British jazz gets a chance to shine at Glastonbury

Festival embraces genre with Sons of Kemet, the Comet is Coming and Ezra Collective

Friday daytime at Glastonbury 2019 – follow all the action live!

British jazz groups have brought a new interpretation of the genre – meshing it with dance music, grime, hip-hop and dancehall – to the masses at Glastonbury festival.

In a watershed moment for a genre once confined to the margins of the festival and the larger British musical landscape, notable jazz acts including Sons of Kemet, the Comet is Coming and Ezra Collective were all on the lineup, as well as LA scene ambassador Kamasi Washington, and influential London jazz night Steam Down’s in-house band.

West Holts stage is showcasing a selection of jazz and for the first time there’s a new venue dedicated to the genre – the Wormhole – where many of the acts will play with each other and special guests.

Alexis Blondel, the director of Total Refreshment Centre – one of the London venues which acted as an incubator for the nascent British jazz scene – said festivals had embraced the genre this year like never before.

“This year is the first where festival lineups nearly all have jazz acts,” he said. “Pretty much everyone from the scene is playing Glastonbury this year, either their own sets or collaborations. There’s more than we’ve ever seen at this kind of festival.”

Gilles Petersen’s Brownswood record label released its We Out Here compilation last year, curated by the saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings. Many of the groups that featured on the record will make an appearance at this year’s Glastonbury festival.

Hutchings plays in the Comet is Coming, a project that sees him combine his sax playing with drummer Max Hallett and synth player Dan Leavers. He is also on stage with Sons of Kemet, the jazz quartet where Hutchings and tuba player Theon Cross deliver their socially conscious cosmic fare.

Femi Koleoso, the band leader of Ezra Collective, who are playing half a dozen sets across the festival, said the glut of jazz bookings was inevitable as Glastonbury needs to keep its finger on the cultural pulse.

“Glastonbury prides itself on showcasing the greatest music in the world and the UK jazz scene is representative of some of that,” he said. “When I think of Sons of Kemet and Comet is Coming at the same festival as Ezra Collective, Steamdown and Kokoroko, I think that’s a great thing for the festival.

“It’s a chance for all of us to showcase what so many people already know as gospel: that the stigma that this word ‘jazz’ brings isn’t necessarily applicable to the UK jazz scene.”

The new interpretation of jazz by British acts, largely based in London, is characterised by its magpie-like approach to genre boundaries and influences – just like the city it has developed in – according to Koleoso.

“London is the thing that ties it together,” he said. “If you asked someone to draw what a Londoner looked like, one person might draw a rasta man, another might draw a Polish person, someone might try to draw Prince Harry, or a Nigerian brother like me. The diversity of London is really what underpins this UK jazz scene, influences come from everywhere from Afrobeat, hip-hop or dancehall.”

“It’s a new sound,” said Blondel. “And it’s been so refreshing to see so many young guys attacking it with a new energy. Glastonbury gets a taste of that this year.”


Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

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