1 September 2019

Live Review: Jazz Re:Fest 2019

Jazz Re:Fest 2019

Brighton Dome, Brighton

Saturday 27th July, 2019

JazzReFest 2018 saw Brighton hosting its first Jazz Re:Fest, an event that since its inception has enjoyed a healthy six-year run. Usually taking place in its city of origin at London’s Southbank Centre, this festival has done and continues to do an impeccable job of highlighting the ever-growing talent that is blooming in the current UK jazz scene. Last year was a new exception for Jazz Re:Fest deciding to move the festival to Brighton’s own prestigious Dome venue. The festival has always had a line-up of groundbreaking artists of British jazz who brought their music to an audience of eager listeners. This year Jazz:ReFest decided to return to Brighton for another day of musical madness that showed musicians and audience alike that even in these unstable times our country is at one of the many forefronts of modern music.

First up to take the stage was alto saxophonist and composer Camilla George. Backed by a band of prominent London players including guitarist Shirley Tetteh and bassist Daniel Casimir to name a few, forming the perfect ensemble that brought Camilla’s heavily groove-enthused compositions to life.

Following the performance of Camilla George, Brighton had the absolute pleasure of welcoming trombonist and bandleader Rosie Turton. Already a celebrated player in her own right, with a hefty list of collaborations with players all over the London scene, not to mention being one of the driving forces behind all star septet Nérija. This performance, however, focused on Turton as composer and bandleader. Backed by her stunning band, it was an excellent show.

Far from the acoustic-based music of the two previous acts came a truly stunning performance from bassist and producer Werkha. A notable figure in the current roster of electronic artists emerging in the current scene at the moment such as Floating Points and Blue Lab Beats. Through his extensive work, new releases and a busy touring schedule, Werkha has definitely put time and effort into developing his uniquely distinctive voice.

After a small intermission it was time for our attention to be drawn of the music of saxophonist and percussionist Kevin Haynes with his Grupo Elugua. His blend of jazz improvisation over a variety of compositions from Afro- Cuban to traditional West African styles, also including a guest appearance from London’s own Asheber, brought a huge sense of spirituality and joy to the applauding crowd.

Jazz pianist and vocalist Sarah Tandy was another artist to bring a vibing set to the festival. Complete with a cracking band and guest appearances from both Rosie Turton and modern bop trumpet sensation Mark Kavuma.

Next up the Dome was treated to a magnificent performance from prominent vocalist Zara McFarlane. She delved into mainly her own compositions, taking strong influence from spiritual jazz such as that of Pharaoh Sanders and strong elements of reggae and dub. Of the few singers that are coming forward on the modern scene, Zara Mcfarlane most certainly has a style and sound all her own.


Headlining this year’s Re:Fest was the new sensation on the British music scene tuba virtuoso and all-round musical titan, Theon Cross. Many are familiar with Cross’s sound through frequent appearances with a variety of London artists, most notably Sons of Kemet alongside saxophone guru Shabaka Hutchings. He took his debut step as bandleader with the release of early 2019’s Fyah, a fitting title for an album packed full of punch and heaty, infectious grooves. Joined by another sax legend, Chelsea Carmichael, and a top notch rhythm section of guitar and drums, Theon Cross’s performance as headliner of this year’s festival was undoubtedly the perfect way to end a great day and make sure it went out with a bang.

Words: George Richardson

Photos: Anya Arnold

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