Love Supreme Festival 2017 – Part 1: Overview

 In Gig Reviews

Love Supreme is the UK’s largest outdoor jazz festival. It is held every year at the beginning of July at Glynde in Sussex.

One year ago, I was talking to a well-known British tenor sax player: he had just played at Love Supreme and I asked him what he thought of the experience. His response was “Well, it’s a good event but it’s not really a jazz festival  -it’s more of a music festival”. I’m guessing that his response was a reaction to some of the artists that headlined the 2016 gathering including Grace Jones, The Average White Band, Morcheeba and Burt Bacharach. Now such statements immediately create a debate around what defines jazz. I’m certain that multiple PhD theses can, or have, already been written on the topic. Suffice to say that jazz in the UK and elsewhere has become a very broad church. To me it seems that the term “jazz” can be applied to multiple genres including blues, R&B, funk, soul, ska, world music, electronica, hip-hop, prog rock, ambient, fusion and Lord-only-knows-what-else orbiting around the performance pivot of improvised music. It’s no longer men in suits playing intense bebop or New Orleans-ers banging out good time trad.  For reasons of financial survival, the organizers of Love Supreme have always included acts that will ensure the event’s survival. 2017 was no different. Headliners, Gregory Porter, George Benson and Herbie Hancock were safe, secure and gave predictably polished performances. Definitely jazz, though. The same can’t be said for The Jacksons, however. While highly professional and gloriously nostalgic, the Motowners can’t by any stretch of the imagination be considered jazz. Nevertheless the crowd was pleased and bums were put on seats in a highly successful manner: for the first time in its five year history, the festival was a sell-out. And the storied headliners enabled the presence of numerous other emerging and mid-tier acts. Overall a great mix, even if not all strictly jazz, with some very exciting new music on the scene.  The site at Glynde, Sussex, is quite lovely and Love Supreme must rank up with North Sea and Montreux as one of the best of the European jazz festivals. It’s a wonderfully pleasant event with great facilities and always seems to be blessed with glorious weather. I’ve already bought my ticket for 2018.

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