Jazz, Melody, Sunshine & Far From Average Bands.
The UK festival scene has grown considerably over the last few years and become, arguably, a little saturated. Big hitters like Glastonbury shout loudly and quite rightly get all the attention but it is the quiet ones that can surprise you. Such as Love Supreme Festival, Jazz FM’s boutique, greenfield experience set in the idyllic grounds of Glynde Place, East Sussex that made its debut in 2013 and has been getting bigger and better ever since.
Named after John Coltrane’s legendary album, it features crossover artists, exciting newcomers, colossal headliners and the cream of international and UK jazz. It has been described by The Guardian as “the mini Glastonbury of jazz” and the three day festival is starting to get the attention it deserves.
I joined the festivities on Sunday, after Lianne La Havas and Grace Jones had lit up the Main Stage, Esperanza Spalding Presents Emily’s D+Evolution, The Stanley Clarke Band and St Germain sizzled in the Big Top and Kandace Springs and Moon Hooch were impressive left field choices in The Arena.
The first act I made a beeline for was Avery*Sunshine who made her Love Supreme debut on the Main Stage where she deserved to shine. Supported by her band comprising of Sam “Detoxxx” Lawrence on bass, London’s Junior JK Kirton on drums and guitarist (and brand spanking new husband) Dana ‘Big Dane’ Johnson, she promised to bring some real sunshine to proceedings. By the power of her gospel-soaked, soulful vocals and overall luminosity, the sun appeared over the Sussex Downs. Kicking off with I Got Sunshine which she synthesised beautifully with Anita Baker’s Sweet Love, she wasted no time in wowing the crowd and quipped “you’ve got my lashes coming off already!”.
The set included All in My Head from her 2010 debut self-titled album, Pining which floated effortlessly into Gladys Knight and The Pips’ Midnight Train to Georgia and See You When I Get There from 2014’s The Sun Room. As well as possessing an incredible voice that seamlessly transitions from thunderous to soothing, Avery has an appealing self-deprecating honesty and sense of humour and the audience laughed along with her every word. “Every opportunity I get, I will put a little Aretha into my set” she said after sharing that Aretha Franklin had invited her to sing at her birthday celebrations and so true to her word, she performed an exquisite interpretation of the soulful Day Dreaming. Simply stunning.
Next, British pianist/songwriter Anthony Strong and his band held their own in the ample surrounds of the Big Top. With an uplifting, classic style and powerful vocals, he tours extensively all over the world and is recognised for his range of old-school jazz standards and adding a bit of Stevie Wonder and Motown to his set. True to form, he performed a finger-clicking rendition of Higher Ground.
Easily a highlight of the day was the super-cool Grammy nominated Average White Band who took to the Main Stage around mid afternoon to a rousing reception. Their funk, soul and R&B sounds remain fresh and relevant today, with a number of artists sampling their work, including A Tribe Called Quest and Rick Ross, whose 2014 track Rich is Gangsta features Soul Searching. A tight set was full of classics and perfect harmonies, including Whatcha’ Gonna Do for Me, A Love of Your Own and Queen of My Soul which sounded especially sweet in the sunshine. The crowd was multi-generational, a blend of the young and the young at heart singing along word for word, which serves as a great reminder that music transcends age.
Back to AWB, their 1980s disco hit Let’s Go Round Again got people on their feet and triggered an excellent display of booze-fuelled disco dancing. It was the million-selling instrumental track Pick Up The Pieces though that we were all really waiting for and when the familiar introduction dropped, a sea of people unashamedly getting down was a sight to behold. Far from Average.
It was impossible not to get swept up in a mass exodus heading to check out the trio GoGo Penguin in The Arena, but the sensual jazz sounds of vocalist Imogen Ryall with the effortlessly cool Kendon/Ryall Quintet feat Julian Nicholas was drifting from The Bandstand – a platform for local artists and an important part of the festival’s appeal – so I had to go and check it out. I paid for my procrastination as the Big Top was fit to bursting when I arrived and I had to hover on the periphery and peek through the crowd. In front of a bold neon Love Supreme sign, the Manchester based trio GoGo Penguin performed their own unique and experimental sounds, described brilliantly as “acousticelectronica”, which roused the crowd out of their sun-dazed snooze. Their 2014 album V2.0 was nominated for a Mercury Prize and 2016’s Man Made Object is accomplished.
