Jazz FM’s Love Supreme Festival returned for a third triumphant year this weekend, and as a reveller at all three I’m bold enough to declare it just keeps getting bigger and better. Former lineups have featured Gregory Porter, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers and De la Soul so expectation was running high. There was no need for apprehension though; this was another magnificent event.
The boutique greenfield festival, set in the idyllic grounds of Glynde Place in East Sussex and surrounded by the glorious Downs, takes place over three days. The bill is impressively diverse with over fifty jazz, funk, soul, blues and fusion acts. Big name veterans such as Chaka Khan and Van Morrison nestle snugly alongside lesser known but highly credible artists, like locals Partisans and Sub Motion Orchestra giving it an incomparable edge.
Friday night kicked off with Jazz FM’s Funky Sensation party. DJs including Chris Philips and Jeff Young served up vintage grooves for the happy campers / glampers but the main event started early doors on Saturday with Rag’n’Bone Man and The Bad Plus with acclaimed saxophonist Joshua Redman.
The sun shone fiercely for illustrious British singer, songwriter and musician Omar, joined by Stuart Zender of former Jamiroquai fame. His set aptly included a cover of Roy Ayers’ Everybody Loves The Sunshine and There’s Nothing Like This which time cannot erode. Neneh Cherry whipped the crowd into a frenzy with duo RocketNumberNine and remains firmly counter-culture. Owning the stage in her Adidas Gazelles, she thrilled with tracks from her Four Tet- produced album Neneh Cherry Blank Project as well as giving us what deep down we all wanted, some ’90s hip-hop nostalgia in the form of Buffalo Stance.
Bill Laurance Project saw Laurance break away from Snarky Puppy and hold his own in the Big Top featuring Richard Spaven on drums and Rebecca Ferguson was joined by Femi Temowo, renowned jazz-guitarist, producer and broadcaster to sing the blues.
One of the major highlights was Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, who gave a dynamic performance on the Main Stage. Graham, the bass player with Sly and the Family Stone, wooed the hordes with his distinctively deep vocals and famed slap bass guitar. Supported by exceptional backing singers including Ashling ‘Biscuit’ Cole, the set ended with 1999, a nod to Graham and Prince’s collaborations and a triumphant exit joined by Young Pilgrims. This is the beauty of Love Supreme, you think you won’t know the artist well and then BOOM, you’re fully immersed in the magic and vowing to seek out their back catalogue the minute you get home. Chaka Khan closed the Main Stage with typical oomph as the sun went down on a victorious first day.
Jarrod Lawson, (winner of Soul Artist of the Year at the recent Jazz FM awards), established an immediate rapport with the excited crowd thanks to his smooth tenor voice and undeniable talent. The performance was nothing short of sensational. Tahirah Memory joined Lawson on the duet All The Time, which stunned the crowd into an awed hush, and All That Surrounds, a stand-out track from the self-titled debut album was note perfect.
Melbournians Hiatus Kiayote merge poetry and polyrhythms to create a unique sound. Led by the formidable Nai Palm with her rich, soulful vocals, the band played tracks from their highly anticipated sophomore album Choose Your Weapon, proving why Erykah Badu and Pharrell Williams have gone out of their way to promote their sounds.
For those who like some sides with their main festival meal, Love Supreme offers versatility – you can hear the abstract sounds of Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion wafting from The Big Top as you enjoy a cold beer, stumble across a record shop selling old jazz and folk LPs or acquire some cool books and vintage clothes. You can even let your Young Hearts run free with Candi Staton on the Main Stage (with son Marcus Williams on drums), take in a film screening in The Jazz Lounge or gather around The Bandstand to hear emerging talent.
The sumptuous music menu leads to inevitable act-clash though, and some tough decisions must be made; evoking jazz envy when you hear how Theo Croker – the 29-year-old trumpeter and bandleader and grandson of Doc Cheatham – went down a storm. The Terence Blanchard E-Collective played a lifting and sample-filled set, edged with hip-hop and funk, to a receptive crowd with the multiple-award winning New Orleans trumpeter playing with his new band and seeming in his prime.
Dappled sunlight poured through the Big Top and illuminated the backs of people’s nodding heads as I squeezed in to experience the sounds of living legend Hugh Maskela. It was a moving, uplifting and vibrant performance as he sang in Zulu and spoke of South Africa’s struggle for civil rights. Maskela wanted us to go on tour with him such was our appreciation, and we would have happily obliged right there and then if we could.
Before we knew it, it was time for Van Morrison to close the curtain on the weekend. He gave an assured performance, peppered with tracks including Gloria and Brown Eyed Girl that left me with a sense of nostalgia, even though I can’t claim to be there the first time around. Still, having observed the multi-age crowd over the weekend that included head-nodding children, I realised that the power of great music is that it transcends time and place.
Van the Man bowed out gracefully and the crowd dispersed, but those in search of the next party ambled over to Blue in Green; Jazz FM’s little hole-in-the-wall bar set in the woods where Brighton’s Soul Casserole played to an appreciative crowd, dropping funky original tracks from Herb Alpert and Vaughan Mason and Crew. As we reluctantly made our way to the exit I accepted with a heavy, soul-filled heart it was all over for another year.
Love Supreme is smart enough to be an amalgam of style and substance, with a very cool undertone. There may well be newspaper reading on fancy fold-up chairs accompanied by a chilled glass of rosé, but make no mistake – proper music heads flock here because they know their stuff and get to congregate with like-minded people. With a great roster of artists, the festival is all about music that gets under your skin and invades your senses. That takes you everywhere and anywhere no matter where you’re from.
It may not shout as loud as Glastonbury, but it sure packs a punch.
Review by Nicola Greenbrook and Photography by Simon Jay Price
Nicola has her own great blog right here: http://materialwhirl.wordpress.com