Now in its sixth year, there’s a buzz surrounding Jazz FM’s flagship festival perhaps more so than in previous years in 2019. The nascent nu-jazz scene might not be anything new, with acts such as Yussef Kamaal, Alfa Mist and BADBADNOTGOOD energising a new breed of electronically inclined jazz listener in recent years, but today’s convergence into traditional modern jazz sounds means the scene is touching more people than ever before, it seems.
Love Supreme, in the lush, hilly surrounds of Sussex’ Glynde Place, has firmly established itself on the map as a key driving force in this. Headlined this year by the vintage smoky soul of Gladys Knight – still untouchable on closer ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ – and Lauryn Hill, with her theatrical, if a little divisive (and late), re-enactment of ‘Miseducation Of’ after her contentious legal battle over its rights in 2001.
The rest of the bill dishes out everything from the safe, middle-class whiteness of Jamie Cullum to the edgy jazz-informed house sounds of 22a’s Tenderlonius this year.
And it’s the latter that typifies the mentality of the three-day festival’s musical modus operandi perhaps most. Rather than the bug-eyed, off-kilter beats of Tenderlonius’s recent ‘Hard Rain’ LP, we get his sublimely musical Ruby Rushton collective, including sax, clarinet and piccolo, more closely aligned to the classic brass sounds of Miles Davis or Matthew Halsall than the Peckham label he’s associated with. It’s no wonder, then, that the tent is at capacity with everyone from cool baggy-shirted twentysomethings to white-haired ‘jazz-dads’ in berets, all enjoying it equally.
Fellow 22a crew member Henry Wu, appearing under his real name Kamaal Williams with his band over at the Big Top, meanwhile, issues a roll-call of what he calls “house originators”, listing the likes of Larry Heard, Louis Vega and Mr G on the mic, while they lay down stripped back jazz-funk instruments over a live mesmeric four-four-informed formula.
Sunday also sees emerging Tru Thoughts/Brownswood talent Bryony Jarman-Pinto and her four-piece induce awe to a seated congregation on the grass at the Bandstand, with an elegant blend of soul and downbeat jazz that’s far beyond their years. At The Arena, Melbourne’s 30/70 – with their Hiatus Kaiyote connection – also hint at a neo-jazz scene burgeoning as far as Australia.
Snarky Puppy were here yesterday unleashing their energetic fusion of jazz, hip-hop and funk complete with hand-clapping audience participation, but it’s Louis Vega’s Elements of Life live act in the brilliant sunshine of the mainstage on Saturday that really steals this reviewer’s heart.
Crossing Latino-inspired, bossa nova sounds with the salsa influences of his uncle Hector Lavoe, while touching upon Roy Ayers’ ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’, spectacularly and fittingly it finishes with the glorious ‘I Am The Black Gold of The Sun’ of Nuyorican Soul, breaking out into the drum-kit drum 'n' bass beats from the 4Hero remix to a rapturous response.
After dark in The Arena, he’s found dropping high-energy house/US garage bombs such Hardrive ‘Deep Inside’ before taking it deeper into ‘Shout-N-Out (The DJ Dub)’ by Lood feat. Donell Rush and then Pepe Bradock’s ‘Deep Burnt’ for the ex-Ibiza ravers attracted by the event.
Over in the woods, there is literally a mosh-pit as Auntie Flo drops afrobeat to an open-sided tent full of the younger, wilder element of the festival. Mixing up dark, funk-laden electro-tinged house with ‘Trompeta’ by Sis, into disco classics like Odyssey ‘Going Back To My Roots’ before ending on ‘Could You Be Loved’ by Bob Marley, it sums up the inter-generational appeal that this event has become so renowned for.
This is perhaps symbolised best by Greg Wilson – the first ever DJ to perform live on television (The Tube) – who closes The Arena on Sunday. His lumbering, pitched-down deployment of grooves from The Bluebirds, Donald Byrd and Gwen McCrae finds ‘90’s house-heads, couples in their 50s and youthful glitter-faced ravers all cutting shapes together and grinning cheesily at one another.
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Words: Adam Saville
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