Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017 review

Bringing an exciting mix of musicians to town, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017 proved once again why this annual event is such a popular musical showcase, and SoGlos had to pleasure to catch some of the impressive performances live in action.

One of Gloucestershire’s most-anticipated events, Cheltenham Jazz Festival transformed the town into a buzzing musical hub as stars from the world of jazz descended for six days of diverse and impressive music.

The popular annual event returned to Cheltenham from Wednesday 26 April to Monday 1 May 2017, and saw the likes of Will Young, Laura Mvula, and Mica Paris take to the stage, along with a host of free events as part of its popular …around town programme.

SoGlos was lucky enough to go witness some amazing events at this year’s Jazz Festival, including BBC Music Introducing Presents…, Friday Night Is Music Night, and Gregory Porter’s much-anticipated show.

BBC Music Introducing Presents…

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Part of the Jazz Festival’s free …around town programme, BBC Music Introducing Presents was certainly an exciting way to kick off the 2017 event in style, with up-and-coming artists taking to the stage in the unique setting of St Paul’s Church.

Presented by BBC Radio 2’s Jo Wiley, the intimate evening showcased rising stars in the world of jazz that had been selected by the festival’s artistic curator, Jamie Cullum, from a raft of performers who had uploaded their tracks to the ‘BBC Introducing’ platform.

Designed to shine the light on undiscovered and unsigned talent, the first act to take to the mic was Izzie Anson, a 16-year-old from Plymouth who was performing her first ever gig, with her proud family watching from the front row.

Accompanied by a trio on drums, guitar and bass, her powerful voice captivated the audience from the first note and although she showed signs of a few nerves, she sang her heart out as she belted out three of her own tracks, along with her take on a Norah Jones tune and Andy Williams’ ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.

Next up was Maya Law, an 18-year-old from Norwich who takes inspiration from Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill. Her unique style features tempo-changing structures and her lyrics feature political messages and plenty of honest, raw emotion.

Her style had an edgier feel to it compared with Izzie’s more traditional jazz sound and it was interesting to see just how contrasting the genre can be. For the final tracks, Maya was joined by Allergy Kid, who she collaborated with to produce their EP, ‘Her Or Him’, and offered the chance to hear her rich voice combined with chilled electro vibes.

The final act to hit the stage was Darwish, a five-piece band fronted by David Abramov, a London-based DJ, producer and multi-instrumentalist, whose unique sound is characterised by psychedelic, progressive trance and world music.

While the unusual combination of vocals, sax, drums and guitars wasn’t particularly to my taste, it was interesting to see such different artists showcase their talents to an entirely new audience.

By Anna Marshall

Friday Night is Music Night

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Hitting the Radio 2 airwaves live from the Jazz Festival, Friday Night is Music Night filled the Big Top canvas with the smooth sounds of soul on a warm spring evening – with music fans from around the globe tuning in to hear the exquisite concert being broadcast from Cheltenham on the world’s longest-running live orchestral radio programme.

Energetically and expertly conducted by composer Guy Barker and narrated by television actor Ray Fearon, the Rhythm and Blues + Jazz = Soul concert celebrated the story of soul – from its gospel and rhythm and blues roots through to its Motown legacy.

A punctual Cheltenham audience were seated and sipped rhubarb cider and G&Ts, while the 60-piece BBC Concert Orchestra and the Guy Barker Big Band musicians filled the stage – delivering an impressive sight, as well as faultless instrumentals. But, it was the incredibly talented vocalists that truly stole the show.

Vanessa Haynes’ heartfelt renditions of greats including Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Ross were simply outstanding – with her rousing ‘Sisters Are Doing it for Themselves’ striking a particularly powerful chord; while many a female audience member swooned for the dashing Shaun Escoffery, who channelled Al Green and Ray Charles with nostalgic charm.

Tony Momrelle’s honey-streaked harmonies and clear gospel heritage, meanwhile, were a real treat – delivering bluesy ballads from the likes of Percy Mayfield and tackling legendary tracks from Otis Reading; while Noel McKoy, dressed in a dapper leopard-print suit and bowtie, delivered beautifully lively performances from Jackie Wilson’s ‘Reet Petite’ to James Brown’s ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’, with effortless ease.

To say Friday Night is Music Night has become a Cheltenham Jazz Festival highlight is a bit of an understatement, with tickets quickly being snapped-up for the signature event every year, and 2017’s sell-out concert proving no exception. The fact that SoGlos was the official sponsor of this epic event made it all the more special.

By Michelle Fyrne

Gregory Porter

Combining soulful vocals and a gifted band, the eagerly-anticipated closing performance by Gregory Porter was arguable the biggest highlight of Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

Returning to the festival and paying homage to his journey into one of the best-received jazz singers of modern times, Gregory Porter opened the show with ‘Holding On’ from his album Take Me To The Alley, which seamlessly led into a more upbeat song providing some serious foot-tapping rhythm.

As a self-confessed jazz novice, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but having said that, regardless of whether I knew the words or the song, I still found myself enraptured, proving just how infectious Gregory’s on-stage presence is.

With vocals of real depth and each member of the talented band taking their moment to provide some incredible solos in true jazz style, each performance was bursting with charisma and I couldn’t help but dance along in my seat.

A true showman, Porter provided stunning vocals, a coarseness and power to his voice which rippled around the venue complete with masses of soul and personality that was very well received by an audience of all ages.

A personal highlight was a truly atmospheric performance of Gregory’s Liquid Spirit from his most recent album. With a saxophonist of the highest ability, the audience were encouraged to clap along with many dancing and singing too.

Making a humbling tribute of his journey to admirable musical success, Gregory Porter closed the show, thanking the Jazz Festival for their vital part in his rise to fame.

By Sophie Bird

© SoGlos
Friday 05 May 2017

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