloriage, Sol Grimshaw Trio + Late Jam Session

RAKA are one of the UK’s best established Balkan music bands. They take their name from a traditional Bulgarian dance the ‘Raka,’ full of leg kicks, clicking heels and hands held high, the unmistakable groove of Raka brings everyone to their feet. Their music has strong roots in the folk traditions of Bulgaria and Macedonia, as well as the Romani music that spans far and wide across the Balkans.

“burst with traditional Balkan flair… the essential act of the weekend” – Nightshift Magazine

Sunday 7th May: Crazy Coq’s Soho  – Tim Kliphuis Quartet feat. Cornelius Corkery Trio 

Award-winning Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis embraces classical, gypsy jazz and folk. Hailed as a ‘current-day improvising Paganini’, his inclusive and innovative approach to music has united audiences and is influencing a new generation of string players. 

The Cornelius Corkery Trio are a stalwart of the British Gypsy Jazz scene. Cornelius is host of the popular podcast ‘Gypsy Jazz Hangouts’ and performs prolifically across the country, as well as at prestigious venues in Europe including Sunset Sunside Paris.

“Playfully inventive and technically brilliant” – Time Out

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