There is plenty to choose from at Love Supreme and it is marvellous just to wander around and move easily from stage to stage. Memorable bits included stopping for a beer in the Blue and Green Bar in the Woods with trees lit by blue spotlights (and DJs spinning late into the night) and hanging out in The Jazz Lounge, which celebrated the 60th anniversary of Verve Records. Canvases of jazz legends including John Coltrane graced the tent walls, as music enthusiasts were treated to talks, film screenings, guest speakers and artist interviews.
Once again, I was a victim of taking my eye off the ball; heading into the Love Supremium area for a beverage, I could hear the tinkle of beautiful piano and appreciative cheers coming from the teepee. It was Avery*Sunshine playing an impromptu set to a very intimate crowd but I managed to catch the end of the last song so all was not lost. I timidly said hello to Avery and Dana Johnson and was rewarded with a hug and a photo with these warm, talented people. Proof that sometimes the best things are stumbled upon.
There was no time to spare, as I dashed off to catch big-hitter Kelis take her place on the Main Stage. Festivals offer a welcome reminder of artists you haven’t checked out for a while and with Kelis excelling in her other passion, cookery, it is easy to forget just how charismatic a musician she is. With her trademark voice, Trick Me, Good Stuff, and Milkshake shook the crowd nicely and Bounce, the Calvin Harris track on which she featured, got everyone suitably jumping around. 4th of July (Fireworks) was given a raw, jazzy makeover which surpassed the EDM sound of the original. Acapella sounded great.
Over in the Big Top songstress Melody Gardot was at her sultry and bluesy best, delivering a very personal and individual set. I then managed to squeeze in another compelling female artist; sophisticated Dutch jazz singer Caro Emerald on the Main Stage whose uplifting, catchy mambo vibes and hip hop beats were infectious. Riviera Life was a perfect match for the balmy weather. Emerald’s work is inspired by post-war jazz and cinema, which plays out in her personal and vocal style. An outstanding live performance with flair and a real gem.
All good things must come to an end so the saying goes, so I reluctantly abandoned Emerald and made my way to The Arena for my last act of the day – music’s prodigal son, Jacob Collier. A very modern YouTube sensation, Collier fizzes with talent and his distinctive and inventive style has to be seen to be believed. He draws inspiration from a multitude of genres, including jazz, folk, classical, gospel and Brazilian music and his infamous videos created in his home music room have not only amassed millions of followers, but turned musical legends such as Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock into fans.
Described by Jazzwise Magazine as “The Future of Music” and despite a number of projects, high profile collaborations and teaching masterclasses at various academies around the world, he has also found the time to record and self-produce a debut album this year. The multi-instrumentalist Collier gained himself even more fans that evening at Love Supreme, as he performed vocal harmonies on a loop, with accompanied keyboard and guitar.
Tragically, I couldn’t make the much anticipated man of the moment, LA based saxophonist Kamasi Washington as I had to get back to London. Washington has been given plenty of airplay by Jazz FM of late, and deservedly so. His groundbreaking triple album The Epic was a critical and commercial success and he has collaborated with a number of major artists including Mos Def, Chaka Khan and Kendrick Lamar on his insanely successful To Pimp a Butterfly album. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
As I left and made my way back through the sunbaked revellers to the car park, Caro Emerald was giving All About That Bass her unique spin and with the night closing in Burt Bacharach took to the stage for an endless and vast sing along of all his hits. With a head full of new artists to explore, I reflected on the fact that for three days in an idyllic East Sussex setting, it was All About That Jazz (and much, much more).
Love Supreme offers an exuberant, balanced and multi-faceted festival for all generations and musical tastes. Until next year…
Live Review by Nicola Greenbrook and Photography by Simon Jay Price.
Nicola has her own music, fashion and lifestyle blog called Material Whirl.