Cheltenham Jazz Festival returns at the end of April with a bold programme featuring a range of exclusive one-off performances, unique collaborations, special commissions and debut UK appearances from a heady mix of established stars and emerging talent.
Taking place across 6 days from April 29th – May 4th, this year’s festival will present a smart balance of classic and contemporary jazz, blues, soul and pop from a string of pioneering acts including million-selling singer-songwriter Rumer, Dutch superstar Caro Emerald, experimental producer and composer Squarepusher, one of the queens of soul Martha Reeves, world-renowned DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson, former Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson, Californian blues-rocker Beth Hart, and consummate jazz singer and broadcaster Clare Teal.
Once again returning as Guest Director is Jamie Cullum who, alongside handpicking a selection of events for this year’s programme, will perform with trailblazing US jazz funk jam band Medeski, Martin & Wood. Other high profile acts on the bill include venerable jazz-fusion star John Scofield, whose collaboration with German pianist Pablo Held’s trio is currently receiving rave reviews (“a fascinating fresh setting for a unique guitarist who always means business” The Guardian), the mystical sounds of the Sun Ra Arkestra, master ngoni player Bassekou Kouyate, the UK premiere of jazz heavyweight Lee Konitz’s new quintet featuring virtuoso trumpeter Dave Douglas, and a treat for fans of Afrobeat in the form of two contrasting but equally outstanding concerts – a Saturday afternoon show from legendary African drummer Tony Allen, who performs music from his acclaimed 2014 album Film of Life, followed that evening by Joe Lovano’s Village Rhythms Band, an inventive 7-piece outfit which explores the connection between West African music and jazz.
BBC Radio 2 continues its long-term association with the festival and has confirmed a range of activity across the week. Alongside live festival-themed shows recorded onsite by Jamie Cullum on Saturday May 2nd and Clare Teal on Sunday May 3rd, the network will air Caro Emerald’s concert on Thursday April 30th, a Frank Sinatra-themed ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’ featuring appearances from Kurt Elling, Clare Teal and Anthony Strong on Friday 1st, and a world premiere to close the festival on Monday 4th, a celebration of the music of George and Ira Gershwin featuring Laura Mvula and Gregory Porter.
Justifying its reputation as one of the most forward-thinking festivals in Europe, a varied collection of the next generation of global jazz stars are represented this year by the likes of Anglo-French trio In Bed With, Suiss trombonist and composer Samuel Blaser, Spanish singer and multi-instrumentalist Andrea Motis, the first ever UK performance by the inimitable Surnatural Orchestra, and European trio Phronesis, whose Pitch Black project will be performed in total darkness.
A wide range of top UK-based talent will appear on the bill including East London’s unique take on the brass band Hackney Colliery Band, Mercury-nominated piano trio GoGo Penguin, who will join Gilles Peterson at the festival’s much-anticipated club night, funk favourites Average White Band, Neil Cowley Trio, the Rachael Cohen Quartet featuring Phil Robson, soul diva Natalie Williams, a double bill featuring the soulful vocals of Si Cranstoun and Purdy, and the Julian Arguelles Septet, a band formed especially for the festival.