Polar Bear

Cheltenham Jazz Festival Covers All Bases

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What I like about the Cheltenham Jazz Festival is that the programme covers a huge range of music. From big names, well known to the general public, such as Van Morrison, to much lesser known artists who nonetheless play brilliant music that appeals to both those who know their jazz and a potentially broader audience, such as Dave Douglas.

Many festivals concentrate on big names, but ignore the up-and-coming and excitingly innovative young bands, while other festivals focus on the innovative to the neglect of more popular bands. Cheltenham Jazz Festival is unique in having some the most ‘happening’ and revolutionary jazz, e.g. Troyk-estra, alongside much more popular groups such as the Noisettes. All have their place.

I also like the fact that Cheltenham has a good range of British, European and American bands. Years ago jazz festivals often concentrated on the American names, but today many European countries have really strong jazz scenes and the UK scene is one of the strongest.

We reflect this in the festival with a strong programme of young British jazz and a number of European bands such as Marius Neset’s Quartet from Norway, and the collaboration between Trondheim and Birmingham Conservatoire.

I am particularly pleased that we are able to host two other collaborations between UK and European artists; Kit Downes’ Barbacana brings together Kit on piano and James Allsopp on saxophones with two French players Adrien Dennefeld on guitar and Sylvain Darrifourcq on drums – this comes as part of the Jazz Shuttle scheme. The Edition Quartet comes as part of Fiona Talkington’s conexions series (see her blog on this site) bringing together pianist Dave Stapleton, trumpeter Neil Yates and Norwegian musicians Marius Neset on sax and Daniel Herskedal on tuba.

Who am I most looking forward to hearing? I am intrigued as to what will happen when Troyka are joined by a big band playing arrangements of their material in a group they call Troyk-estra. I am also curious to hear Reuben James, who was so brilliant with Abram Wilson last year, lead his own group. Polar Bear and Roller Trio should make a wonderful double bill on the Monday early evening.

I am really looking forward to hearing what Professor Kneebone and Liam Noble have to say about the links between surgery and jazz. It will be great to hear Mike Gibbs leading a large ensemble playing Mike’s arrangements of music by Gil Evans, Thelonious Monk and others. But I have to admit that it is two American bands that I am most looking forward to: Dave Douglas Quintet with Heather Masse, playing music from Dave’s album Be Still, and Jason Adasiewicz and the Sun Rooms Trio.

I am very proud of the fact that I was the first promoter to bring Dave Douglas to the UK back in the 1990s, and I have managed to keep in touch with him and his music ever since. Dave has been at Cheltenham twice before with different projects. The latest is a wonderful new direction in which Dave works for the first time with a singer, Heather Masse. Heather draws on American folk music as well as jazz and this fits with a mix of hymns, folk and jazz music originally performed at the funeral of Dave’s mother and which has generated some extremely beautiful music. Read Jazz Festival Manager Phil Woods’ recent blog about Dave’s 2013 appearance at Cheltenham.

I am very excited by the wonderfully percussive vibes playing of Jason Adasiewicz, a key member of the Chicago avant jazz scene, and proud that we are presenting the UK debut of this trio.