Guildford Jazz Festival review. Surrey Advertiser.

Guildford Jazz Festival.

Many top names of the British jazz and blues scene descended on Guildford for three days last weekend for the town’s inaugural jazz and blues festival. A stellar line-up included Courtney Pine, Martin Shaw, Matt Bianco and James Taylor. 

The event was kicked off in style by the Ronnie Scott’s Blues Explosion who nearly took the roof off the Harbour hotel. The group included leading stars of British blues, including guitarist Marcus Bonfanti, pianist Paddy Milner and festival curator Winston Rollins on trombone.

Soul star Ruby Turner continued the blues theme, with a stunning performance including a version of the Etta James classic “I’d Rather Go Blind” worthy of James herself.  Emotional, powerful and exhilarating.

On Saturday at the G Live Soweto Kinch engaged in audience participation and some very impressive freestyle rap. The night ended in party style with the Derek Nash Funk Experience at the Harbour Hotel and Mi-Soul Radio leading a night of jazz-funk and soul at Casino Nightclub. 

The Keep pub hosted gigs by Simon Spillett and Jamie O-Donnell. Holy Trinity Church held a Lindy Hop workshop and a memorable performance from Urban Voices Collective. The pop-up Village had a free outdoor stage, with the Hackney Colliery Band keeping the crowd entertained. 

The G Live was buzzing on Sunday afternoon with Mica Paris getting the crowd on its feet with her impressive and powerful soul-tinged jazz versions of Ella Fitzgerald classics. 

Courtney Pine, the biggest name in British jazz, played his vibrant brand of Caribbean jazz and stole the show with his phenomenal saxophone playing. He made a point of thanking the promotors and the volunteers, emphasising that music brings unity.

Closing out the Harbour Hotel was the brilliant Sax Appeal, which for the occasion became a 15-strong big band led expertly by Derek Nash.

The festival was brought to a rousing close by the Hot 8 Brass Band, eight guys from New Orleans in a modern-day version of the traditional marching band, with an unexpected version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” and finishing with a mind-blowing version of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing”. 

The quality of the performances of the weekend was exceptional as was the enthusiasm of the audiences. The organisers are already planning the 2018 event.

Chaz Brooks