Preview: Cheltenham Jazz 2018

Cheltenham Jazz Festival has announced its 2018 lineup, a weekend of over 90 shows including Rick Astley with the Ronnie Scott's Big Band

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival, which this year runs from 2-7 May, is set to deliver its trademark mix of classic and contemporary jazz, soul, blues, and pop from an array of international acts and emerging young performers. High-profile names already announced for this year’s festival include Kamasi Washington, Randy Crawford (who performs on opening night), Donny McCaslin, Beth Hart and Nigel Kennedy.

They will be joined by Van Morrison, Corinne Bailey Rae, pop-jazz singer Caro Emerald and Irish vocalist Imelda May. Rick Astley (pictured right) and the Ronnie Scott’s Big Band will be exploring jazz and the Great American Songbook on Monday 7 May and food critic Jay Rayner will appear with his piano quartet.

This year’s festival will feature a concert series conceived by DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson which will include shows from neo-soul artist Jordan Rakei, MOBO and Jazz FM Award-winning drummer Moses Boyd with his band Exodus and UK singer-songwriter Zara McFarlane. Another festival hand, Jamie Cullum, has selected Mercury-nominated prog jazzers Dinosaur, cinematic nu-jazz outfit Portico Quartet and the first-ever UK performance from Christian McBride’s Big Band among his picks.

Other names confirmed for the six-day event are multiple MOBO winner Courtney Pine in collaboration with soul singer Omar (pictured left), funk band Tower of Power, Roller Trio premiering new material, US jazz vocalist China Moses, saxophonist Evan Parker’s Trance Map+ - for their second-ever performance - Seun Kuti, the son of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, with his late father’s band Egypt 80, and previously unheard material from Empirical.

Kansas Smitty’s House Band return to the Daffodil to present their best of the programme from their East London bar. Also back are electronic musicians Iain Chambers and Dan Nicholls with their Recomposed series: the series this year will feature performances from Swiss vocalist Lucia Cadotsch and Kit Downes’s piano trio Enemy, who launch their new album at the Parabola, reworked and mixed into an entirely new piece of music. Birmingham-based band Hansu-Tori with combine with dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet in a cross-arts performance of excerpts from their show Wolves Are People Too, inspired by Japanese animation Wolf Children.

BBC Radio 2, a long-standing festival partner, will host live onsite broadcasts across the weekend. Friday Night Is Music Night will feature the BBC Concert Orchestra and Guy Barker Big Band with guest vocalists including Shaun Escoffery and Vanessa Haynes in Rollin’ On The River, a musical journey along the Mississippi. There will be live broadcasts from Clare Teal and Jo Whiley, as well as from Radio 6 Music's Cerys Matthews and Gilles Peterson. Younger generation acts include London-based contemporary jazz guitarist Rob Luft, vocalist Jazzmeia Horn (pictured right by Jacob Blickenstaff), US soul singer Jalen N’Gonda, best known for his 2017 breakthrough hit I Need You, Jamie Cullum’s festival pick vocalist Anoushka Lucas, and a double bill from 24-year-old rising star vocalist Hannah Grace and last year’s winner of Glastonbury’s emerging-talent competition, Josh Barry.

The festival will offer a range of opportunities for young people, introducing jazz to preschoolers in the Yamaha Discovery Space, initiating primary-aged children in the joy of jazz, providing performance opportunities for local school jazz bands and offering behind the scenes access and by appointment one-on-one career advice from industry professionals. The winner of the inaugural LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award, 19-year-old guitarist Tom Ibarra, will start his tour of the seven major jazz festivals in Europe at Cheltenham.

Most performances in this year’s festival take place in a tented village in the town centre’s picturesque Montpellier Gardens, featuring the Henry Westons Big Top stage, Jazz Arena, Free Stage, Yamaha Discovery Space, a programme of family activities and events and a food, drink and market area. Other venues across Cheltenham include Cheltenham Town Hall, Cheltenham Ladies’ College Parabola Arts Centre, Hotel du Vin, Malmaison and The Daffodil, as well as a free fringe line-up - it all adds up to over 90 shows across the festival weekend.

Tickets go on sale to Cheltenham Festival members on 28 February and on general sale from 7 March. For ticket sales and details of the full festival timetable and programme please go to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival website.

Bruce Lindsay

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