Love Supreme Jazz Festival
(Glynde Place, East Sussex, 5-7 July 2019. Round-up by Gigi Williams and Liam Gessoff)
Friday – GoGo Penguin
The Mercury prize-winning trio GoGo Penguin consists of Manchester-based musicians Chris Illingworth on piano, Nick Blacka on bass and Rob Turner on drums. Their set was a phenomenal opener for the weekend’s activity. GoGo Penguin’s style is hard to place, with perhaps the only comparable ensemble on the scene today being fellow Mercury prize-nominated band Portico Quartet, and varied descriptors ranging from acoustica-electronica to minimalist-jazz.
The audience was immediately hushed by Illingworth’s solemn solo playing. The gradual addition of Blacka’s bowed double bass playing, with varied pressure to produce evolving harmonics, and mallet-rolled cymbal playing from Turner presented a central theme for later in the set: the exploration of wide timbral possibilities within a cyclical framework.
The grooves set up by the three musicians somehow managed to be both complex and ‘boppable’ at the same time; these two characteristics were perfectly balanced to suit almost every listener there. This is due to the bipartite demographic of attendees of this festival: analytically-minded musicians and dance-orientated fans.
Such moments were anticipated by band members: the musicians displayed total togetherness and instinctive compatibility in their playing, both in rhythmic minutiae and large-scale charts of energy and tension.
The effect of the music was enhanced by the attention that was clearly played to the visual aspects of the performance. The striking use of the grand piano with full-lid and exposed strings to allow for hands-on string manipulation was intensified by the dramatic spotlighting that obscures the musician’s faces – the anonymity contributed to the trance-like effect of the music. As the sun set outside the Big Top, the harsh spotlighting softened and warmed to herald in the weekend’s music-making. Even a spilt drink from a fellow festival-goer couldn’t dampen our spirits at this initial peak to Love Supreme.
Saturday – Maisha
This set from the South London based nu-jazz band Maisha drew an impressive crowd considering their slot: not quite in the day or evening, and having to compete with Chick Corea are two factors that didn’t seem to have any effect on the large crowd they drew in.
Their sound is expansive yet distinct, demonstrating the eclectic influences on band leader Jake Long’s writing. Their set hinted at everything from afro-beat to Pharoah Sanders, blending seamlessly from one song into the next.
The group performed a set that displayed how well these musicians can play together. It was clear that Long, on drums, and keyboard player Amané Suganami were so in tune with each other’s playing it was impossible to not fall into a trance watching them.
A special shoutout must go to guitarist Shirley Tetteh, who captivated the crowd with a soaring and classy extended solo.
Sunday – Ms Lauryn Hill
Ms Lauryn Hill is somewhat of a living legend – often cited alongside Erykah Badu as a harbinger of the Neo Soul movement. It’s an impressive booking from the festival, however rumours surrounding Ms Lauryn Hill’s recent performances suggested she was perhaps not living up to her impressive legacy.
This was not the case for Sunday night however. Had we not been camped out at the front of the main stage, it would have been impossible to get anywhere near the stage. The gig certainly comes at a significant moment in the singer’s career, marking the 20th anniversary of her monumental album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. This was reflected in the demographic of her crowd which spanned the under 10s to the over 50s.
Hill’s sultry yet powerful vocals packed a punch, and her band was clearly made up of some of the best players in the game, including some of the tightest backing vocals we have ever heard. Ms Lauryn Hill’s performance was slicker-than-slick. Each song flowed seamlessly into the next, coupled with politically charged images broadcast onto the screen accompanying Hill’s message-centric lyrics.
HIghlights are difficult to pick out, but crowd pleasers included a high octane rendition of her smash hit (Do Wop) That Thing, as well as references to her past role as lead vocalist in the band The Fugees, performing a touching solo rendition of Killing Me Sofly. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to end what was a weekend of incredible music.
Categories: Live review