FESTIVAL ROUND-UP: Love Supreme 2015

Laura Jurd of Blue-Eyed Hawk
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

Love Supreme Festival 2015
(Glynde, E. Sussex, 3-5 July 2015. Festival Round-Up by Daniel Bergsagel)

Daniel’s round-up of the third Love Supreme festival, where attendance numbers were significantly up from last year’s 15,000, takes its cue from the four track titles of the original Love Supreme album…

Part I – Acknowledgement

While political yellow might have been rejected by the people of Glynde in May, the neon yellow sign of Love Supreme was welcomed into the grounds of Glynde Place again for the weekend 3-5th July 2015. For its third outing Love Supreme returned as an intimate and diverse festival promoting the future of jazz as well as its elder statesmen – in both its performers and its fans.

As with previous years the Jazz Festival title is worn loosely, with the Friday night warm-up entertainment featuring grassroots dub, hip hop, latin and funk crossover talent from the area. Cambridge-originating Brass Funkeys energised the crowd with their original brass compositions on the Arena stage following acts from both termini of the London-Brighton commuter service. This supportive local programming nurtures a warm attitude, with musician’s who’d previously held the stage regularly spotted spending the rest of the weekend amongst the crowds enjoying the performances of others. The incongruity of a middle-aged man emerging from a tent bleary-eyed on a Saturday morning, donning a rumpled suit and adjusting his tie amongst of a backdrop of flip flops and shirtless backs is explained only as he gathers an instrument and heads for the stages to take his shift in the sharply dressed limelight.

Joshua Redman and Reid Anderson
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman launched proceedings in the Big Top on Saturday at midday, the egalitarian trio playing works composed for their recent album featuring their temporary fourth member on saxophone. For a tightly knit and powerful trio like the Bad Plus to record and tour as a quartet may surprise, but the results were fascinating. At times Redman slipped into the rhythmic line up, ghosting Ethan Iverson’s piano or Reid Anderson’s bass, but at others he took centre stage: improvising with gusto over what must be one of the more atmospheric and intense back lines in contemporary jazz. The Bad Plus’ early morning energy and humour was well matched by Young Pilgrims strong brass chords and swagger in the Arena, followed closely by the Elliot Galvin Trio. With his array of intriguing instruments (children’s xylophones, accordians and melodicas amongst them), Galvin produced the sort of intensity and deconstructivism the Bad Plus made their name with, playing eerie children’s nursery songs and brooding pulsing covers of Mack the Knife.

Blue Eyed Hawk saw Fraud-esque guitar crashes combine with Laura Jurd squealed trumpet flourishes to form the backdrop for Lauren Kinsella’s exciting experimental vocals, with a particularly new take on Somewhere over the Rainbow. Partisans continued to produce fast-paced energetic chord changes with guitar shredding and Sourpuss’sharp stop finish.

With a seam of contemporary improvisational jazz established, the rest of Saturday afternoon continued to broaden Friday evening’s horizons. Omar returned after last year’s success as part of the soul train on the main stage, and was followed by the crowd-enthralling musings and identity changes of Neneh Cherry, torn between a proud singer in her sixth decade in the music industry, and an energetic sparky rapper. She discussed Ornette Coleman, grandchildren and life’s overwhelming bullshit, accompanied on stage by slick euro-synth and drum duo RocketNumberNine. Catalonia’s Andrea Motis and Joan Chamorro played out Jobim-tinged tunes as beautifully-voiced Andrea swapped vocals for trumpet and duetted with her charismatic mentor Joan, the notes crackling with chemistry.

Bill Laurance
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Like Omar, Bill Laurance again returned after appearances in the first two years, but this time under his own name instead of as a cog in the unstoppable machine that is Snarky Puppy. After performing pieces from his own compositions with the collective on the main stage this year the biting horns and army of synth were replaced by the more restrained Westside Trio strings and a haunting French horn. A more introspective project then Snarky Puppy’s – swapping raw excitement for cinematic sweeps – like Snarky Puppy Laurance’s project is still driven by cool bass. With Rebecca Ferguson entertaining a picnic blanket sprawl soaking up sun in front of the main stage with her big voice and bigger live backing band, Get the Blessing supplied some antidote rock roughage bringing medieval torture inspired music, this year representing for musical compatriots like Polar Bear and Melt Yourself Down who this year were absent from the line-up.

