Live review

2022 Cheltenham Jazz Festival – heard in brief

The LJN team’s coverage of the 2022 Cheltenham Jazz Festival has been substantial. Jon Turney, Peter Slavid and photographer John Watson have done a great job.

We have published their reviews of Lucia Cadotsch and Zoe Rahman’s groups, of Shake Stew , Dave Douglas/Joey Baron, Laura Jurd, Iain Ballamy’s Fascinada and Moses Boyd. John Watson’s photography has also been a joyful feature of our coverage, first in a panoramic closing shot of the Gregory Porter/ Paloma Faith concert (all that photographers were permitted to see), and his remarkably atmospheric photo-essay about Denny Ilett’s Electric Lady Big Band.

In this ninth article from the festival (link to the others), Peter Slavid gives some general impressions, and reviews some other gigs in brief:

Byron Wallen, in Zoe Rahman’s Quintet. Photo copyright John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk

The overwhelming feeling at this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival was one of relief. Artists, organisers, volunteers and audience were constantly saying how great it was to be back. Audiences once again felt free to moan about all the things that audiences at jazz festivals always moan about – the seating, the pop stars, the lack of a bar, the volume (see below) and so on – but it was all fairly half-hearted because nobody really cared that much in the midst of actually being back at the festival.

The mini-festival that takes place in the Parabola Arts Centre is where you find some of the more adventurous music and where I spent most of the weekend.

The enjoyable Friday night has been fully reviewed by Jon Turney here, and I was at both those concerts and he captured their quality perfectly.

As well as the artists already reviewed (The Birmingham Conservatoire and Shake Stew), on Saturday I also saw Graham Costello’s Strata for the first time. The band was full of excellent musicians, including the latest piano star from Scotland, Fergus McCreadie, and the highly visual drummer Costello. The billing as mixing jazz with minimalism might cause some concern, but in fact the music was powerful and dramatic throughout.

Nubya Garcia. Photo copyright John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk

Saturday closed with a visit to the Cheltenham Town Hall. It’s never been my favourite venue, and it encourages artists to turn the volume up to eleven and to go a bit over the top. Nubya Garcia with her excellent band – Joe Armon Jones, Daniel Casimir and Sam Jones – couldn’t resist. The quality of the music was excellent, and could have happily stood on its own merits without the excess volume.

My Sunday started with 45 minutes of pure free improvisation. Paul Dunmall (saxes); Liam Noble (piano), John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums) were announced as four of the best free improvisers in the world! They lived up to that billing with a performance that was in turns fierce, lyrical, witty, intricate and altogether absorbing.

Mike Westbrook. Cheltenham 2022. Photo copyright John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk

The final gig on Sunday needed to get 24 people on to the small Cheltenham stage for Mike Westbrook‘s “On Duke’s Birthday”. There really isn’t much to add to the review of the band’s performance earlier in the week at Ronnie Scott’s which clearly faced the same space problems – reviewed here by Patrick Hadfield. Except that it is worth noting that after 25 years of Cheltenham Jazz Festival it turns out that this was – disgracefully – the first time that Mike Westbrook has appeared at the festival. He may be 86 now, and increasingly frail, but lets hope he gets another chance soon!

Peter Slavid broadcasts a programme of European Jazz on mixcloud.com/ukjazz and various internet stations

Leave a Reply