The programme in the Parabola Arts Centre (PAC) will this year present 11 concerts representing what we consider to be some of the most interesting contemporary jazz from the UK, Europe and the USA.
There are various themes, small groups and large ensembles, new commissions, vocal jazz, improvised music and premieres of new bands.
On the first night, the Friday night, we welcome back the Swiss singer Lucia Cadotsch, who was a huge success in the 2018 festival with her beautiful renditions of well known songs in the Speak Low trio. On this occasion she will be performing with Kit Downes, Phil Donkin and James Maddren.
The second gig on the Friday night will feature a new group led by pianist Zoe Rahman featuring trumpeter Byron Wallen and flautist Rowland Sutherland. Zoe will be writing new material for this band
The Saturday programme is very full. It starts with one of the most popular events of the whole PAC programme: the collaboration between jazz students from Birmingham Conservatoire and students from across Europe. This year the Birmingham students will be collaborating with jazz students from Siena and Hamburg to form three groups. They get together in Birmingham, work out their material, play a warm up gig in Birmingham on the Friday, and then travel down to Cheltenham.
Dark Days is a new commission for bass player Neil Charles inspired by the thoughts of the American writer James Baldwin in his book Dark Days. Neil has put together a great group with vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, pianist Pat Thomas and drummer Mark Sanders for this new work.
We always want to include in the PAC programme bands from continental Europe, and this year we have Shake Stew from Austria led by bass player Lukas Kranzelbinder. It’s a great band which recently won the best International Band in the German Jazz Awards, and are making their UK debut at Cheltenham.
There is a very interesting scene developing in Scotland, particularly in Glasgow, with bands drawing on Scottish traditional music and integrating it with jazz. Graham Costello‘s band Strata which also features Fergus McCreadie on piano, is an excellent example of this tendency. They play the final set of the day in PAC.
Sunday is equally busy. The day begins with an improvising quartet led by saxophonist Paul Dunmall. We always want to include free jazz/improvised music in the PAC programme; this group is the finest in the UK, and Paul Dunmall is one of the greatest improvisers on the saxophone anywhere in the world. He leads a wonderful quartet with Liam Noble on piano, John Edwards on double bass andw Mark Sanders on drums.
We follow that opening gig with a nice contrast: a large ensemble led by and composed for by trumpeter/composer Laura Jurd. This is a rare live outing for Laura’s Stepping Back, Jumping In project, which was recorded, but not often heard live. Compositions for the ensemble are by Laura, Elliot Galvin, Soosan Lolavar, Anja Lauvdal and Heida Johannesdottir.
Fascinada is a new project led by saxophonist Iain Ballamy and pianist Huw Warren with Rob Luft guitar, Conor Chaplin bass and Will Glaser drums. The band will be playing tribute to great Brazilian musicians, notably Tom Jobim, Hermeto Pascoal, Milton Nascimento, Ivan Lins, Joao Bosco moving from improvisation into themes inspired by these musicians.
The day concludes with the great Mike Westbrook leading his jazz orchestra performing his tribute to Duke Ellington, On Duke’s Birthday. Mike is one of the most important musicians and composers in the UK and Europe, but this is the first time that Mike has appeared at Cheltenham.
This year we have one concert in PAC on the Monday of the festival. This is an all woman band from New York led by pianist Myra Melford and featuring Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones, Mary Halvorsen on guitar, Tomeka Reid on cello and Susie Ibarra on drums. They come to Cheltenham as part of an extensive European tour. It will be great to welcome Ingrid Laubrock back to Cheltenham; she was one of the Jerwood Rising Stars before she moved to New York. And Myra Melford is a charismatic pianist and bandleader.
I should also mention one concert on another stage: Dave Douglas will perform in duo with Joey Baron on the Jazz Arena on the Saturday. Dave is a great friend of the festival, and a key figure in the US scene as is his partner on this occasion, drummer Joey Baron.
Booking for all these concerts can be made at https://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/jazz/whats-on/grid