Love Supreme Festival 2017 – Part 2: Highlights
Love Supreme is the UK’s largest outdoor jazz festival. It is held every year at the beginning of July at Glynde in Sussex.
Part 2: Highlights
As mentioned in Part 1 of this review, the headlining acts of Love Supreme 2017 did not disappoint. George Benson crooned smoothly and but also demonstrated that he is still a guitar master guitar and capable of playing some raunchy rock licks. Gregory Porter gave a warm polished performance, Kamasi Washington continued establish himself as a modern saxophone master and Herbie Hancock thrilled the crowd with some jazz rock classics include his signature “Chameleon”. The festival has now increased in size to the point where it’s really difficult to get around to see all the major acts and frequently I felt like an overstimulated five-year-old at a party who has consumed too much cake and coca cola! My ADD notwithstanding, I managed a fairly decent sample of most of the performers. In no particular order here is my list of ten Standout acts (excluding the aforementioned headliners) and a few Honourable Mentions.
I hadn’t heard of this power trio and had no expectations when I encountered them on the Bandstand stage but they virtually jumped out of the pleasant Sussex scenery with their energy. An unusual lineup with Ciaran Corr (guitar) Alex Wilson (keys) and Sam Jones (drums). Lots of ethereal sounds with some good old jazz rock influences.
The Jam Experiment
One of my favourite emerging British bands. Lovely sounds with Rory Ingham on trombone and occasional lapses into dry standup comedy, Alexander Bone on sax and wind synth, Toby Comeau (keys) Joe Lee (bass) and Jonathan Mansfield (drums). If they hold together, these guys are headed for stardom. A review of their eponymous album will appear in this mag shortly.
Alex Hitchcock Quintet
I previously encountered Alex depping for Alexander Bone when The Jam Experiment played a gig at Hitchin’s Club 85 a month or so back. At LS he was with his own quintet. Alex is a saxophone virtuoso but plays in a very thoughtful, non-flashy way. Very technical but also engaging. The band has a floaty feel slightly reminiscent of Ian Carr’s Nucleus from days of yore. This is another group of musicians with a bright future.
Another electric trio with a powerful and full sound. Oli Howe on keys, Andre Fry on (a very beautiful) electric bass and Pete Hill on drums. Lots of soul influences and pleasing harmonies. I didn’t know this band before the festival but I’ll be following them with interest from now on.
Shabaka Hutchings is a phenomenon. Not only did he show up at the festival with three different bands (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming, Shabaka and The Ancestors) but he arrived at Glynde straight off the plane from an American tour. This guy has energy and it’s reflected in his playing which is wild. Hawkwind meets Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp. Or something. All his bands have a different personality but they are all equally fascinating. Hutchings is already on the cusp of jazz stardom: just go and see him!
Michael Janisch’s Paradigm Shift
Michael Janisch, leads Paradigm Shift, on electric and upright/acoustic basses. “PS is a six piece band which ambitiously combines electro-acoustic, contemporary jazz, free improvisation, future-funk, multi-metered groove, punk and electronica”. At least that’s what their publicity blurb says. Best take this with a pinch of salt. What I saw/heard was a highly competent electric jazz ensemble that was engaging, accessible and entertaining. At the risk of sounding like Louis Balfour, “Nice!”
My second favourite band in the festival. Led by bassist Mike Flynn, the J-Sonics served up a feast of Latin funk that the crowd just loved. Every member of this band was remarkable. Chris Caulfield, sporting some great face paint, tore it up on trumpet, Gabor Dornyei laid down some brilliant rhythms, Clement Regert was utterly brilliant on guitar and Grace Rodson provided superlative vocals. Matt Telfer sizzled on sax and Jon Newey (percussion) interplayed beautifully with Dornyei’s drums. The audience were in a party mood and the J-Sonics raised their game. It was a spectacularly good performance. One of the best over the entire weekend and to my mind only equaled by Miles Mosley (see below).
My goodness, another fabulous band! Love Supreme’s selection of acts was just extraordinary. Lakuta are basically an afrobeat collective with Latin, soul and good old fashioned rock influences. Fronted by the terrific Sigi Mwasote, the band picked up where the J-Sonics left off and continued to lead the highly responsive crowd with some great dance beats. Do not miss them if they are in your neck of the woods.
Justin Thurgur’s Afro Jazztet
Another afrobeat jazz band I discovered earlier in the year. I’m not alone as they’ve been getting lots of airplay on Jazz FM. This recognition is much deserved. Justin’s band lays down some great grooves that are infectiously danceable. Not long into the set half the audience in the Jazz-in-the-Round tent were on their feet. Anybody old enough to remember Osibisa may hear some similarities. Justin’s trombone interplayed seamlessly with other frontmen Kishon Khan on keys, Graeme Flowers on trumpet.
Miles Mosley and The West Coast Getdown
Miles and his WCG were for me the most exciting act at the entire festival. Miles’ upright bass playing is quite literally electric and his use of an array of effects pedals including overdrive and wah has earned him the tagline “the Hendrix of bass”. His playing is showy and powerful but he has a lot of other things going for him. He has a handsome persona and is blessed with a great voice -he clearly loves to sing with an almost Tom Jones style. For reasons best known to himself he wears a rearbrace piece of medieval armour on his upper right arm. I’m not arguing. His band comprises a bewildering number of musicians who seem to rotate through the WCG and Kamasi Washington’s ensemble. This includes Kamasi Washington himself. They are all brilliant and have known each other for ages as is evident from their effortless interactions. Cameron Graves on keys was just superb. The set finished with Mosley’s anthemic “Abraham”. A truly world class riff -I heard it being sung for the rest of the festival. Bravo!
Bad Bad Not Good
This Canadian quartet is one of my current favourites on my Spotify playlist and would have made my Standouts list but their live performance suffered from a bad sound mix which resulted in overpowering bass and much too light mid-range frequencies (the same problem afflicted Herbie Hancock). Also Chester Hansen’s hyperactive bass playing resulted in a performance that was a bit unipaced, frenetic and lacking in texture.
Old Jelly Rollers
A wonderfully exuberant trad band from London. They lacked the raw power of some of their electric colleagues but were great fun, nevertheless.
Her first performance was cancelled due to transport issues to the festival and I only managed to catch a brief segment from her second set. It sounded quite lovely. I’ll make sure I catch up with her at another gig in the near future.
Kamasi’s dad was playing with his progeny’s band. His flute playing was stunning and seemed to have improved amazingly since I saw him last year. Indeed, I thought he was in danger of eclipsing his son at one point. Great stuff!