Love Supreme Festival
(Glynde Place. 30 June- 2 July 2023. Round-Up by Evie Hill)
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Evie Hill writes: Love Supreme is my favourite jazz festival. This year was my sixth time returning to its grassy arena, and once again I did not come away disappointed. My expectations of the festival are always of warmth, excitement, and musical virtuosity, which were all easily met this festival season (except for the warmth part – it did briefly rain for the first time ever). There was an amazing atmosphere this year, and a stellar lineup of artists ready to be heard.
Love Supreme’s brilliance is in its diverse programme, which ranges across the three-day weekend. The festival caters for young and old, popular and avant-garde, weird and wonderful – it’s this diversity which keeps audiences returning, bringing people together, and allows different listeners to discover new music. The reason I buy tickets for this festival before the lineup is even announced is because I know I’m going to love whoever Love Supreme introduces me to each year.
Here’s my personal roundup, a selection of four acts I really enjoyed at Love Supreme 2023:
As the Saturday headliner and the artist creating a buzz around the festival, North London born rapper Little Simz had a lot to live up to this year. Luckily, she’s not one to disappoint an energised audience, and as this was one of her first performances of the summer festival season, her excitement and gratitude to be performing for us shone through.
She held the stage solo for the first half of the set, gassing up the audience until she had us in her pocket. The atmosphere was electric, especially as the audience began to sing along to the choruses of her songs louder and louder. There were moments of gritty defiance on ‘Gorilla’ and ‘Venom’, alongside more vulnerable and provoking moments on ‘Angel’ and ‘Broken’.
The set was a triumphant expression of Simz’s victory over struggle, including her own personal battles with the industry. This culminated in the most joyous rendition of ‘Woman’ I’ve ever heard, with the entire crowd celebrating each other and Simz through this song.
Moving on to a more classic jazz choice, Jazzmeia Horn and her New York quartet performed an incredible set in the Supreme Standards tent. Unapologetic and daring, Horn is known for her modern arrangements of standards and fiery scat solos. This performance was no different – with the hardest swing I heard all festival, she and her band let rip on tunes such as ‘When I Say’ and ‘Tight’.
Something I have always admired about Horn is her ability to truly liberate herself from fear when performing, and this was palpable during her set. Her song ‘Free Your Mind’ is not just a lyric, but in fact a manifesto for life, which she embodies through all of her performances. Her range – both vocally and stylistically – was amazing to witness, and was truly showcased during the solos in this set.
I had to include an artist who may be lesser known, but who continues to prove her artistry as she continues to grow in the UK jazz scene. Leeds saxophonist Jasmine Myra performed the perfect daytime set at the festival this year, easing us into the day with a beautifully orchestral hour of music. With two flautists, a harpist, drums, keys, double bass, electric guitar, and of course the saxophone, Myra’s 8-piece band created a sense of peace in the tent which brought me to tears. Melodically, Myra’s music is easy to follow, but the arrangements and solos elevate the songwriting to a new level. The combination of electric
guitar, flute and harp created a lushness that no other act at the festival could compare to.
The set felt like a serene and healing experience, which Myra herself confirmed when talking about the music’s context as lockdown compositions. Her newest album ‘Horizons’ was created to help others find the strength to face whatever challenges they’re afraid of, and comes from a personally vulnerable place.
Sultan Stevenson’s quartet must be the honourable mention of this 2023 roundup. Playing under the Jazz in the Round programme on Friday night, the quartet’s late night jazz set was the perfect way to open the festival. With Josh Short on trumpet/flugel, Joel Waters on drums, Jacob Gryn on double bass and Sultan Stevenson on piano, the set was dynamic and experimental, whilst sitting within a tightly controlled groove that had the audience locked in. The set featured original music written by Stevenson, with every arrangement feeling cohesive yet distinctive. Stevenson’s debut album ‘Faithful One’ has recently been released, and the title track alongside ‘Prayer’ were truly special to hear in this live setting. If these emerging artists are the future of the London jazz scene, it’s in very safe hands.