We did better at this year's Jazz Festival, I think.We started with Kit Downes' piano trio, one of the new-to-us groups we like to try each festival. They'd appealed because Downes is said to have some of the same mixed jazz and classical sensibilities of Brad Mehldau, who I first discovered at a Cheltenham Jazz Festival years ago. They started with Jump which indeed had echoes of Mehldau. We also liked hearing their tribute to early Keith Jarrett, called Tambourine. Like many piano trios we thought that the drumming was too fussy and intrusive, but it didn't mar things too badly. We'll try to find a recording, and hopefully be able to listen again to other great pieces such as Golden and Brixon.

A Big Fringe


Over at the free Fringe stage we enjoyed Jake Hall's singing by turns energetic and soulful, backing himself on acoustic guitar accompanied by a friend playing a funky cajon drum and bongos.Later we enjoyed tapping and nodding along to The Roving Crows, who were a slightly strange choice for a Jazz Festival, being as they're an Irish Folk/country/rock band. Perhaps their booking at the Cheltenham Folk festival got muddled up ... Whatever it was their French-sounding bass player didn't seem to be enjoying himself nearly as much as the lead guitarist.I'd like to have seen Nikki Yeoh's piano trio again, but it clashed with one of the others. And next time, Tommy, next time ...

The Headline

But back to the main festival, and the treat that was Jamie Cullum headlining. Jo + John joined us to celebrate Jo's birthday in style. We'd heard beforehand that the Town Hall's regular piano tuner doesn't like him coming as he 'trashes' pianos. And I did feel for him when Jamie jumped up onto the Steinway grand. But in the end he seemed to have mellowed slightly (maybe now he's a thirty-something), only jumping off the piano twice. He hadn't lost his energy, though, and his ability to entertain. It also needs to be said that he is a consummate musician, backed up by some serious talent. His voice and way of bending and working notes is unique, and great to listen to.Most of the songs were new to us, as we'd only got one of his albums -- a problem we've now more than fixed! -- but he rounded off the show with the haunting Gran Torino, which he wrote for the Clint Eastwood movie. Before then he and the band came down off the stage, bringing a few instruments with them, and gave as extended acoustic variations on Cry me a River in the aisle, much to everyone's delight.It was a greal treat, and we're looking forward to listening to those new albums ...

AuthorJonathan Clark