Sussex Jazz Magazine editor Charlie Anderson reviews the 2014 Love Supreme Jazz Festival.
N.B. This was originally a picture-based review published in issue 24 of SJM.
Friday 4th July
On the first day of the festival, The Sussex Jazz Magazine set out its stall, giving away a free conga shaker to all new subscribers.
Wayne McConnell and students representing Brighton Jazz School promoted the school and its courses, podcast and open day.
Studio 9 Orchestra performed in The Arena, performing tight arrangements and featuring some strong soloists.
Saturday 5th July
More and more people arrived on Saturday, particularly to Ronnie Scott’s Big Top which featured jazz artists from around the world.
Trumpeter Matthew Halsall was the first act on stage, performing original compositions, in the style of John Coltrane.
He was joined later on by harpist Rachael Gladwin who added a mellower Alice Coltrane sound to the ensemble.
The Straight No Chaser Big Band performed at The Bandstand, the highlight of which was a composition by Simon D’souza.
Natalie Williams’ Soul Family kicked things off on the Main Stage. Natalie Williams’ Soul Family also featured some very talented backing vocalists.
Canadian jazz vocalist and former child prodigy Nikki Yanofsky wowed the audience with her incredible technique, vocal power and fluent scat soloing.
Snarky Puppy featured British pianist Bill Laurance, together with a strong horn section.
Tractor Factor played an eclectic mixture of tunes and featured Tristan Banks on drums and Luke Rattenbury on guitar.
Drummer Jaimeo Brown performed a selection of spiritually uplifting tunes inspired by American quilt-making songs. The band featured some powerful solos from saxophonist J.D. Allen.
Incognito played a mixture of their much-loved songs and some new material.
Bassist Derrick Hodge performed at Ronnie Scott’s Big Top with some fast, funky and loud solos.
Melt Yourself Down impressed audiences with their unique sound.
Singer Laura Mvula also had a harp player and attracted a big crowd to the Main Stage.
The EME featured Jack Kendon on trumpet and Laura Impallomeni on trombone. See part of their performance on YouTube here.
Lalah Hathaway gave a stunning performance displaying her incredible vocal technique. She was almost upstaged by two incredibly talented backing vocalists, each of whom was given time to shine.
Phronesis bassist Jasper Høiby gave a relaxed and virtuosic performance. Phronesis regulars Anton Eger on drums and Ivo Neame on piano were given ample space to interact and solo with the other members of the band. Jasper Høiby’s esoteric wit was a big hit with the audience in The Arena.
Brighton’s Kalakuta Millionaires brought some world music flavours to an impressive set that attracted a large crowd. Meanwhile, on the Main Stage the Earth, Wind & Fire Experience featured Al McKay.
Saturday’s highlight was, without doubt, Dave Holland’s Prism which featured some virtuosic soloing from the leader, together with some rock-influenced soloing from guitarist Kevin Eubanks. Another highlight was hearing the fast, daring, oblique lines of pianist Craig Taborn. Not to mention the interactive polyrhythmic drumming of Eric Harland.
The headline act on The Main Stage, Jamie Cullum, entertained the audience by banging on a snare drum and standing on top of a piano, whilst singing.
A day packed with live music was brought to a close by guitar legend John Scofield and his Uberjam Band.
Sunday 6th July, 2014
Pianist Wayne McConnell performed with his trio with Terry Pack on double bass and Mattia Bourgis on drums. Wayne was then joined on stage by students from Brighton Jazz School who performed the James Williams composition Truth, Justice and the Blues. For their finale, students from Brighton Jazz School walked out towards the Bandstand audience performing Thelonious Monk’s Bright Mississippi.
Smooth and cool: James Tormé was accompanied by one of the finest pianists in the UK, Ross Stanley.
British trumpeter Laura Jurd and Canadian singer-songwriter Chloe Charles had their stage times swapped around resulting in poor attendances for both artists, and some disappointed fans.
Singer and guitarist Brooks Williams entertained the crowd at the popular Matua Sessions area.
Keyboardist Kris Bowers impressed the crowd with his Glasper-esque grooves. You can see Kris Bowers and Christian Sands performing Ain’t Misbehavin’ together here.
Vocalist Cecilia Stalin performed to an enthusiastic audience (one member of which vocally expressed his love for her). Whilst she mostly sang triple-meter tunes that were reworked into 4/4 (such as My Favourite Things, Afro-Blue and Norwegian Wood) the highlight was the refreshingly cool Shining Star from her album Step Like A Giant.
Courtney Pine was a big hit with the crowd with his Afro-Caribbean tinged jazz. Courtney Pine got the crowd moving and was joined on stage by UK soul singer Omar.
The Ornate Quartet added something different to the festival: a touch of free jazz with the music of Ornette Coleman.
Curtis Stigers showed that he could sing and hold a saxophone at the same time.
The Swing Ninjas were joined by The Sussex Swing Dancers, though the sound from Soul II Soul on the Main Stage nearly drowned them out.
Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda has toured the world with Jose James but this was his first tour as a solo artist, promoting his new album Rising Son on Blue Note Records. Trombonist Corey King provided grooving backing lines, tight harmonies and creative solos. Kuroda fused wah-wah effects to create a new sound palette and performed some Roy Ayers and Miles-inspired grooves.
The highlight of the festival: The Christian McBride Trio.
The audience were held back for 15 minutes before the start so that they could open up the tent to accommodate the huge number of fans waiting to hear them.
They started off with a super-tight arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s I Mean You, followed by Juan Tizol’s Caravan which featured the drumming of Rodney Green.
McBride’s sublime solo on East of the Sun included some quotes from Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and the Sailor’s Hornpipe, the theme tune to Blue Peter.
Twenty-five year old pianist Christian Sands was outstanding, particularly on the uptempo Giant Steps and the finale, the Johnnie Taylor soul classic Who’s Making Love which soon travelled from Memphis to Detroit (Motown) via New York and Philadelphia.
Unfortunately their set was cut short by 15 minutes leaving the audience wanting to hear more of this amazing trio.
The festival finished with a jam session on The Bandstand, with bassist Eddie Myer and guitarist Luke Rattenbury jamming with Paul Greenwood. Meanwhile, at Ronnie Scott’s Big Top the evening finished with the smooth, deep voice of Gregory Porter.
The site was opened out, giving more space for the main stage, and a bigger distance between stages. However, there was still a lot of noise bleed from other stages.
For the second year running, there were some great local bands performing on The Bandstand (although they were often drowned out by acts on the Main Stage). The sound on some of the stages was too loud and sometimes distorted.
By contrast, the Matua Sessions area was a beautiful oasis of calm and tranquility.
The festival continues to grow from strength to strength with more acts and a much larger attendance this year, compared to last year. With a huge array of music on offer the festival is great value for money and has retained the upbeat atmosphere of last year.
The really popular acts at Ronnie Scott’s Big Top, Christian McBride and Gregory Porter, should have been on the Main Stage.