Join big stars at Blaze Festival

Serious have worked with the Barbican to programme a number of shows into this year’s Blaze Festival.

Blaze runs from 19th June to  29th July, and is a celebration of the boldest music from across the globe for East London.  Now in its third year, Blaze features UK exclusives, major international artists, new commissions and free performances across East London venues and spaces, including the Barbican, Hackney Empire, Gillett Square, Wilton’s Music Hall and Rich Mix. Here’s a selection of this year’s highlights.

Sing The Truth 2011 at the Barbican

Singing sensations Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright will perform together in a passionate new production honouring the great women of jazz, r&b, gospel and the blues.

Following the huge success of 2009’s tribute to Nina Simone, the friendships forged between Sing The Truth’s stars inspired a new show dedicated to the songs of their most admired musical heroines; this celebration embodies the spirits of Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln, and Odetta, along with other great women of music from Billie Holiday to Lauryn Hill, as well as showcasing original songs by Kidjo, Reeves and Wright.

The all-star Sing The Truth ensemble features Geri Allen on piano and keyboards, music director Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, Munyungo Jackson on percussion, James Genus on bass, and Romero Lubambo on guitars.

Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright
Tuesday 5th July 2011, 7.30pm
£35-£20 + bkg

Randy Brecker and Bill Evans at the Barbican

In the first half of this stunning double bill expect fast and furious post-bop from latter-day New Orleans hero Terence Blanchard, well-known for his Grammy-nominated film scores for Spike Lee. He returns with his super-charged band following a triumphant London Jazz Festival performance last year.

A special one-off collaboration in the second half brings Soulbop, the constantly evolving jazz powerhouse driven by Randy Brecker and Bill Evans into the world of Medeski Martin and Wood – the hottest horn section in jazz meet MMW’s stratospheric collision of jazz, funk, avant-noise and deep soul grooves.

Separately and together, trumpeter Brecker and saxophonist Evans have been at the heart of some of the essential music of the past four decades – whether as half of the Brecker Brothers, or Evans’ stint as sideman with Miles, or with the likes of James Taylor, Bruce Springsteen, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, Parliament, and countless acoustic and electric jazz sessions the world over.

Their stellar talents promise to create a fascinating mix with the musical prowess, fluidity and sheer genre-busting bravado of Medeski, Martin & Wood.

Randy Brecker and Bill Evans –
SOULBOP featuring Medeski Martin and Wood
Thursday 7th July, 7.30pm
£20-£15 + bkg

Legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela Celebrates Mama Afrika

The spirit of Africa’s best-known voice, Miriam Makeba, lives on in this all-star celebration featuring fellow giant of South African music, legendary trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

Hugh Masekela has been at the heart of the music of his country since the 1960s; his soaring, joyful trumpet sound that brims with warmth and optimism continues as an expression of resistance and a celebration of resilience.
At 71, Hugh Masekela remains, in the words of the Independent: “a musician of phenomenal grace and power…still blessed with a voice that can strip the leaves from the tress.”

An articulate and forthright spokesman for the people of his country and their culture for six decades, Hugh Masekela has been an outspoken figure in the struggle for civil rights on both sides of the Atlantic and spent his career pushing musical boundaries. He is one of jazz’s greatest horn players, able to adopt township jazz, funk and hip-hop into his music.

Celebrate Mama Afrika brings together some of the finest vocal talent the continent has to offer to pay tribute to Makeba, who died in 2008 at the age of 76. The former Johannesburg club singer became a voice for the anti-apartheid struggle in her native South Africa, and was exiled for 31 years under the regime.
Alongside Hugh Masekela and his dynamic South African band, the show’s incredible line-up features the distinct, powerful voice of South Africa’s Vusi Mahlasela, plus two of the nation’s most charismatic singers of today’s generation, Thandiswa and Lira.

Thandiswa’s debut album “Zabalaza” reached platinum status over night, becoming an immediate sensation in South Africa. One of the hits in last year’s “Tony Allen 70” celebration at the Barbican, and recent winner of “Best Female Artist” and “Album of the Year” at the 2010 South African Music Awards, Thandiswa is gaining ever-growing recognition across the globe.

The past few years have seen multi-platinum sales of Lira’s two studio albums and live DVD, a mantelpiece full of awards and ever-growing support of fans, both in South Africa, and further afield. Her triumph at the 2009 South African Music Awards, scooping “Album of the Year” and “Best Female Artist” and her appearance at the World Cup opening ceremony opposite Hugh Masekela, show that Lira has exploded with serious intent amongst audiences in South Africa, and the rest of the world alike.

and his band with special guest South African stars
Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa and Lira, celebrating the music of Miriam Makeba
Sunday 10th and Monday 11th July, 7.30pm
Hackney Empire
£25-£15 + bkg

Full programme of Blaze Festival can be seen at