The Cheltenham Jazz Festival is almost upon us and I’m really looking forward to this year’s programme. The thing I particularly like about the programme is that every year it mixes big names from both the jazz and jazz-related areas with some really cutting edge contemporary music. So this year we have, to take just two examples, The Bad Plus as well as Gregory Porter, the Swiss jazz harpist Julie Campiche as well as the vocalist Kandace Springs.
As ever, a festival such as Cheltenham Jazz Festival offers the opportunity to try out something different, something that is more adventurous and that people may not have heard of. I would like to suggest nine concerts that I think are worth checking out. Of course this is a personal choice!
- MICHAEL FORMANEK’S ELUSION QUARTET Four top players from New York including one of my favourite saxophone players, Tony Malaby, pianist Kris Davis, and one of the most inventive percussionists in the USA, Ches Smith, in a quartet led by bass player, Michael Formanek, a key figure on the New York scene for over 20 years Saturday 4th May, 10.15 Parabola Arts Centre.
- JOHN SURMAN, JOHN WARREN and the BRASS PROJECT John Surman marks his 75th Birthday with this revival of what for me is one of his most interesting projects, the Brass Project conducted by John Warren. Saturday 4th May 2.15 Town Hall
- RACHEL MUSSON’S I WENT THIS WAY Improvising saxophonist Rachel Musson leads a nine-piece ensemble performing her I Went This Way Saturday 4th May 2pm Parabola Arts Centre
- THE BAD PLUS it will be fascinating to hear how the music of this piano bass drums trio will have changed now that Orrin Evans is on the piano Sunday 5th May, 4pm Jazz Arena
- THE PARIS BIRMINGHAM CONSERVATOIRES EXCHANGE This year the Birmingham Conservatoire students will be collaborating with French students from the Paris Conservatoire. This is always one of the best gigs in the Parabola Saturday 4th May 11am Parabola Arts Centre.
- CHERISE ADAMS-BURNETT A brilliant and talented vocalist who worked with the Birmingham based Trope and impressed with the Kansas Smitty’s last year Saturday 4th May, Daffodil Restaurant, dinner at 7pm, performance at 8.30
- JULIE CAMPICHE QUARTET I heard Julie’s harp playing in the context of her quartet at last year’s 12 Points Festival and immediately thought she is right for Cheltenham Sunday 5th May 1.45 Parabola Arts Centre
- SUNLIGHT: Soweto Kinch meets Andreas Schaerer and Kalle Kalima Soweto and Andreas have a brilliant rapport combining Andreas’ amazing vocals with Soweto’s saxophone playing and rapping. Guitarist Kalle Kalima will surely fit in well Friday 3rd May 7pm Parabola Arts Centre
- HERMIA CECCALDI DARRIFOURCQ This saxophone, cello drums trio represents all that is good about contemporary European jazz. For this gig Hermia is replaced by French saxophonist Quentin Biardeau. Sunday 5th May 9.45 Parabola Arts Centre