Event Review: Love Supreme Festival (Glynde Place, 30th June to 2nd July 2017)

Gregory Porter

The concept of an outdoor jazz festival hardly conjures images of glitter-filled Glastonbury excitement, a young hip crowd and dance-fuelled elation. However, previously exclusive jazz appears to be undergoing a fashion revolution and the grounds of Glynde Place hinted at this. Love Supreme, the UK’s only three-day greenfield jazz festival was sold out and attended by a wealth of young musos. The event proudly hosted a long list of contemporary names in the genre.

The celebration brought in large acts for their main stage line-up, most likely required to fund the event, but who can deny The Jacksons aren’t a guilty sweet pleasure? The real motivation for most attending an event like this is the discovery and relishing of smaller less-publicised acts as they attempt to step afoot the rungs of mainstream success.

Rising tenor saxophonist, Shabaka Hutchings, reserved his fair share of the line-up appearing in three acts: Shabaka and the Ancestors, Sons of Kemet, and The Comet is Coming. Immediate and rhythmically infectious Sons of Kemet were perfectly equipped for such a festival backdrop. Lilting elements of Caribbean, afrobeat, and New Orleans shuffles, dominated with funky angular melodies from the horns, contaminating the crowd with their pulsing swing. The crowd was dancing and spirits were lifted high with the melodies.

One of the most absorbing acts of the weekend were Nubiyan Twist who radiated carnival vibes to the sticky, almost tropical big top on the Sunday. With soulful Winehouse-style vocals and the heat of reggae, Ethio-jazz, and Latin spice, this was accessible and dance-friendly leaving you wanting more. An eleven-piece collective from Leeds, they mix acoustic and digital sounds and are unapologetically fun, dynamic, and upbeat. Front lady, Nubiyan Brandon, conducts the band with more grace and effortlessness than the most refined of ballet dancers, shimmying and raising her arms fluently in flow with the music.

The weekend was blessed with enough sunshine to fulfil our yearly quota, however, several bands had the tents bursting at the seams regardless of the heat. Laura Mvula, Herbie Hancock, and George Benson pulled the crowds with Hancock satisfying the crowds with pleasers such as Chameleon and Cantaloupe Island.

Sandwiching the first morning hangover slots and the last drunken come-down gigs of the night were lesser-known Kansas Smitty’s House Band, Camilla George Quartet, and TriForce.

East London’s Kansas Smitty’s House Band are a collective that perform bouncing swing, which takes you back in time to pre-1950s southern states of America when jazz was king and dance was queen. A favourite secret for many in London was that they run their own basement jazz bar, bringing in quality music covering jazz, soul, blues, and world. The band performed mainly originals to a waking-up but appreciative audience with impressive solos from the band members. It’s a shame the wake-up call came from the stage, maybe they could second line through the camp next time!

Camilla George Quartet, now based in London, are straight-ahead jazz with an added exploratory sense of freedom. George is making a name for herself on the jazz scene, but for this event’s performance, it was Sarah Tandy on the piano that really shone through. Tandy has a sense of runaway abandon as she plays her solos but keeps her bopping solid throughout.

South London TriForce are the newest kids on the block bringing tight soulful hip-hop to the late-night stage. They may just be paving a new way for Neo-Soul but this is yet to be seen. This is definitely a band to keep an eye on for the future.

The number of artists billed for the weekend is overwhelming and trying to see them all is a task that requires the finest of time management skills and just a little wizardry as the organisers overlap the artists. So, lie back and revel in the smug knowledge that a large number of these bands are based in London and regularly perform in town.

The non-UK groups also made an impact. Miles Mosley & The West Coast Getdown brought his psychedelic double bass led funk-rock to the stage. Mixing soulful pop vocals with dropping choruses through bass wah-wah effects that had the audience bouncing with their hands high in the air. This may be the closest thing to a rock set you will see in Glynde.

La Mambanegra is a Colombian group, showing the crowd how they salsa in the hometown of Cali atop the main stage. Hot 8 Brass Band bring the raw streets of New Orleans brass funk across the Atlantic. With their infamous cover of “Sexual Healing”, the crowd learned what it really means to ‘funk it up’.

Love Supreme may be helping sow the grass for a cooler jazz scene with their singular dedication, but I think they miss a trick. Although it genuinely attracts an assorted range of musos, there is still room for more diversity in the line-up. Even the biggest of jazz fans like to get down to other styles of music. Next year, I’d prefer to see a mixture of vocally led or performance-driven groups blended into the line-up.

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