Cheltenham Jazz Festival was started in 1996, and has boasted a stellar lineup in the years following, including acts such as Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum, Jools Holland, Kurt Elling, Van Morrison, Marcus Miller, Laura Mvula and Paloma Faith.
This April, I went for the first time to Cheltenham Jazz Festival, and it’s safe to say that it didn’t disappoint! It ran from 26 April – 1 May, and hosted a number of great acts, including Chick Corea, Chris Potter, Snarky Puppy, Denys Baptiste and more.
The festival is mostly situated in a field in the middle of Cheltenham, and there are also ‘Fringe’ venues around town with live music. The main site had a bustling atmosphere, and was filled with live music tents, food stalls, and there were lots of collaborative workshops throughout the days.
I caught the Chris Potter show on the Sunday night. There is no denying that Chris Potter is extraordinarily talented at the saxophone. He has a full command of the instrument, enabling him to navigate with ease through both extremes of his register. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t play any standards (apart from a blues) as I enjoy hearing his inventive takes on them. However, it was refreshing to hear the music that he had written.
He played tunes from his new album ‘The Dreamer is the Dream’, have a listen below of the tune ‘Yasodhara’.
There was lots of free music on offer throughout the festival too – the free stage featured some good music and I enjoyed watching some acts at the Cambray Place Stage, including Bristol-bred 9-piece funk band Wasabi.
I would definitely recommend catching the nightly jam sessions led by Birmingham conservatoire students. Some famous faces in the jazz world turned up on the Sunday night, including Gregory Porter, Chris Potter and members of Snarky Puppy. Soweto Kinch, Emma Smith and Kansas Smitty Band even got up for a few tunes. It was an incredible experience to catch musicians of that calibre playing in a jam session, and hearing their on-the-spot take of jazz standards.