As I made my way to the daffodil on Friday evening for my first event after arriving in Cheltenham there was a quite atmosphere in the town. I walked down the promenade and past the Montpellier gardens where the heart of the festival was based, I saw a lot of people passing who were dressed up for the occasion. Whilst passing I could hear the Ray Charles numbers ringing from the big top which was being broadcast live on bbc radio 2. Minutes down the road I found the daffodil where the main event that was being held there was ‘Zara Mcfarlane. After the atmosphere being particularly quiet as I entered the main room the place was buzzing with people, wining a dining with plenty of staff serving them. There was a live band playing there was a great atmosphere but quite unique not one that I had experienced much of before. As the sound of groups of people engaging in conversation hummed round the room accompanied by the jazzy sounds of the house band. The venue was very swanky and suited the occasion well. High ceilings, chandeliers along with the general vibe and architecture of the venue, it suited the general impression I got from what I had seen of the town. I had entered at a good time as the dinner had passed people had moved onto desert and wine, the music from the band was creating anticipation for the main act, some of the music they played included famous jazz numbers from famous such as Miles davis and Dave Brubeck.
After the short interval and a few words about the band and the general evening Zara stepped out on to the stage, the way the room was set out and the size of the venue instantly made it a very intimate occasion between her and the audience. She kicked off her show with a well no number ‘night and day’ a well known song from the late Ella Fitzgerald however adding her on twist on it which was interesting and impressive. The reason I had wanted to see her is because in the preview to the festival they had compared her to Jill Scott who I am a fan of and I can see why there was definitely similarities in her manner, performance and especially vocals. Her voice was elegant and soft however echoing through the room powerfully, which is often hard to find. Another thing that stood out for me was the effectively time intervals the backing band and her vocals which worked very smoothly together. The room is now silent as she has everybody complete attention, as they seemed to be mesmerized, all in all a very calm and elegant but powerful performance.
Another gig I attended was Marcus Miller this was the following day, entering the busy bustle of the big top there was great anticipation for him to come on which is no surprise as a musician of his caliber and reputation. The big top was filled and there was a great applause when he entered the stage, there was a lot more hype surrounding this show in comparison to others I had seen. The funky rhythm and blues that echoed from the speakers had everyone heads bopping, of course as it is all seated there wasn’t much dancing however you could tell that people wanted to. Alongside him in his backing band he had men playing instruments such as the sax, trumpet, piano, drums and guitar each one glimmering with their own style which I was impressed with, they show seemed to differentiate in the way they all had character and all appeared as individuals playing together rather than just seen as one backing band. Maurice Brown on the trumpet and Alex Haan on the sax particularly impressed me with their stage presence, timing and skill of the instruments. Marcus performed brilliantly as a front man in a very calm and laid back manner ripping funky licks from his guitar and his solos were heavily applauded.
That following evening I went to see Candi Staton’s show, a performer of her reputation had the whole of the Jazz arena animated and the que outside grew early and quickly I noticed. Introduced by her two backing singers however took their time over it created a good atmosphere and forced anticipation upon the audience. Their was a mixed crowd as she is well known performer from many generations switching from blues to more country music Candi’s voice boomed stopping every now and again to tell querky stories mainly about love lives and relationships and men and women which to me seemed to go on a bit much however she was running the show and getting laughs to. Half an hour into the act she introduced Paloma Faith onto the stage this took everyone by surprise as this was not scheduled and Paloma was playing in the big top on the Monday however Paloma being the young and up and coming star of the festival invited candi to play as her special guest and they seemed to have a genuine connection and appreciation of each other and their work, which was definitely good to see the younger and older generations stars of the genre performing together. She was encouraging people to join in and get out of their seats which was the first I had seen but nothing short of a surprise however it seemed to be that it wasn’t what some people expected as a lot of people made their way to the exits through the duration of the show, nonetheless was great to see a music legend such as her perform, one of the ultimate divas.
On whole this was a very different experience for me however that is why I enjoyed it, having an appreciation for jazz music however only on a small scale it was enjoyable to attend. The general atmosphere was very glamorous in the evenings with Cheltenham home to some prestigious restaurants and bars however a brilliant occasion for all the family from what I saw and even if you are not the biggest fan of jazz an pleasant weekend away.