Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Cheltenham Jazz Festival: The Soul Jazz Summit with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Guy Barker’s Big Band and Special Guests – Live Review

Kickstarting a new tradition for the Festival, the Soul Jazz Summit brings together the very best of jazz, funk and soul, including special guests Kurt Elling, Madeline Bell, Mica Millar, Ashton Jones, Vanessa Haynes, Mica Paris, Tommy Blaize and Ian Shaw. Celebrating the explosion of jazz and soul from the late fifties, more than 80 musicians come together to draw inspiration from jazz giants Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Count Basie and more in an extraordinary night of music. Featuring the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Mike Dixon and Guy Barker’s Big Band.

The Soul Jazz Summit took place on the second night of Cheltenham Jazz Festival in the Big Top Tent. The stunning setting of Montpellier Square gardens in Cheltenham Town was beaming full of Jazz fans, eager to hear what was set to be a night to remember.

Another sold out crowd for the second night of Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2023, the stage looked amazing with all the set up for the BBC Concert Orchestra and Guy Barker’s Big Band.

This was Cheltenham Jazz Festival’s first ever Soul Jazz Summit and hopefully the first of many.

Ashton Jones

The show started promptly at 8.30pm. The BBC Concert Orchestra, Guy Barker and his Big Band and conductor Mike Dixon all took to the stage after an introduction from Marcus Brigstoke.

Beginning with an Overture arranged by Guy Barker referencing Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, the Overture was stunning with a powerful delivery from each and every musician.

The night also featured special guests. The first two to take to the stage were Ashton Jones and Mica Millar.

Singing along with the orchestra and band, Ashton performed Reverend Al Green’s Take Me To The River. An energetic and sublime performance, Ashton’s vocals were soulful, rich and warm. The audience absolutely loved him and he was an absolute delight to watch.

Mica Paris

Mica Millar followed with Etta JamesFool That I Am. Mica is a beautiful performer, her vocals are delicate yet powerful and she is certainly one to watch.

Ian Shaw and Mica Paris were next. Ian performed Small Day Tomorrow and he was magnificent. Shaw was quite the entertainer.

Mica Paris brought her soulful, zesty vocals to Every time We Say Goodbye. Her performance was raw and emotional.

Mica Millar

Tommy Blaize, known for being a vocalist on BBC Strictly Come Dancing performed Nat King Cole’s I Wish You Love. Blaize was even more fabulous live than on Strictly. He appeared more at home on the stage with the orchestra and big band and just filled the tent with his soaring, soulful vocals.

Vanessa Haynes is a mighty vocalist. Her tone was infectious as she gave a fun and incredible performance of Mean Man.

Tommy Blaize

Straight off a plane, Kurt Elling drove from straight the airport to the festival to perform for us tonight. Performing All The Way, he began a cappella which was perfection. When the bass line kicked in you could feel it in your bones, and when the strings followed you felt it in your soul but when the full orchestra and band played along with Elling, it transported you into another world. That’s the beauty of musicians and artists of this calibre, all night each note played and vocal sung was just mesmerising.

The tribute to Burt Bacharach was a highlight for us. A fan of his work, (how could you not be) we enjoyed each rendition immensely. Madeline Bell graced the stage to an audience who beamed as she took centre stage. Madeline had just days before celebrated her 80th birthday. Performing What The World Needs Now Is Love, Bell was astonishing. Remaining on stage, Vanessa Haynes joined Bell to perform a duet of Say A Little Prayer. Together their voices blended beautifully and it was a moment that will remain in our memory for a long time to come.

Kurt Elling

After the interval the Orchestra and Band returned and were joined by Ashton Jones for a glorious cover of Stevie Wonder’s Living for the City. Ashton is a true showman and someone who would be well worth catching a full set from one day!

Madeline Bell

Mica Millar returned to the stage to sing Just a Little Lovin’ followed by Mica Paris performing Ray CharlesHallelujah, I Love Her So!

Ian Shaw and his scat vocal stylings covered My Favourite Things and Vanessa Hynes sang Bridge over Troubled Water.

Tommy Blaize lent his talents to Let The Good Times Roll, he is a joy on stage.

Ian Shaw

A Duke Ellington tribute was next with Madeline Bell singing Imagine My Frustration, a true highlight for us!

Tutti for Cootie the next song from Kurt Elling and the performance of course was undeniably brilliant and the Orchestra and Band just fell perfectly into place with his vocals.

The finale brought everyone on stage to honour James Brown. Each vocalist playing a part, the songs celebrated were Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, It’s a Man’s Man’s World and I Feel Good.

A standing ovation, it was clear everyone had thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

I feel that this show should have either opened the entire festival or closed it. As some of the artists in the show are playing across the weekend, it felt like a celebration of the festivals artists in a farewell or a greeting.

Vanessa Haynes

The night was full of masterful musicians and singers. The Soul Jazz Summit was more than just a show, it was a wonderfully unique experience, a tribute to some of the world’s finest musical talent on stage and off.

Each artist were absolutely sensational in their own right! The Orchestra and Big Band were out of this world and the whole show was something I feel so privileged to have witnessed.

The entire set was captivating, awe-inspiring and simply divine! There is almost no proper way to describe it. We can’t wait till next year!

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