An all-jazz residential UK festival – who’d have predicted it? Spread over an idyllic estate in rural East Sussex, Love Supreme’s USP was reflecting the music’s broad church and it certainly delivered on that score with barely a whiff of smooth jazz. Jazz’s liberation from club and concert hall also seemed to liberate audiences; Go Go Penguin, Matthew Lee, Portico Quartet and Snarky Puppy drew large, enthusiastic crowds that were as youthful as the artists.
Among the unexpected gems on the smaller stages, Outlanders impressed with their burning Afro-fusion, One Hat Trio featured some sublime post-Parker alto rhapsodising from Alan Barnes and Paul Richards beautifully updated the Laurindo Almeida nylon-string Brazilian guitar style. The Main Stage challenged artists and sound crew alike; Gregory Porter’s beautiful baritone got over but his band sounded brittle despite Herculean soloing from Yosuke Sato (echoes of Gonsalves at Newport?).
Soweto Kinch charmed with his adventurous spirit while Bryan Ferry’s appearance was either the bravest or one of the most baffling career reinventions by a major ‘pop’ artist in recent memory. Esperanza Spalding’s complex, sometimes convoluted fusion of nu-soul, jazz and funk didn’t quite cut through but, in the Big Top, Courtney Pine played perfect festival music to a feverish crowd, drawing on calypso and soca and making a sound strangely reminiscent of Ornette’s Prime Time with its chattering rhythm guitars and tropical vibes.
Marcus Miller mixed funk, Go-Go, P-Funk and breakneck bebop to dazzling effect while Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard delivered masterclasses in rhythmic complexity and tension/release, the best soloists of the festival. Melody Gardot also struck gold with her nuanced vocal phrasing and impressionistic piano playing.
But the event’s crowning achievement was positioning jazz as a young, vibrant music – if just a few of the nippers running around got into the music, the future’s bright.