As usual, it was raining in Lancaster, and with that general Lancashire misery in the air, Lancaster Jazz Festival managed to gather more than enough people to fill their crowds that dipped into and out of the participating events as a fantastic array of musicians descended on the city.
Youth Orbit presented a well-rehearsed set for such a young group of musicians. They are highly accomplished, and I liked their traditional jazz style that was developed by a modern twist. The singer had a mature voice, the drummer held the floor during those solos, and the saxophone players demonstrated a sound technique. Their piece 10,000 Waves was far more experimental and, while it may not have been as fun, were far more innovate and I hope they use this material in future.
Tom Ridout presented a relaxing 3-piece set. I was skeptical about seeing a recorder player at a jazz festival, but it seems like the instrument previously classified as outdated or something to give to primary school children has found its home in jazz. This rearrangement of Handel’s Sonata in F into jazz demonstrated incredible compositional and musical skill, and the third movement, in particular, was excellent- it was my personal favourite.
Both Yiasena and James Mainwairing were fun, and their fast-moving high energy and were real crowd pleasers. Mainwairing, in particular, had some impressive virtuosic skills and dynamic range which he cleverly used to enhance his solo artistic performance.
Archipelago and J Frisco was a new and interesting merge between two bands interesting because it didn’t feel like a fusion but more one, single huge band. The keyboard player danced like there was no tomorrow, and the drummer was incredibly inventive in his use of the kit. Altogether, it was a great balance between the experimental and the crowd-pleasing.
The Charlie Pyne Quartet was a real wake-up call from that mid-afternoon slumber and was the perfect accompaniment for that first mid-afternoon beer before a small stage of scat singers. Likewise, Satori was a three-piece band in a fairly traditional set up who were sharp and well-rehearsed as accomplished musicians.
In all honesty, at this point in the afternoon, I felt like things were starting to lag, there had been too many similar acts in quick succession. However, then came Slow Loris, a guitar, bass and drums set up with a unique jazz sound to shake up the afternoon. It was almost like jazz-rock in their use of effects and instrumentation and had the most people dancing away at the back. Their CD was the only one I bought there and then all weekend.
The John Pope Quintet had enjoyable energy and a proper showoff technique in the solos. Ubunye, meanwhile, had a completed different style and sound to anything that I’d head that the festival that weekend with an astonishing female lead vocalist. Both of these bands were a fun, relaxing and entertaining way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
Lancaster Jazz Festival has to be commended for its ability to organise a diverse and accessible festival across the city, providing free events for poor students like me and making the use of the beautiful venues available. As with all festivals, there were some things I liked more than others, but for such a small, locally-based festival event it’s certainly setting its sights high. Let’s hope the festival continues to get funding to grow because give it a few more years and it could be a landmark event in Lancaster’s cultural calendar.