Part II – Resolution

Jason Moran
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Two American Blue Note artists, Jason Moran and Ambrose Akinmusire helped close on Saturday evening, Moran with his transformative Fats Waller head (an oversized mask of the late great pianist, complete with dangling cigarette) competing for and audience, perhaps unfairly, with the main stage headliner. But it was Akinmusire’s virtuoso trumpet and snaking compositions which blew away cobwebs, opening his set with twenty minutes of blistering post-bop, only to contrast it with a tender ballad full of pauses and note-bending magic. Like many of the instrumental contributors to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly like Kamasi Washington, Akinmusire is certainly one to watch. Mercury nominated and recent Blue Note artists from the UK GoGo Penguin filled their tent playing woven electronic jazz which could perhaps be drawn somewhere on the intensity spectrum with Elliot Galvin Trio and The Bad Plus earlier in the day.

The real commercial draw of the festival continues to be with soul and funk vocalists, evidenced by Larry Graham and Graham Central Station’s storytelling set covering their musical inspirations with live short song samples. As is suitable for funk royalty, his own Sly and the Family Stone featured alongside P-Funk and up-paced soul from James Brown and a crowd-pleasing version of Peebles’ I Can’t Stand the Rain. This should have left a main stage ready to move their bodies for Chaka Khan, however the funk more or less left the stage with Larry Graham. Propped up by strong backing singers and an enthusiastic sound man, Sweet Thing and What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me kept things moving as Ain’t Nobody was the finisher the collected were waiting for. But Chaka lacked the good nature or excitement shown by other acts, and the dancing (promised by the compère in an attempt to get people to finally fold up their deck chairs) never quite came. Dianne Reeves (INTERVIEWED AHEAD OF THIS FESTIVAL) in particular showed her up with her delight to be singing and scatting in the English countryside for the first time. Much as Andrea Motis paid homage to Love Supreme’s host country with her Amy Winehouse cover, Reeves’ adaptation of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams was an appreciative and modest nod to the audience she was here to entertain.

Dianne Reeves
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

Part III – Pursuance

 Following some cleansing morning rain, the challenges of a pre-noon slot on Sunday were apparent as Christine Tobin and the Hackney Colliery Band looked to rouse people from their tents. The brass band’s morning sound check of Fela Kuti and The Specials tempting a crowd to the main stage for a set heavy with original pieces from their new album, It’s Normally Bigger in particular exploring exciting ground. With atmosphere still tricky to generate in the open air, Joe Stilgoe fared better in the Big Top – his comfortable stage patter and light humour bringing to mind American stage maestros like Curtis Stigers from previous festivals. Accompanied ably by Empirical’s Tom Farmer on bass, he whipped through standards and original compositions about first kisses and expectant baby wishes. Ball of energy Dylan Howe and North London friends Ross Stanley and James Allsop put together a show of atmospheric free jazz under the time-travelling projection of German film footage illustrating Bowie’s Berlin.

The afternoon sessions were full of new acts breaking through, with Theo Croker bristling with talent and ideas and with an incredibly accomplished group DVRK FUNK with him. Stretching from wah-wah tributes to a South African legend withBo Masekela to closing out the set with snippets of Lowrider, Croker demonstrated that he justifies the high praise he has received. Taylor McFerrin and Shiver brought very studio friendly approaches to the stage, McFerrin effectively running a nightclub DJ set with guest live drummer and occasional vocalists, while Shiver had a small army of guest instrumentals trooping on and off stage for each track.

