Ambrose Akinmusire, Partisans and Hugh Masekela light up Love Supreme Jazz Fest

With the surrounding South Downs at their most beautiful in the early evening sunlight, and a crowd of 20,000 blending races, ages and genders like little seen before in this corner of England as they enjoy sometimes great jazz and soul, Love Supreme seems like a utopia. Its Saturday night belongs to Blue Note, and especially Ambrose Akinmusire (top), whose performance equals the label’s classic era. A twenty-minute opening of furious intensity sees him stepping periodically and tellingly into the heart of his quartet’s storm. On ‘Regret No More’, his trumpet astonishingly resembles the human voice in all its variety, harsh and plaintive cries ending in a long, pure, almost impossible wailing note. His technique is extraordinary, but serves densely purposeful, emotional music.

partisans

As he finishes in the Big Top, Blue Note’s star British signing GoGo Penguin are packing out The Arena. The piano trio have a light, fleet touch, adding to their command of dance music dynamics – a very particular, popular, streamlined sound which will need expanding soon. Other British acts here include Get The Blessing who often seem more playfully cerebral than the intensely potent Akinmusire. Partisans, though, are all rocketing attack, and Dylan Howe’s Subterraneans let the melancholy of Bowie and Eno’s ‘Warszawa’ slowly soarover back-projected, Cold War Berlin street scenes.

Ginger Baker
, meanwhile, plays through the pain of a rapidly deteriorating body, and shows his old bullying bad temper to an unfortunate young roadie. His still weighty playing is usefully slower than in his monstrous prime, and at first not always attuned to percussionist Abass Dodoo. But on ‘Ginger Spice’ they finally, beautifully lock in behind Pee Wee Ellis’ sinuous sax. The crowd ramming the Big Top start swaying, and a thunderously assertive Baker solo rides their energy. He has to leave the stage after that, but returns for a majestic, moving finish, his sickness falling from him as he flies.

hughmsekela

Hugh Masekela’s 76 years have treated him more kindly, and the Big Top is packed and dancing for him too, numbers barely dented by Van Morrison’s perfunctory Main Stage set. Masekela’s apartheid oppressors are dead or disgraced, but he is still riding his freedom train, combining spoken-word protest with hilarious good humour and his rationed but still blazing trumpet. God bless him, I think, as he strives for a more permanent utopia than Love Supreme’s blissful weekend.

– Nick Hasted

– Photos by Roger Thomas

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