A sun drenched field in Sussex, Marquees, a big stage, funfair, camping grounds: It’s a real festival. A bit of cognitive dissonance with the programme billed as jazz, but the much trailed Love Supreme Festival experiment was beginning with a line up including some of the biggest, hippest names from the other side of the pond as well as what looked like the Brit Jazz tent.
I slipped into the field as the crowds were swelling, my first goal to catch a couple of gigs from British bands who’ve been on the festival circuit, Go Go Penguin, then Kairos 4tet. Hearing them back to back emphasised how much inspiration is drawn from the rhythms and beats of hip hop and the club scene as well as may be the rock minimalism of the Bad Plus, with both building tunes around loop like segments, bursts of frenetic drumming and dense riffs and hand break turns of mood and tempo. GoGo perhaps erred more to rocky climatic crescendos that really got the healthy early afternoon crowd going. Kairos left more space for overtly jazzy improvising with furious postbop soloing from leader Adam Waldeman and Jon Turville depping on piano. The vocal tunes with Emilia Martensson introduced an even richer harmonic palette and some gorgeous melody. Both bands had to sacrifice a bit of subtlety with the volume cranked up to drown out the roaring soul band on the main stage.
I had a somewhat surreal moment, of this time cultural dissonance, when I dipped into Troyka‘s gig later in the afternoon. The trio, clustered in the centre of a dimly lit stage were working up a coruscating electronic scream from initial scattered squeaks and clatter before a rollicking groove emerged. Meanwhile in my other ear, as I was standing at the edge of the tent, Full on gospelly soul on the main stage from Charles Bradley. It wasn’t just the heat that was brain melting at that point.
It was fabulous, eclectic start. If it was all too much lying down and snoozing in the sun was always an option. Snarky Puppy really lit the blue touch paper of my day. Was it the incredibly tight funky grooves, with exuberant bass and thunderous drums and percussion locked? The mazy arrangements with a sing-able hook never far away (and loudly encouraged)? The incendiary soloing all round with duties on the third…yes third… keyboard liberally shared (including by the drummer when Marcus Miller’s drummer couldn’t resist hopping up and sitting in.. Ah, festivals!) Well all of the above, and by the time of the keyboard soloing duel that whipped it up to close the set, the fading heat of the sun had been balanced by the heat on stage. What else to do after that but to go out and dance the early evening away to 70s disco soulsters Chic with most of the rest of the field?
By the time Robert Glasper disappeared in a cloud of dry ice sometime around midnight (the dense beats, effects and throbbing grooves of Experiment Robert Glasper of ‘Black Radio’ – not acoustic trio Robert Glasper) , you’d have to count the day as a roaring success. Something for everyone, and mostly whatever your taste, probably something you’d have enjoyed despite yourself. It’d be rude not to join in.