Marking its 20th anniversary, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival celebrated this year in style, with a host of big names and rising talent entertaining crowds in the Regency town, from Wednesday 27 April to Monday 2 May 2016.
A definitive highlight on the Gloucestershire calendar, the festival spread across the whole of the town, with local, up-an-coming acts performing at street stages, public parks, as well as pubs and restaurants, while Montpellier Gardens took centre stage, with the arrival of the iconic Big Top marking the start of a sensational summer of festivals.
While SoGlos aimed to embrace the music and hit as many events as possible, there were just too many to count, with something going on for everyone, with children’s activities, fascinating talks, house parties, beer tents, food events and of course, plenty of live music.
Kicking off the long bank holiday weekend, SoGlos celebrated with a show honouring the music of legendary producer Quincy Jones, with a drink in the Bottlegreen garden bar, before world-class performances by the BBC Orchestra, Guy Barker Big Band and vocals from Liv Warfield, Madeline Bell, Ian Shaw and Tony Momrelle.
Celebrating individual and group performances, the evening culminated in a Michael Jackson medley which saw audiences busting out their best Jackson moves before a number of encores to finish off the night.
Taking place over at Jazz Arena, was Quincy Jones’ own prodigy, Jacob Collier, whose mesmerising one-man performance saw the multi-instrumental wizard marry classical jazz with contemporary sounds, including a performance of his well-known arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Don’t You Worry About a Thing’.
An annual highlight time and again, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival is a truly spectacular musical celebration, uniting visitors of all ages.
Next on the must-see list was a rare gig from soul singer, Beverley Knight, at the Big Top, who was making an emotional and anticipated return to the live music scene after a four-year absence.
Delivering a show-stopping performance, the queen of soul belted out a fantastic mix of classics and soon-to-be hits; a performance of her newest song, ‘Middle of Love’; a poignant rendition of ‘Switch on your Radio’ by the late Maurice White; before getting everyone up off their seats and dancing along to ‘Gold’.
Boasting a performance that had me singing all the way home, Beverley Knight made a welcome return to the music scene and was a definite highlight of the week.
Meanwhile, over at the stylish Cheltenham restaurant, No. 131, SoGlos was enjoying the Ultimate House Party, with the likes of BBC’s Jo Wiley, Guy Garvey and Trevor Nelson on the decks; local boys, Thrill Collins, providing some live music; while Nespresso’s delicious martinis had partygoers dancing until all hours.
Ending the festival on a high, the Big Top was bursting with eager music fans, ready to catch the jazz extraordinaire, Jamie Cullum, who was supported by the smooth sounds of Nashville-based Kandace Springs, who performed a number of songs touching on soul, jazz and pop from her debut album, Soul Eyes.
Audiences were well and truly warmed up before the festival’s artistic curator, Jamie Cullum, made a grand entrance to rapturous applause, before performing an impressive set of seemingly improvised yet carefully constructed songs.
Ever the frontman, Jamie Cullum delighted audience members by jumping off his Yamaha grand piano; walking into the crowds and singing to audience members; and even providing some beatboxing while plucking away at the piano strings.
Demonstrating impressive multitasking skills, Jamie’s impressive band swapped between instruments almost effortlessly, with Loz Garratt on bass and vocals, Brad Webb on percussion, Tom Richards on keyboard, percussion and saxophone, and Rory Simmons on guitar, trumpet and percussion while looping sounds too.
Catering for all music-lovers, Jamie performed a jazzed-up mashup of Kanye West’s ‘Gold Digger’ and Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like Its Hot’, before a fantastic rendition of Rihanna’s ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’, which felt especially relevant on the festival’s last night.
With little persuasion, audiences were up on their feet and clamouring to get nearer to the front for the last few songs, with Jamie ending the festival with his greatest hits, ‘Pure Imagination’ and ‘I’m All Over It’, before the festival was in fact, all over, at least for another year.
An annual highlight time and again, the Cheltenham Jazz Festival is a truly spectacular musical celebration, uniting visitors of all ages and even inspiring guests to pick up a new instrument. Who knows, maybe they’ll be performing at next year’s event?
By Alice Lloyd
Thursday 05 May 2016
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