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Love Supreme festival review – UK jazz turns up the temperature | Music


A Love Supreme was John Coltrane’s fearless 1965 album that spirited jazz into uncharted territory. Six years young, the UK festival it inspired, which spreads over the lavish Glynde Place for a weekend, continues to live up to its name. Yes, there is a wine tent, a large “supremium” area cordoning off part of the site for VIPs, and more trilbies in the audience than a production of Bugsy Malone. But the peerless programme of funk, soul, jazz, global roots and disco riches is the mark of a festival where music comes first and, notably, where the best of UK jazz turns up the temperature on an already sweltering weekend.

If 2018 is the year the UK jazz scene took flight, then this festival is where it soars. Acts who appeared here two years ago are now drawing audiences twice the size, most of whom are in their 20s and sporting bucket hats and glitter beards, as on Saturday for east London pianist Alfa Mist.

Next up is saxophonist Nubya Garcia with her dubby, clubby band that includes Ezra Collective’s Joe Armon-Jones on keys and Femi Koleoso on drums, plus Daniel Casimir on the steel-pan-sounding double bass. Garcia’s solos are elegant but she is a modest bandleader, often dancing at the side when Armon-Jones and Koleoso’s dizzying duelling sounds as if it could rip open a vortex. She is a surefire star-in-waiting, but this scene is all about collective effort.

A glorious shimmy … Zara McFarlane.

A glorious shimmy … Zara McFarlane. Photograph: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns

Twentysomething Armon-Jones is the in-demand keys dude of the weekend, lighting up first Garcia and then Mr Jukes’ main-stage show with his tinkled light beams, never without a towel around his neck. His own band Ezra Collective are another huge draw, and their Saturday evening performance proves why they’re one of the best live bands around. Their youthful fusion of Afrobeat, reggae and jazz was made for smiling and skanking. “What’s happening right now is about positivity,” Koleoso announces, before beating the drums with an energy that could power its own town. Tony Allen’s Afrobeat-laced jams, and even spiritual jazz pioneer Pharoah Sanders in the next tent, feel rather tame by comparison.

Women of jazz ranked highly on the agenda, too. On the bandstand, post-bebop pianist Sarah Tandy and trumpeter Emma Jean Thackray kept people dancing into Saturday night, while on Sunday, a 10-strong female troupe from London collective Tomorrow’s Warriors was the place to spot future Garcias. Earlier in the afternoon, composer Yazz Ahmed slipped between middle-eastern trumpet and theremin, her last track sounding not unlike Sufjan Stevens in a sweaty souk. And winner of Jazz FM’s best vocalist award this year, Zara McFarlane, and her understated beachy calypso jazz shimmied gloriously with Shirley Tetteh on lead guitar.

Living legend … Mavis Staples.

Living legend … Mavis Staples. Photograph: Tabatha Fireman/Redferns

Sunday’s soulful grand dame, though, was Mavis Staples. Her blowtorch yowl puts the headliners to shame – the brilliantly misfired mess of nu-metal and backing singers in underwear that was George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and a confused-looking Earth, Wind & Fire. Staples is nearly 80 and her bob doesn’t move an inch as she delivers gusts of gospel from the Windy City of Chicago, which helped to shape the civil-rights movement. “I’m still here, I’m a living witness,” she hollers. She’s a living legend. Next year, the main stage is hers for the taking.