Love Supreme Jazz Festival is tucked away at Glynde Place in East Sussex, a place more famous for its Opera than its Jazz. Nevertheless, the festival brings some of the world’s largest names in Jazz and Soul to the UK every year, including the likes of Gregory Porter, Corinne Bailey-Rae and more. Sam Lawrence went to enjoy the sunny affair and brings us his eight Love Supreme Jazz Festival Top Picks (but there could have been many more) from this year’s festival.
1. Lalah Hathaway
As the daughter of legendary soul musician and vocalist Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway cuts a formidable presence on stage in her own right. Her performance in the Big Top brought us some of her greatest hits alongside some new material from the album honesty. Joined by Ben Jones of Diva Geek alongside drums and DJ Spark, the set was stripped back allowing Hathaway to showcase her stunning vocals, even imbuing us with an acapella rendition of Donny Hathaway‘s A Song For You. There are few vocalists who can direct a crowd into becoming a choir, let alone hold them in their hand as well as Lalah Hathaway. For what has become a set staple, her take on Luther Vandross‘ Forever, For Always, For Love sees the crowd become a key part of the song. It’s a feeling that’s quite special; to feel valued by the artist on stage as much as the audience values them. You can read our interview with Lalah Hathaway here.
2. Fat Suit
Glaswegian Jazz collective Fat Suit opened the Big Top stage on Saturday after replacing Dwight Trible & The Gondwana Orchestra. Having released their debut album Kambr in 2013 followed by the widely acclaimed Atlas in 2016, Fat Suit brought an expansive set that set the tone for the rest of the day in the Big Top. A sound that strays from the traditional confines of jazz, Fat Suit exploit soaring synth lines combined with hefty melodic brass lines and a penchant for smoothly transitioning between tracks in their live set. It was a wild ride that I’d like to take again. Having spoken to a number of festival goers at the end of day two, Fat Suit were still atop of many favourite lists. Fat Suit are currently recording their next project.
3. Nubya Garcia
Already featured by the Guardian as One to Watch, saxophonist Nubya Garcia has seen a meteoric rise in the last year as one of the UK’s hottest jazz artists. Her set at Love Supreme was described by an audience member as “jazzgasmic”; a phrase that I will be using from now on. Garcia was truly electric, playing sax lines that were simply mind blowing and mesmerising all with tempo and dynamic changes that left this as easily one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. Whilst she might be one of the quieter performers you’ll see with little chatter, Nubya Garcia is ALL about the music. Not only was Garcia on fire, but her band were smoking too. If you can catch Nubya Garcia soon, you should: you won’t regret it. Nubya Garcia‘s new EP When We Are is out now.
4. Hailey Tuck
As usual, Texan songstress Hailey Tuck once again delivered a mellow and perfectly spellbinding set in the Arena tent on day one. Performing songs from her new album Junk and cover selection Tuck + Cover accompanied by an intimate trio of guitar, drums and keys, Tuck never fails to enchant an audience. With her vintage image – a look cultivated from the flappers of the 1920s – and a unique sound inspired by the south, 1940s quartet standards and her love for modern rock; Hailey Tuck is becoming a sure fire favourite of mine. Ever professional, classy and joyous, she is yet another act who I find myself following intently.
5. Ezra Collective
Many jazz fans may have heard of Ezra Collective before, but to experience them live is a whole different kettle of fish. Arriving at the Arena stage late into the afternoon on day one, this London based jazz group sparked off the evening party vibes with a set that filled the smaller of the three main stages. Groovy beats, funky brass lines and a splash of vibrant keys had the crowd jumping and moving the whole way through. In the same way that Fat Suit stayed in the memory of many festival goers, so did Ezra Collective. This is a group with bucket loads of stage presence and a fearless approach. Combining jazz, Afro-beat and hip-hop with a sound all their own, Ezra Collective are sure to be a hit with any jazz aficionado or newcomer alike. You can buy tickets for their tour here; I recommend you do.
6. Tom Misch
Singer/Songwriter Tom Misch has seemingly burst onto the scene in the last year following the release of his debut album Geography. Whilst he may be marmite to some, his music is clean, funky and largely fun. Whilst that might seem tame to some, especially those who are more inclined to experimental sounds, there’s little doubt that his set on the main stage at Love Supreme was a clear cut highlight of the weekend and his affinity for combining styles of pop, funk, jazz and folk make Misch’s music a more complex and enjoyable affair than it seems on paper. Pulling in what seemed like the entirety of guests to the relatively small main stage viewing area, it was obvious that his music, personable stage presence and creative approach to songwriting made him a hit with both young and old alike.
7. Mavis Staples
Mavis Staples of Staples Singers fame is the first of two legends on this list. Staples appeared on day two in the Big Top to revive her 70s hits such as Respect Yourself and deliver a hugely political set that reflected so many pressing African-American issues facing those in the USA, and whilst that might seem a strange topic at a UK festival, there’s no doubt it was a hit. Bringing her gospel roots to Glynde meant that the Big Top stage became part-church and part-protest but at no detriment to the music. Mavis Staples sang with passion and, at times, fury. Her husky vocals steamed through, supported by her band of three backing vocalists, drums, guitar and bass. Whilst the music was certainly at the forefront of the affair, Staples’ storytelling was also prominent, regaling her memories of marching with Dr King, her father and her life. This was as a much a concert as it was a biography, one that was noteworthy enough to make it onto this list. Mavis Staples’ new album, If All I Was Was Black, is out now.
8. Pharoah Sanders
At the grand age of 77, Pharaoh Sanders appeared on the Big Top stage to a full crowd, who many had told me had come solely to see this jazz legend in person. After arriving slowly on stage, it became clear that the old jazz stalwart had certainly not “lost it”. Delivering hits from his late 60s albums retaining his rich, bluesy tenor sax sound and engaging the audience in some call and response, the gig was no doubt a highlight of the weekend. Despite my inclination to see as much new talent as possible, the prospect of seeing one of the few greats left was simply to great to ignore. It was very much a celebration of the form and the man. Pharoah Sanders is on tour in Europe and tickets are available here.
Images: All Images courtesy of Baxter PR & The Love Supreme Festival Photography Team