For the musicians of London’s latest jazz resurgence, Cheltenham’s pristine Regency architecture and center-magnificence suburbia are an extended way from domestic. Now in its twenty-third 12 months and having traditionally broken acts consisting of Jamie Cullum and Soweto Kinch into the jazz international, the festival has regularly been in stark comparison to the London scene and areas that include Total Refreshment Centre and Church of Sound, wherein open commonality is key.
For its 2019 version, even though Cheltenham took on a more relaxed form, expanding from the multi-venue United States to taking over the town totally, placing on the whole thing from massive-pinnacle festival headliners to pavement buskers and after-hours sessions, where the new technology made their presence felt. Pianist and manufacturer Alfa Mist, a criminally underrated staple of the London scene, exemplified this. Playing his deft hip-hop-inflected compositions from today’s album Structuralism, he featured trumpeter Johnny Woodham on a sequence of coruscating solos and the stunning vocals of bassist Kaya Thomas-Dyke on the languid Breathe.
In the suddenly atmospheric venue of the low-ceilinged House of Fraser basement, the pageant channeled the DIY ethos of an area like Total Refreshment Centre, web-hosting pianist Joe Armon-Jones for a strangely pensive set. The smaller and quieter crowd gave Armon-Jones the distance to reduce free on the Rhodes, showcasing lightning-fast runs that belied his young age. London organization Vels Trio additionally performed the gap but didn’t move its synth-primarily based grooves into more expansive and engaging motifs.
Trumpeter Yazz Ahmed performed a beautiful set, previewing her forthcoming album Polyhymnia, a homage collection to women at some stage in records. Backed by an 11-piece, normally lady ensemble, Ahmed’s tricky compositions evoked the entirety from a bluesy New Orleans shuffle on Ruby Bridges to crackling percussion and spoken phrases from Malala Yousafzai’s 2013 UN speech on One Girl Among Many.
Pop-leaning acts, including James Morrison and Katie Melua, had pinnacle billing, but highlights came here from extra straightforward jazz names simply under them. Legend-in-the-making Joshua Redman charged via a rowdy trio set, channeling an otherworldly spirit as he writhed around his saxophone, sporadically taking his lips from the mouthpiece to shout in agreement – or frustration – at his solo. Bossa nova hero Sérgio Mendes, in the meantime, charmed with afro-sambas from his Brazil ’66 organization, although the kitsch rap crossovers inspired by way of his 2006 album with the will. I. Am had been much less attractive.
South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim stole the weekend, playing at 84 with the same subtlety and emotional fee earned him collaborations with Duke Ellington in the 60s. Picking each notice so delicately lest the whole composition resolves, he moved a target audience member sitting next to me to tears for the duration.
As the festival closed every night, it spilled into bars and eating places, keeping the jazz lifestyle of late-night jams alive. The most high-quality of those was Saturday night time at Hotel du Vin, where Erykah Badu’s trumpeter Keyon Harrold joined up with Soweto Kinch and Gregory Porter to put nearby track students through their paces and entertain a worse-for-wear 3 am crowd. Porter lent his silky baritone to a bluesy rendition of Morning Time, with Harrold blasting out a piercing solo over the drunken whoops of the punters. Here lies the real pleasure of Cheltenham: locals and pageant-goers seeing world-class musicians play handiest touching distance away, at no cost, while breakfast is being set up for inn visitors.