Magnetic. Never mind it was just after 2 pm on the hottest afternoon of the year; never mind there were a few people to be stepped over if you wanted to move around, sleeping off Saturday night’s excesses no doubt; never mind the distant throb of other stages; Terence Blanchard‘s quintet were magnetic and mid way through the first set as the dark swirling chords at a march like tempo underpinned a lament like keening theme, the leader launched into an anguished impassioned solo that built from a few elegant phrase to a pitch of such raw emotion it was almost too much to bear. That was Hallucinations the third tune from their aptly titled recent release Magnetic (back on Blue Note as Blanchard observed with a self deprecating implied roll of the eyes in his tone).
Fabian Almazon on piano and a very youthful Joshua Crumbly had been combining with almost veteran by comparison Kendrick Scott on drums to create a surging, often swinging pulse with lots of space for by turns spacious and furious soloing from tenor man Brice Winston and Blanchard himself. Magnetic, compelling, moving. Not to be missed. A full house of New Orleans jazz royalty then with Branford Marsalis later in the afternoon. I’d made my way past the main stage to get there where Soweto Kinch had been whipping up an uncompromising Ornette-ish squall with a trio of his alto, bass and drums. There were a few slack jaws in places. After Gregory Porter had wowed the main stage crowd, rocking out on ‘1960 what’ to finish, a tune that’s beginning seem like a classic that’s always been around, I sat down for iced coffee a bit of time out and a natter. The question ‘is it a jazz festival’ and odd on-line growl ‘ there’s not much jazz in the programme’ came up and just seemed weird on a lot of levels, especially as we looked round at the thousands milling around. Cheek by jowl was pop, soul, funk, jazz inspired/ influenced music; uncategorisable creative blends of who knows what influence and oh yes, world class, world beating music that everyone would agree is in the vanguard of bop orientated inspired jazz today – for what the labels are worth. If this was what festival director Ciro Romano had imagined when he set about getting backers and big name supporters for this festival, then the hard work made it a reality. Whatever had drawn someone here, they were unlikely to escape hearing something that hadn’t (even if it made them want to escape). Fabulous.
Back to the main stage for Esperanza Spalding – ‘Espee’ as one of the band called in one the half sung, half talking bits of interplay that linked each liquid, jazz, soulful song to the next. Theirs was an utterly compelling, relaxed effortless excursion through the Radio Society People repertoire holding a large crowd in the sun rapt. When the trombone was exhorted to show us how he felt, we got it. Not even the roar and applause that somehow swept through the crowd as Andy Murray clinched the Wimbledon championship could disrupt their groove.
My last infusion of energy was from Branford Marsalis’ Quartet before leaving to battle with getting across the country on trains on Sunday night. And what an infusion. Joey Calderazzo on piano and Justin Faulkner on drums were in danger of stealing the show. The combination between the two seemed to escalate inexorably. On a familiar Marsalis post-bop swinger, replete with doubled bass and piano fills on the head Calderazzo started with just -so boppish phrases leaving plenty of space and displacing rhythms teasingly. Then a cycle of dazzling runs building to crashing chords before the thunderous roll of Faulkner’s drums seemed sparked off an even more incendiary runs. It went on ratcheting up until the the whole tent seemed to roaring them on and still they ramped it up. Extraordinary stuff. Branford just grinned and nodded approvingly from his chair behind bassist Eric Revis. Another fabulous moment amongst a weekend’s worth. The something for everyone Love Supreme idea showed its worth on this magical weekend.