The venues and organisation of this festival have evolved over the last few years to the point where most of the action is now concentrated on a mini festival site on Montepellier Gardens and what a good move its been. With the Big Top, another large tented stage (the Arena) a free stage, smattering of stalls, a bar there’s a great feel to it. You can just hang out. The occasional beat of a different drum leaked from one stage to another , but it wasn’t disastrous. We went for the ‘less is more approach’ this year (sometimes I’ve overdone it and found myself only half listening to my nth world class gig in a few hours); just a few booked gigs, going to the festival jam at Hotel du vin after hours and lurking near the free stage. I’ve also a sneaking admiration for a booking policy that meant we could have gone from the New York cool of Jeff Williams to the very funky and loud Phantom Limb via Norwegian euro jazz and on to uber classy cabaret entertainment. There was something here for most folk and ages. Truly fabulous moments provided at the jam when Gregory Porter showed up and pushed the Birmingham Conservertoire students to outdo themselves accompanying him (was that Jeff Williams under that trilby on drums?). A bleary eyed friend told me the previous evening he’d watched Chris Potter letting rip with half of Marcus Miller’s band there into the small hours. Another great moment or two were to be had watching the finalist of the Yamaha Jazz experience on the free stage on Monday. An awesome arrangement of Eye of the Hurricane by some very young Jazz Warriors had me whooping. The weather could have been improved on (webbed feet not compulsory, but they helped), but I’m not sure I’ve got too many other suggestions. See you next year Cheltenham – if you need any help just call.
Cheltenham Festival 2012 – the wrap up