Dig down and the jazz is there at Cheltenham

The 2015 Cheltenham Jazz Festival (29 April to 4 May) programme has gone up online today. An initial glance at their website and I thought there had been some mistake: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Rumer, Wilko Johnson, Caro Emerald… My computer had redirected me to something new – the Cheltenham Rock & Pop Festival, surely?

But, ah, I see, this is the musical top soil – after a little digital digging around, there is a jazz festival lurking in the loam. Here, soon to burst into brightest bloom, are its quietly gestating, sturdiest bulbs:

  • The Sun Ra Arkestra

    The Sun Ra Arkestra

    The Sun Ra Arkestra – the man himself might be back on Saturn but his messenger on Earth, Marshall Allen, is still keeping the Sun and his extraordinary mix of big band and surreality shining.

  • Lee Konitz & Dave Douglas Quintet– the octogenarian alto saxophonist who goes right back to Miles’s Birth Of The Cool sessions teams up with the younger trumpeter – generations separate them but they are united as equally inexhaustible creators of fresh musical insights.
  • Joe Lovano’s Village Rhythms Band – the hugely characterful tenor man brings out the connection between jazz and the music of West Africa, with assistance from percussionist Abdou Mboup and guitarist Liberty Ellman other players in this band which overflows with talent.
  • Medeski, Martin & Wood – it used to be called a jam band, now the favoured description is jazz-funk trio. Whatever you call it it’s hard not to move to it. Cheltenham’s Guest Director and major musical champion Jamie Cullum will be sitting in.
  • Phronesis: Pitch Black – the Anglo-Scandinavian trio, one of the most exciting bands I know, returns in it’s now-you-hear-us, now-you-don’t-see-us format. One sense might be denied us, another is likely to be doubly rewarded.
  • John Scofield

    John Scofield

    John Scofield meets Pablo Held Trio – the immensely influential U.S. guitarist joins a rising European piano trio – the Sco skronk intertwined with Held lyricism suggests a sour-sweet treat for the ears.

  • Julian Arguelles Septet – the master saxophonist made one of my favourite albums of 2014, and brings a bigger combo to this party, featuring trumpeter Percy Pursglove and pianist Kit Downes among its illustrious number.

There’s quite a lot more jazz, and quite a lot more other stuff as well.

  • Read all about it here.


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  1. Jazz festival marketing fail – Part Two | thejazzbreakfast

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