Love Supreme Jazz festival review – smart balance of edgy and mainstream

Glynde Place, East Sussex
From a gripping Laura Mvula to a rousing Jamie Cullum, the ambitious young festival covered all the bases

With Jamie Cullum conducting his fans as they chant I'm All Over It and leaping from the top of his piano, and Al McKay's Earth, Wind & Fire tribute band cruising slick soul-pop hits, Saturday at the Love Supreme Jazz festival kept jazz sceptics in mind. As on this ambitious outdoor weekender's debut last year, however, the balance of the edgy and the mainstream was smartly struck.

Two key strands of contemporary music shaped the day: the inspirational history of African-American church singing and, from a diametrically opposite direction, those mesmerising mathematical angles on a jazz now rooted more in rhythm patterns than in song melody. Astonishing singer Lalah Hathaway eloquently covered familiar soul and R&B bases, and also soared through an improv account of Summertime (traded with her two gifted backing singers) that creatively twisted the theme from purring low tones to operatic. More confidingly, Britain's Laura Mvula and her strings ensemble also showed how good lyrics, subtle dynamics and a calm, forceful voice could grip a crowd in a main-stage setting that had been designed for more bombastic methods.

Vivid instrumental impressions came from Robert Glasper bassist Derrick Hodge, who managed to be his fusion quartet's fiery lead player while playing earthshaking bass-guitar, and who introduced the UK to the sensational 19-year-old percussion phenomenon Mike Mitchell. Swedish drummer Anton Eger brought Phronesis to a succession of wall-of-sound climaxes despite the jazzy intricacy of their methods. It was met with whoops from the audience. And Dave Holland's Prism confirmed that it's the double-bass star's rootsiest and bluesiest band in years – Holland's signature snap to every note, Kevin Eubanks' contemporary-Hendrix guitar playing, drummer Eric Harland's cool audacity, and pianist Craig Taborn's left-field interjections made a long set of extended pieces pass in a flash.


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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