We went to the opening gig of the 2009 Cheltenham Jazz Festival. It was an eclectic mix of well-known jazz, full-on gospel, plus complete unknowns. Namely, Jason Yarde, Alex Wilson, Ian Shaw, Mica Paris, the Ruach Mass Choir, and 200 kids from Beaufort Community School and Stroud High School. And all held in Gloucester's 'GL1' Leisure Centre.

The Ruach Mass Choir swayed nicely in time with each other, but the very simple and highly repetitive songs they did didn't thrill us. The first knock-out was Jason Yarde performing a medley of Amazing Grace - I cannot tell with piano. Hugely soulful at times, he then played one of his own compositions which showed off his fiery side as well.
The schools had been tutored by two members of the Ruach choir, and did pretty well on some old favourites, such as I need someone to lean on and I wish I could fly, including some good vocal solos. Audience participation was uncouraged, and for This little light of mine even had 100 of the audience on the stage, including some very good impromptu solos.The only particularly explicitly Christian song from the choir was a moving rendition of The heart of worship featuring the choir's leader Nicky Brown. Some in the audience (including us) were definitely worshipping through it.
I've heard of Ian Shaw but never seem him before, and he's quite a puzzle. He solo'd on Down by the river (Change is going to come) in his strange mix of white-boy-gospel and screaming falsetto. I can't quite imagine going to a full concert of his.O happy Day was a good choice of finale, which summed up my feelings as well. Gospel's not the sort of music to normally lift me, but this time the combination did.

AuthorJonathan Clark