Bassist Terry Pack gives his view of the 2014 Love Supreme Festival.
For the second year running, I had the great pleasure of attending and playing at the Love Supreme Festival, this time as part of Andy Pickett’s Mingus Underground Octet and the Wayne McConnell Trio. Thanks once again to Jack Kendon, Eddie Myer and Lynne Shields for their efforts to make everything easy for all the musicians who played on this stage. The music and the sound on the Bandstand was consistently good, and there was a great variety of music to be heard on all the stages throughout the weekend. I arrived on Friday evening in time to hear a great set by the Studio 9 Orchestra, and I particularly liked the funky, bluesy new stage sponsored by Matua Wines, which was intimate and had a great sound.
Because I was playing elsewhere on Saturday afternoon, and on the Bandstand twice on Sunday, I missed a number of sets I wanted to hear, most notably Snarky Puppy's (who Paul Richards told me was wonderful) and most of Christian McBride's, whose marvellous last fifteen minutes I did hear. This was a medley of Motown tunes, played by his trio with real joy and verve, with the great bassist at the heart of things. I heard most of Lalah Hathaway’s set, and loved her singing, and use of dynamics. The (largely British) band followed her every signal with great skill and sensitivity. I also saw dozens of friends as I wandered around the festival, which felt rather like a very large-scale village fete.
The organisers did well to have a wide variety of musical styles, and so many acts to choose from, though at times, my old brain found it hard to remember who was playing where, and the crossovers meant that you had to miss the beginning of somebody’s set in order to watch the end of someone else’s, or vice versa. My only real gripe is that the subtleties of a largely acoustic, conversational form of music-making doesn’t really lend itself to large sound systems, which are better at amplifying rock and pop acts. The sound of the double bass, for example, is beautiful when heard acoustically in a small space, and still okay when amplified a little on a jazz gig in a club, but the sound of the pickup alone is pretty horrible, and this is what is amplified through the PA system at a festival. I feel that electric bass works much better in large settings, but most jazz bassists, me included, play the acoustic instrument, and want to use it. I hope that a way can be found of using microphones without causing feedback. Perhaps the overall levels, both onstage and out front, could be quieter? I also think that the use of sub bass woofers distort the sound of the bass, and the bass drum. Indeed, I had a protracted discussion of this topic on Facebook with several (rather defensive) sound engineers. It seems that once the System Technician has set up the PA, the engineer can do little about its overall sound. Indeed, s/he can’t actually hear the whole PA, and monitors the sound through a pair of speakers on the desk, so that from where s/he sits, it sounds fine. I was particularly disappointed by the poor quality and excessive volume of the sound during Dave Holland’s set, for the reasons outlined above, and a number of people I spoke to at the festival also complained about the sound in the tents. It’s an issue that I hope can be resolved.
That said, I hope that Love Supreme will go on and on, and that I will have further opportunities to be part of it. The setting at Glynde is beautiful, with lots of green space to wander around in, the food was good and the beer was £4 a pint. I loved it.