Love Supreme Festival
Friday 30th June – Sunday 2nd July, 2017
Oli Howe’s trio Howes3 helped start Love Supreme’s fifth incarnation with a selection of original compositions, the highlight of which was a guest appearance by energetic and uplifting vocalist Abi Flynn, who co-wrote the tune Day 7 with Oli Howe. It’s always great to see original music played by such a tight and together group.
Also bringing positivity and getting people dancing were J-Sonics who added a latin flavour to the evening with some tight arrangements of crowd-pleasing latin standards.
One of the best additions to the festival this year was the Jazz In The Round stage hosted by Jez Nelson and providing late night live music in an intimate space, with Friday night performances by the impressive group Justin Thurger Afro Jazz featuing trumpeter Graham Flowers and pianist Kishon Khan.
Saturday in The Arena tent saw Jake Long’s MAISHA engaging a large lunchtime audience, with Nubya Garcia's saxophone and flute work impressing the audience, whilst Shirley Tetteh’s increasingly impressive guitar skills had the crowd bouncing up and down.
It’s fair to say that Saturday at Love Supreme belonged to reedsmith Shabaka Hutchings. Whilst he began the day playing with his South African group Shabaka and the Ancestors, it was Sons of Kemet that really impressed, combining the unique timbre of his bass clarinet and the tuba of Theon Cross. Whilst the mix of jazz and electronica can often result in…electronica, The Comet Is Coming sounded similarly unique and engaging.
One of the hotly anticipated performers at this year’s festival was German pianist Michael Wollny, who might be an unknown to many in the UK, but has an impressive technique and a great rapport with his trio. At first you might have thought that Wollny’s serious and esoteric music would be an odd juxtaposition to the commercial nature of Love Supreme but it fitted in perfectly, as did Swiss bassist Christian Weber, who replaced regular bassist Eva Kruse and soloed beautifully on a repertoire that included pieces by Alban Berg and Paul Hindemith. At times the whole band displayed an empathy and intensity on a parallel with EST.
Jazz legend Herbie Hancock was also hotly anticipated but although he played to a large crowd, a number of fans felt underwhelmed by his fusion sound, and older fans in particular would remember him performing in more impressive contexts. Thankfully those fans were rewarded with a memorable performance by young pianist Dave Drake who performed at the same time on the Bandstand stage, playing a range of popular standards and hard bop classics such as Wayne Shorter’s One By One.
On Sunday Camilla George’s Quartet showed why the Isang album has been so widely acclaimed.
With such a limited timeslot for performers at the festival, it was a shame that New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott spent a lot of it talking with often long-winded but eloquent introductions. But he brought with him an incredible world-class band including the virtuoso flautist Elena Pinderhughes.
Vocalist Charenee Wade began her set with a unique arrangement of the Gil Scott-Heron tune Home Is Where The Hatred Is, an early tune about drug addiction, and one of the highlights of Wade’s album Offering. Wade exhibited her trademark virtousity and wide range, particularly in the quieter moments where she used her beautiful low register to great effect.
As with previous years, the sound in a lot of the stages is too loud, often distorted and with way too much bass.
As the festival was sold out this year for the first time, the large influx of people resulted in a noisier, more crowded festival site and the small, safe community of previous years seems to be disappearing.
But as a festival that offers a lot of live music, most of it jazz, it remains good value for money.
[Photo of Christian Scott by Lisa Wormsley]