Gilles Peterson favourites Hiatus Kaiyote entertained an adoring young crowd hanging on Nai Palm’s every word at the Main Stage. With inspirations covering MC Escher, Japanese cinema and Saharan music strong grooves and stronger vocals have hit the zeitgeist, with hints of Dirty Projectors-esque quirks slipping into accessible danceable neo-soul. Ibibio Sound Machine’s headline slot in the Arena closed the new guns performances with hyperactive percussion and big beats ranging from raw funk to layered highlife and Afro-beat. A brass line equally comfortable playing their horn or electronica (or, at, times both at once) supported the mesmerising Eno Williams dancing and singing with the sort of abandon you’d hope every performer could muster.

Part IV – Psalm

Ginger Baker
Photo Credit: Roger Thomas

With so much promise for the future, the festival was left to be closed by a strong array of the established. Lisa Stansfield and Candi Staton brought more nostalgic funk and soul to the army of deck chair-seated picnickers on the main lawn as a wise old Ginger Baker led his Jazz Confusion and regaled his audience with stories of glamour from Birmingham Town Hall in 1969. As he closed his set it seems that Baker’s ‘Confusion’ is the diversity and inclusion that Love Supreme has so embraced: a slow blues followed by a vibrant Yoruba folk song. Still with plenty of energy in his arms, he drove on fellow on-stage percussionist to rhythmic heights.

Terence Blanchard E-Collective allowed the film-composition king to explore his less jazzy impulses with a grooving rocky backline for him to play over before the Sunday headliner Van Morrison took to the main stage. Not as talkative as some, he soothed an enormous crowd with his blues and folk, reassuring as ever with his unique voice and backing organ. Moondance appeared early in the set to bring people into a dancing mood (although the perfection of the recorded version’s solo wasn’t even attempted), and he left the stage to a happy audience singing Gloria with him.

Hugh Masekela
Photo credit: Roger Thomas

But it was Hugh Masekela’s earlier performance in the Big Top that truly shone. Many bands toiled to engage a fluid festival audience to stay, interact and dance. Masekela just needed to play and talk, his charisma rooting the crowd to stay with him until the moment he left the stage. An immensely likeable performer, after asking the audience “Is that enough?” and receiving a resounding “No!” he chides a tent full of fans: “Why are you so greedy? Why are you so pushy? Why are you so beautiful?” His performance of the morality questioning Stimela brought the crowd to its emotional knees, with him barely needing to lift his flugelhorn, before replacing Fela Kuti’s entire brass ensemble himself on Lady. Masekela even closed by bettering Ginger Baker’s previous history trip by one year with Grazing in the Grass, first released in 1968.

After last year’s expansion of the festival to five stages, this year saw it return to its previous smaller format. At times the missing stage showed, with the occasional pause in the schedule which saw an entire festival crowd roving to find the only performance on at that time. The pared back line-up was perhaps an indication of Love Supreme beginning to settle on a stable size for the future, or perhaps a response to mild criticism from the previous year that noise bleed between venues was affecting gigs. The relocation of the Verdict Jazz club run Bandstand from between the main stage and the arena to a more secluded location as a musical enclave surrounded by food stalls was certainly of benefit to the audience numbers of local artists performing there.

With tweaks still being made and early history still being written, the third year of Love Supreme was certainly another success story. Here’s to hoping this wasn’t the third instalment of a trilogy, but a festival which is settling in for many series and re-runs to come.

Love Supreme Festival

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. Third year and the music it gets better and better! Jazz Lounge was a fabulous touch! Bandstand new site perfect whilst queuing for food…the nearly all girl band were amazing! Chaka Khan brilliant. Rebecca Ferguson a nice surprise. Friendly and safe diverse crowd. Loved it.

  2. Third year for me too. Lots of good music and avoidable soul if you went for the jazz

    The find of the festival for me was Theo Croker's DVRK FUNK – truly an all star band

    Good to see Van the Man at his very best, old favourites inc Sonny Boy – just like my first Van gig (Knebworth '74)

    I'm voting for Santana as next years headliner

    P.s. Great photos

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