At the heart of the Glastonbury Festival’s musical ethos there lies the central message of diversity. This philosophy has led to an increasingly healthy range of jazz based artists at the annual event. This year was no different and a spectrum of styles was obvious across Michael Eavis’ ever expanding farmland. As well as being able to absorb an array of artists at the enormous Jazz World Stage, festivalgoers who dared to explore were treated to the intimacy of Glastonbury’s best kept secret, The Jazz Lounge. Tucked away at the back of the site, the comparatively tiny tent showcased the best of the weekend’s jazz talent, cherry picked for our pleasure.
Whilst sprawled out on scattered mud clad beanbags, attendees where able to rest aching limbs at seemingly the only comfortable refuge on the site. BBC Radio 3’s own Jez Nelson and the ever eloquent Julian Joseph were on hand to introduce, interview and record some of the world’s finest jazz artists.
Not only was it the best place to see up and coming British talents such as the dynamic Empirical, but it also granted jazz revellers a chance to see big name artists such as Pee Wee Ellis or Dennis Rollins exhibiting their chops up close and personal.
Any dampened spirits that the rain may have caused, where swiftly lifted as a band like Soil and Pimp Sessions unleashed their infectious whirlwind of energy on festival goers. All the way from Tokyo, the electrifying six-piece let sparks flies when their own brand of exhilarating bop inspired jazz exploded on the stage.
A personal highlight of the weekend came in the shape of 70-year-old John Tchicai, a hugely important woodwind player on the mid 1960s New York avant-garde scene (his work on John Coltrane’s Ascension record being irrevocably pioneering). Although the tent had quietened off by this point, John created a strikingly mesmerising sound.
Elsewhere on site, Warp Records’ Squarepusher (a.k.a. Tom Jenkinson) obliterated his audience with his own blend of bebop inspired angular electronics. Some of the most intelligent beats in new dance music provided a perverse backdrop for his highly acclaimed virtuoso bass playing. This is an artist that is capable of reminding even the most impenetrable of computer based music fans, that jazz is a relevant and powerful genre in the twenty first century.
Ultimately, the vast and eclectic range of artists at this year’s Glastonbury festival proves that jazz in Britain has become increasingly accessible to listeners. Regardless of the rain that overshadowed the weekend, the dedication and vibrancy of both musicians and fans shone through incessantly.