A bolt from the blue. Back in 2011... 
... wearing brightly coloured clothing, with a megawatt smile and just an electric guitar slung laconically over her shoulder for company, Fatoumata Diawara nevertheless packed quite a punch playing solo at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, as she previewed songs from Fatou.

Featuring her vocals and guitar and with guests such as London’s Seb Rochford on the track ‘Bakonoba’ the album was recorded in Paris and London although Diawara was actually born in Ivory Coast and raised in Mali and was Paris-based.

Her voice it struck me back then resembled Rokia Traore’s and her guitar accompaniment had something of the loose twanging bluesy style of a Djelimady Tounkara.

Diawara’s songs were concerned with themes like a woman’s right to choose her marriage partner, or the difficulties Africans face when they leave their homeland, and her style has a plaintiff eerily beautiful way with it that despite the language barrier manages to convey a certain languid emotion which is so effective. Wasn't she so ahead of her time?

Fast forward to 2015...
... this time not a million miles from Clerkenwell, the Barbican, a much bigger crowd and my and how: Fatou was playing the big hall with Cuban pianist Roberto Fonseca.

The band had a swaying infectious feel to it driven hard by Fonseca who hammered the keys hard, rocking his body head bobbing up and down at his most exuberant while Diawara’s amazing voice cuts the air like a dagger.

Her startling back-of-the-throat yodelly quickfire rattle punctuating the night air from time to time added an unearthly signature touch sending the crowd wild (you could hear people imitating the unique sound as they left the concert hall later on). Highlights for me were ‘Sowa’, ‘Clandestin’ and ‘Mandela,’ on the latter song, a tribute to Nelson Mandela, Diawara threw off her head scarf, the beads of her hair flying all over her face as she head bobbed joyously.  

May 2018... and Fenfo (Wagram/Montuno). The brand new album. My, my my. 

Stephen Graham 

Playing Hackney Arts Centre, London on 20 November.       

MAY 2018 Late at the Library: Superjam — 50 Years of Radical Words is headlined by The Last Poets with Blur singer Damon Albarn and lead guitarist Graham Coxon guesting plus legendary beat poet Michael Horovitz also on the bill.

Curated by Gearbox, home to Binker and Moses who have Alive in the East on the way, when Horovitz was 80, the King’s Cross label reissued a white vinyl LP limited run of ‘Bankbusted Nuclear Detergent Blues (Jazz Poetry SuperJam #3),’ which the distinguished Beat made with Albarn, Graham Coxon and Paul Weller recorded in 2013. The evening revisits that collaboration. Zena Edwards, poetry performer Salena Godden, Nigerian-born novelist and poet Ben Okri, UK slam champion Joelle Taylor, and visual artist and poet Vanessa Vie + DJ Don Letts are also scheduled to appear. Mary McCartney, who is Macca’s daughter, is photographing during the 18 May event. Details.

Appearing with the acclaimed producer and composer saxophonist Jason Yarde on 9 June is surely our foremost jazz poet singer Anthony Joseph. Expect a Derek Walcott meets Gil Scott-Heron Trinidadian street mix landing in a Linton Kwesi Johnson London moment. For the mind and body. Venue 

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” ― Martin Luther King Jr

 “Hope is the deep orientation of the human soul that can be held at the darkest times” 
Václav Havel 

“I too saw the wooden horse blocking the stars”
Derek Walcott

The appearance of Maria Schneider and her Orchestra who will be playing Ireland for the first time is a coup for the Cork jazz festival this year. The Irish Times broke the story in the Irish national press, and which can be read in full here

The Blind Boys of Alabama, singers Nnenna Freelon and Laura Mvula; Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Stanley Clarke, Billy Childs Ensemble; Billy Cobham, Fred Hersch, T.S. Monk; Donny McCaslin, Linley Hamilton, Frank Vignola’s Hot Jazz Trio; and Pablo Ziegler Trio are all among the line-up.

Tickets go on sale on 31 May. 

Sam Leak trio, gotta be this month, 22 May