Event Review: Love Supreme Festival @ Glynde Place (Glynde, East Sussex; Friday 29th June to Sunday 1st July 2018)

Set in the heart of the Sussex Downs, Love Supreme Festival returned for its 6th year of spreading the gospel of jazz, blues and soul to some 40,000 music lovers. Unless you were the man who told me, bizarrely, that he “doesn’t like virtuosity in music”, you were going to be hard pushed not to have an amazing weekend.

Easing the punters in gently, it was left to Henry Wu on the Friday night to get people into the party mood, spinning his quality brand of retro disco and nu-jazz house to the late-night revellers. From its inception in 2013, Love Supreme has consistently delivered a stellar line-up, and this year was no different. Spun from the loose threads of the once mighty Brand New Heavies, drummer Jan Kincaid and singer Dawn Joseph now front the very funky MF Robots, and their crisp disco-funk sound was the perfect way to kick off the Saturday on the main stage.

Dawn Joseph – MF Robots

Following on from a fascinating Q&A session with the broadcaster and journalist, Jez Nelson, afrobeat legend and drummer for Fela Kuti, Tony Allen, took to the stage and delivered his impeccable hybrid of jazz and afrobeat. Now in his 78th year, Allen has recently released two jazz-infused albums. A Tribute To Art Blakey was closely followed by The Source, and both recordings deeply reflect Allen’s jazz heritage. We were treated not to jazz or afrobeat, but rather to something that joyously straddles the two.

Tony Allen

Daughter of soul legend Donny, Lalah Hathaway has carved out a fantastic career, cementing her place in the pantheon of contemporary soul superstars. From her hugely successful collaborations with Snarky Puppy and Divageek to a far more sultry and mellow solo set, Hathaway has it all. The crowd in the Big Top were bewitched by her glorious tone and dazzling range, and we even had a spine-tingling moment when Hathaway delivered her remarkable trademark, singing a chord.

Lalah Hathaway

Up-and-coming acts and local groups are also supported at Love Supreme, and experimental fusioneers Jamie Murray’s Beat Replacement exuded great energy, as did London based Samuel EaglesSpirit, carrying the torch of contemporary jazz and sounding like something McCoy Tyner might have produced in the early 1970s, whilst still retaining an originality.

In the slightly smaller Arena on the Saturday, two of the leading lights in the flourishing new Brit-jazz movement gilded the festival with a wealth of sound, at times mellifluous and elsewhere, raucous. First up was saxophonist Nubya Garcia, who plays much of her own compositions and has a tone that can both lift and relax in the same breath. With echoes of Coltrane and Rollins, Garcia’s music is spacious, expansive and deliciously beguiling. Playing with Garcia, Joe Armon-Jones (keys) and Femi Koleoso (drums) then leapt into their roles in the subsequent act, Ezra Collective. Led by Koleoso’s incendiary rhythmic masterclass and his enthusiastic cajoling of the audience, this was music on a ferocious and exhilarating level. Shades of Mahavishnu Orchestra tinged with an afrobeat filter.

Nubya Garcia

With the sounds of Level 42 and Elvis Costello washing over the site, Saturday drew to a close. Sunday was to bring extra joy.

Further highlighting the strength of contemporary British jazz, Moses Boyd brought his prodigious drumming talent into the Arena. Experimental, yet still with a straight-ahead elegance, the interplay on show was at times mesmeric. Mavis Staples’ voice has stood the test of time pretty well, and in between renditions of classic songs, including “Respect Yourself”, she recounted her formative years, her role in the civil rights movement and her memories of marching to Montgomery with Dr Martin Luther King. Soul music can often take you to places you didn’t expect. This was like time travel. George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic was a completely different kettle of funk. The exuberance and vitality were still present, but the combination with something akin to Public Enemy or The Beastie Boys simply didn’t work. One could sense the disappointment in the air.

Earth, Wind & Fire

A brief glimpse of Steve Winwood in The Big Top singing “Higher Love” was a cherished moment, before it was back across the field for the main event, Earth, Wind & Fire.

Playing a fantastic blend of many of their biggest hits, this was a disco party that was almost worth the admission fee alone. It was hard to spot somebody who wasn’t dancing, and they could’ve played on for another hour and still had the crowd in a feverish mood. Without a doubt, this is one of the tightest bands you could ever wish to see. Polished to perfection.

All in all, Love Supreme is an excellent festival choice. The cross-pollination of musicians and styles is all contained on a beautiful yet compact site, making it easy to get around – especially useful with this year’s blistering weather. Be sure to catch it again in 2019!