I’ve had a few reminders already this year of how good live jazz can be – one of them last night at the good old BeBop club listening to the wonderful Henry Lowther on his 75th year tour (and his equally impressive new CD is playing as I type – what a shame he’s made so few as a leader in all these years: I have recordings of his from 1969 on my shelves!).
Last night was also notable for a first hearing of bassist Flo Moore – depping for another old favourite, Dave Green. She’s already been recognised as a rising star, and that was amply borne out.
And hoping for more excellent stuff, and some new discoveries at Cheltenham next weekend. It’s always a great line-up, though maybe a good job it only comes round once a year as the prices stack up fast if you go to more than a couple of sets. All but the most spendthrift will need to be selective, so here just a few personal recommendations for those looking for the best actual jazz.
Start with a pair of sets in the nice theatre at the Ladies College on Friday: the vocal phenomenon Andreas Schaerer is playing in a trio with Soweto Kinch. Then one of my favourite UK quartets, Partisans, make a rare appearance, fresh from recording a live album at the Vortex.
Saturday sees Joshua Redman’s trio in the Town Hall and Nikki Yeoh and Zoe Rahman’s two piano offering in the College. And Medeleine Peyroux should be fun on Sunday (though she’s in Bristol soon too, if you prefer.)
I’ll be reviewing all of these for LondonJazzNews, as one of a tag team of writers. But there are plenty of other good things which I’m tempted by, given time and energy. John Surman’s Brass project, the great Fred Hersch playing solo piano, and The Bad Plus would all hit the spot. Vula Viel’s recent Bristol gig was a blast, and harpist Julie Carpiche looks intriguing.
And if you do want to book just one or two paid-for sets, there’s a free stage programme all weekend, and an expanded effort to put jazz on around the town – making the whole place feel festive. Details of all that here.
The festival is under canvas in some venues, but the modern kind with hefty frames so it’s pretty weatherproof. And in fair weather, the main festival site has good food, and good atmosphere, which all makes for a delightful MayDay weekend.