Paloma Faith and the Guy Barker Orchestra, Jazz Festival, Cheltenham
Gregory Porter featuring Jamie Cullum, Jazz Festival, Cheltenham

Jamie is swinging his hammer on the chain gang – but Mrs Overall just swings

Two years ago, Paloma Faith and Guy Barker closed the Cheltenham Jazz Festival with an evening of lovelorn torch songs, Down at the End of Lonely Street. On her return engagement, Faith chose to debut the whole of her soon-to-be-released second album as the festival's first Artist in Residence, which also involved her booking (and duetting with) the veteran soul singer Candi Staton, and programming a pop-up cinema. If the 2010 performance had been a rousing if slightly nervy triumph, this time it was sensational. The venue was a hit, too – a circus Big Top, replacing the sonically challenged Town Hall – and Barker's superb arrangements for the 48-piece band created a jazzier, funkier and poppier sound that made the upbeat repertoire really swing and swoosh, aided by a sassy female backing trio.

Though the unfamiliarity of the material made this a tough gig ("I'm so pleased you haven't been able to buy the album yet," she said, "because then you'd know what a terrible mess I just made of that last number"), Faith proved herself a star. This was partly due to her soulful voice, but mostly to her winning stage presence: streetwise Cockney waif done up as Forties jazz vamp, with any pretensions undercut by the comic timing of what might be termed her Mrs Overall persona, whose asides to the audience suggest that the whole edifice is about to come crashing down on her head. The songs from the new album, Fall to Grace, (co-written by Faith with several collaborators) are impressively hook-laden, but the real treats came when she mixed them with cover versions of soul classics such as Bettye LaVette's "Let Me Down Easy". Near the end, when she sang "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Etta James ("the woman who taught me how to sing"), it was pure soul heaven, Faith's voice moaning the crucial three repetitions of "I was just ...". Not many women from Stoke Newington can do that and win.

If Paloma Faith's voice is almost entirely self-willed, the US jazz/soul vocalist Gregory Porter has both nature and nurture on his side. His mother was a church minister in Bakersfield, and he began his professional career in musical theatre, writing and performing a one-man show about lost father-figures, Nat King Cole and Me. He's also a big man, with big lungs to match, but what really impresses about Porter's voice is its hinterland: there is so much power in reserve that he needs only to let out a little at a time to convince. His orotund phrasing and warm, Californian intonation complete a fabulous vocal talent. But Porter is no mere canary: he writes the songs he sings, with a strong suit in dreamily spiritual, black-consciousness lyrics.

The role of Jamie Cullum – an icon both of the festival, for which he is guest director, and of Radio 2 – was more problematic. He introduced Porter, sang a couple of duets, played a bit of piano, did a vocal feature himself and was every bit as engaging and likeable as he always is. But if you knew Porter's two excellent albums already, you eventually wanted Jamie to buzz off so we could hear a bit more of them. And when, in a duet on Nat Adderley's "Work Song", Jamie sang: "I been breaking rocks on the chain gang", you couldn't really believe him, could you? His generous sponsorship worked, however: next year, Gregory Porter will easily fill the Big Top himself.

'Fall to Grace' by Paloma Faith is released on 28 May. She plays G-A-Y Heaven, London (0844 847 2351) on 26 May. Gregory Porter plays Band on the Wall, Manchester (0161-834 1786) 12 Jun, and Bloomsbury Theatre, London (020-7388 8822) 13 &14 Jun

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing