November 25, 2020

Vegetable Orchestra helps celebrate London Jazz Festival 21st birthday @southbankcentre

I didn’t know what a vegetable orchestra was, but there it was in the London Jazz Festival birthday celebrations programme. And it wasn’t just any vegetable orchestra, but the London Vegetable Orchestra. I’m no scientist, but I know enough about artificial intelligence to understand the difficulties inherent in teaching a potato to play the flute.  Sure you can train a computer to play chess, but teach a courgette to play the oboe? The issues are so many and varied that I wouldn’t know where to begin.

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It turns out that a vegetable orchestra is band of normal humans playing instruments carved out of vegetables. Recorders made from carrots, bugles from butternut squashes, and even a courgette trumpet with red pepper mute. ‘Don’t worry, we’re all trained green-grocers,’ said the leader as they struck up Michael Jackson’s Billy Auber-jean on the stage in The Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall. Get an idea of how they make their instruments, or book a gig here. The sound is slightly carroty, the sight unique. I’m not sure that the aubergine was in tune all the way through, but its hard to tell…

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The celebrations weren’t all eccentric madcappery. Rita Ray and Max Reinhardt DJed between sets and Hardeep Singh Koli tried his best to entertain the crowd. It was tough though, they were there for the music. Andy Sheppard was welcomed on stage for a brief touch of moodily lit sax whilst Dors and Sonsale played in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

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Carleen Anderson, Jazz FM’s Vocalist of the year 2013 spent two days rehearsing with a 50 member community choir to perform a new commission for the Festival.  There were also panel discussions and more music from the likes of Zapp 4 and Bold as Brass. The highlight for many would have been seeing the Jazz for toddlers workshop, but unfortunately it was sold out so I didn’t get to see the next-but-one generation of saxophonists at work. Maybe they were playing carrots.

More details here. The website’s already onto London Jazz Festival 2014.

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