Love Supreme Jazz Festival 2019 | Glynde Place | July 5th to 7th

On record, Manchester’s own Go Go Penguin can seem occasionally samey, even cloying. The punched, ‘epic’ chords that pianist Chris Illingworth’s right hand deploys can feel a little coercive, the rhythmic push a little determined. Live, however, they prove the point. The compositions have more space and time. Nick Blacka pushes his arco bass through the electronics, and Rob Turner’s pulse drives not only the band but also the listener. And live, the band orchestrates the tension and release of their compositions with crowd-rousing skill. On stage, they can be the finest piano trio on the continent and show their young audience exactly where a piano trio can go.

Saturday and Sunday began in Love Supreme’s Big Top with British bands from differing generations and differing approaches. Julian Siegel’s Quartet with Siegel on saxes and Liam Noble on piano play Siegel’s flickering, poised tunes with considerable deftness and drive. Siegel and Noble are great foils for each other and give the music crackle and dance. They were followed by The Tim Garland Group. Garland has a real gift for writing great tunes, and his own lyrical tenor playing moves them with both sweetness and authority. The pianist here was Jason Rebello, who is also a lyrical, authoritative player who is heard live too seldom. Such lyricism was also the prevalent ‘note’ of the Marquis Hill Blacktet on Sunday morning. Hill writes gorgeous tunes and there was a beguiling sweetness to their delivery; if that sounds anodyne, it wasn’t. Hill’s group is full of quiet, evocative authority.

Of a different generation and a different attack were the excellent Seed Ensemble who preceded Hill on Sunday morning. They are lead by Cassie Kinoshi who has emerged with a number of others in London’s astonishing, current jazz efflorescence from Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warrior’s project. Kinoshi’s compositions range from those that wear their Afro-Carribean heart on their sleeve, to those, darker, pieces that reminded this listener of the work of Carla Bley; one such was the early piece ‘Neptune’ based on a slave ancestor of hers. Different again from her contemporaries in the ‘We Out Here’ generation, Kinoshi allows, even pushes her players into moments of out there, free improvisation. And the British jazz is much better for it. Kinoshi has clearly gathered around her players that respond to her including the superb Chelsea Carmichael on tenor and flute, Deschanel Gordon on piano and Sheila Maurice-Grey on trumpet. Ultimately, however, to pick out names from this group is not fair to a really impressive collective, unafraid to be both engaged and spiritual to striking effect.

Chick Corea’s Spanish Heart Band played compositions from Corea’s original album of that name alongside newer pieces from a new Spanish Heart album. Corea’s quicksilver brilliance has long been a hallmark for the jazz piano. The Spanish Heart Band is equally brilliant with a sound world which is pristine, crystalline but rich and deep. And all the players have clearly been chosen on the basis that they share the leader’s cool, precise sensibility; Jorge Pardo on sax and flute, Niño Josele, on flamenco guitar, Michael Rodriguez on trumpet and Steve Davis on trombone. Again, this was a collective united around their commitment to Corea’s compositions which they delivered in a way which felt both inevitable and alive. A highlight here was flamenco dancer Nino de los Reyes.

Louis Vega brought a live band, Elements of Life, to Glynde this year. Although famous for his house DJ-ing and production skills, Vega’s last album 28 Songs gathered a range of singers and musicians to produce a record of, mostly, originals. Here, he did some numbers from that recording, alongside a wonderful version of Donald Byrd’s ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine’, eliciting a huge cheer from the Main Stage audience, as well as ‘Black Gold of the Sun’ from his Nuyorican Soul album. Later that day, Vega did a terrific DJ set.

The Cinematic Orchestra led by Jason Swinscoe and Dominic J. Marshall performed their funky, ambient soul on the Main Stage on Saturday. Singer Heidi Vogel brought her soaring (pun intended) vocals to a range of Swinscoe’s compositions, including ‘All That You Give’, almost the band’s signature tune. They were superb. As was Kamaal Williams, whose small group (keys, tenor, bass and drums), seemed like a lighter, but equally driving ‘British’ version of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters group.

The headliners on the main stage on both Saturday and Saturday were two of the great singers of our time, though of different generations. On Saturday, Gladys Knight took us through the great Soul Songbook. She is completely in control of her craft, and this was a really moving, engaging show. On Sunday, Lauryn Hill brought her ‘Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary Tour’ to Love Supreme. It was fascinating to find her going through a meticulous soundcheck on the Main Stage at 10.00 am, after the rain. It was clearly a case of ‘Bring me your huddled backing singers’ as they sat swaddled behind her, pushing out their notes, on a damp Sussex morning. Diminutive and dressed in a jumpsuit, Hill waved and smiled at the dozens who clapped their warm up. The evening, however, brought a different figure to the stage; clad in a white costume a little like an alb, with a hat to match, Hill dominated the stage and the band brought a pinpoint discipline to a range of numbers from her back catalogue, from ‘Ready or Not’ to ‘Can’t Take my Eye off you’, and her stunning version of ‘Killing Me Softly’.

Ian Pople

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