REVIEW: Saturday at 2016 Love Supreme Festival (Ibrahim Maalouf, Grace Jones, Lianne La Havas, Maria Chiara Argirò…)

Ibrahim Maalouf. Photo credit John L. Walters

Love Supreme Festival 2016 – Saturday
(Glynde, E Sussex, 2nd July 2016. Review by John L. Walters)

When JazzFM’s Love Supreme was first launched in 2013, we were told that the new festival had enough financial support to run for three years. Now on its fourth year, Love Supreme already seems like a dependable fixture, an institution. At a time of discord, its cheerily inclusive ‘we love you guys’ vibe is welcome rather than twee.

The festival, whose performers range from serious jazz artists to hit-delivering pop stars, has to tick a number of boxes. It has to sell sufficient tickets; to present a range of good music; to create musical coherence; and to have a bit of Snarky Puppy somewhere in the mix. Most importantly, it has to be lucky with the weather.

Trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf was the quintessential Love Supreme artist: credible, charismatic and crowd-pleasing, with a fine band that included a ferociously skilled rhythm section, who at one point switched (with their leader) to thunderous ensemble drumming, and a three-man trumpet chorale that came on and off stage.

In much the way Ed Motta has reinvigorated jazz-rock with Brazilian makeover, Maalouf has taken on rock-jazz (or rocky prog jazz) and invested it with both dignity and spice. Odd time signatures, spiralling melodies and dub reggae breakouts sound better with a middle-Eastern twist. His own playing can be both heroic and highly moving – he’s a star.

In a revealing chat with Jez Nelson, broadcast later on JazzFM, Maalouf explained the musical significance of his trumpeter father (Nassim Maalouf) and gave a literally vocal demonstration of the ways singing styles can inform different idioms of trumpet playing: classical, jazz and Arabic.

John Scofield. Photo credit: Albert Opalko

There were three principal playing areas: the poppy Main Stage (Average White Band, Kelis), whose audience was open to the elements; the ‘credible’ Big Top (with ‘international jazz festival’ acts such as Scofield Mehldau Giuliana and the superb Cécile McLorin Salvant); and the ‘wild card’ Arena (Moon Hooch, The Milk).

. Lianne La Havas. Photo credit John L. Walters

Commanding the huge Main Stage, where artists can seem like tiny puppets and there are no Glastonbury-style video screens to create intimacy, is not easy. Lianne La Havas swung it with charm and a bundle of catchy songs; Grace Jones nailed it with awesome theatricality, costume changes and a back catalogue of solid gold 80s hits, reproduced virtually note for note. Maalouf got it right it with musicianship and originality, and great tunes such as Free Spirit and Red and Black Light.
Grace Jones. Photo credit: John L. Walters

The Bandstand, a fourth stage at the edge of the site near the camping area, served as the jazz conscience of Love Supreme, with an carefully chosen line-up of lesser known but musicianly acts on its tiny stage, including the Mike Hobart Quintet, the Headhunters-influenced Vels Trio and the Maria Chiara Argirò Quintet.

Maria Chiara Argirò. Photo credit John L. Walters

Argirò’s band defied the chilly Saturday evening air to play a powerful set of originals, including Dream R, Every Now And Then and Fall Dance. It was so windy they had to fix written parts to music stands with clothes pegs, but Argirò’s young sidemen interpreted her carefully wrought compositions with confidence and grace. Argirò, an Italian musician who has lived in London for seven years, is a serious contender for bigger festival stages. Her debut album is due in November.

As for the all-important smidgeon of Snarky Puppy, that came via a screening of Family Dinner Part 2 in the Verve Jazz Lounge, and during the set of one of Sunday’s artists, of which more tomorrow.

LINKS: We published three other reviews of Love Supreme 2016

Dan Bergsagel’s review of Saturday
– Dan Bergsagel’s review of Sunday 
John L. Walters’ review of Sunday

Categories: miscellaneous

4 replies »

  1. Yes, another great LSF combining the benefits of international artists and top British artists showing the best of contemporary jazz. There isn't another one site festival like it in the UK. The mix of pop and jazz is a good business plan to ensure that the jazz is financially viable. And the Bandstand has holds up the standard including some Loose Tubes veterans, Simon Spillet, etc. and showcases many new generation acts. This year it even had a very large jazz orchestra (Terry Packs Trees). My only criticism of this great event is that the sound quality is poor. Take good ear plugs and don't be surprised when the bass drowns out the horns. Maybe the sound engineers spend too much time producing rock.

  2. Yes – well-observed Steve Lawless! Mehldau suffered grievously from several bouts of feedback whilst the engineer (sadly-lacking IQ rather than EQ) on the sound-desk, tried to up the acoustic c-ducer pick-up on the piano to compete with the unnecessary levels of the direct signal bass/bass synth/guitar/fender rhodes levels, rather than the OTHER way round ….as per a jazz-experienced sound tech would do.

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