Music review: Van Morrison and others, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Montpelier Gardens
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Tuesday 07 May 2013
When Van Morrison invites Gregory Porter to sing “Tupelo Honey” with him as he closes the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, he sums up its open spirit. Grammy-nominated Porter is a barrel-chested, bearded giant with a strange deerstalker for headgear, who as the festival’s tireless Artist in Residence was already unmissable and omnipresent.
The soulful baritone’s barnstorming Saturday evening set had ranged from the defiant ballad “No Love Dying” to the sparely funky, prayerful reverie on Martin Luther King’s assassination “1960 What?” He showed the audience a good-hearted, big-voiced jazz performer can still reach. The running, karate-kicking jump of joy he gave after an earlier song recalled Van Morrison in his prime. Morrison, watching and, festival staff claimed, actually smiling in the wings, clearly thought the same.
Morrison’s own soulful freedom song “Tupelo Honey” was a perfect choice for the pair, begun by him declaring with uncharacteristic modesty, “This is the part where I hide behind my guitar”. They traded phrases in rare, thrilling harmony. Morrison was in playful and demanding form throughout his set, issuing peremptory commands to his band and blowing his own sax in what was largely a jazz show: “Moondance” carried echoes of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. A suite of songs finishing with last year’s “Born to Sing” wasn’t in his old visionary mode. A bullish Morrison was standing right here in the moment.
This festival’s centre wasn’t, though, in the Big Top where the stars performed, but the Georgian square where several venues sat amongst free music, food, drink and record stalls. The locals strolling slowly through it got a contact hit of jazz as an approachable, positive force at the heart of their town.
Lianne La Havas is amongst the pop headliners with slivers of jazz in their DNA. When she sings “Empty” with just a guitar, she shows she could sing just jazz if she wished, amongst the rock, soul and confessional singer-songwriting which dominates her lightly appealing music. Like the exuberant, anything goes creator of “circus swing” Gaby Young, and Mercury nominee Kit Downes’ electronic-tinged big band Troyk-estra, La Havas has inviting human warmth. Seven-times Grammy-winning vibes player Gary Burton and his quartet have that as much as anyone, playing intensely skilled jazz with easygoing, companionable delight. The hum of pleasure as his crowd left was constant in this corner of the Cotswolds last week.
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 2 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 4 Amy Winehouse unpublished 2004 interview: ‘Ten years from now I’ll be 30, so I’ll maybe have one baby’
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains