A hefty schedule of music pioneers, a football result, and a heatwave that’s sure to become the stuff of legends, converged to create one of the most awe-inspiring three-dayers on the small festival calendar.
Despite World Cup carnage raging outside, Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul was nothing short of idyllic, touching hearts and souls across generations.
Unlike many festival sites, that require some time to orientate to, the park is concise, easy to navigate and enclosed within a series of immersive natural backdrops.
An emerald green lake sits adjacent to the Main and Jazzline stages while a loose-stone path twists round to the Off-Piste area; despite some at-times distracting footballism, the DJ booth-turned-boat and marquee offered some welcome respite from the scorching heat and bustling central attractions.
Friday’s line-up saw some choice performances from The Brass Funkeys and Jungle Brothers who brought unique helpings of eight-piece band soulfulness and hip-hop infused jazz respectively. David Rodigan was up to his usual tricks: gruff commentary cut amongst raw dubplates and audience interaction. And while it may seem cliché, Reggae royalty Jimmy Cliff’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ drummed up a sense of the ethereal as crystal blues skies collapsed into a soft collage of pastel pinks and violets.
As a festival that prides itself on celebrating both local talent – predominately found on the Jazzlines and Off-Piste stages – and international innovators, it certainly delivered. One act to make their mark on the Saturday bill was Osaka Monaurail. Sharp suits and slick stage presence tethered to a faultless funk orchestra show made for a thrilling experience.
Following a rallying cry from festival curator Craig Charles dispensed in the form of soulful dance beats and funky classics, the stage was set for the brassy energy of Lucky Chop followed by Candi Staton’s big entrance. Fusing elements of Gospel, Soul and dance groove, the crowd response was an equal measure of heartfelt and electric; “You Got The Love” and “Young Hearts Run Free” rightly prompting roaring singalongs.
Sunday, the third and final day, was the hottest one yet but did little to slow down the jubilant masses. Ezra Collective draw huge support with their contemporary take on a classic genre, melding undeniable grit with a timeless jazz sound. Thick layers of funkadelic jives from Fred Wesley and music-maestro Roy Ayers constructed a hip shaking timewarp open to all ages. Earthy blues tones and fluid jazz-rock from Fervour loosened up those feeling static from the heavy evening before.
And could there have been a better way to end the festivities? No. You hear the rumours of the exceptional quality of a Sister Sledge live production, but seeing it form on centre stage with a subtle breeze in the air, and the sun hanging low in the sky, defies description.
Choreographed, eccentric, funny, polished, and full of boogie goodness, the Sisters with their talented family and band at their side relayed impressive 10 minute + renditions of disco classic ‘Lost In Music’ and ‘Nature Boy’, a Nat King Cole cover.
An enthralling constant running throughout the entirety of the festival was the advocacy and celebration of musicianship. Acts were not simply faces with a band in the background, they were complete, equally balanced outfits. Jaw dropping instrumental solos were commonplace, each musician introduced and applauded for their playing.
Sunkissed, star studded, and never without a healthy dose of chugging grooves from every genre in the festival’s namesake: Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul was certainly family friendly, an oasis of nostalgia that never compromises on the younger demographic appeal.
The food, fashion, curios and festival goers reflecting the rich diversity of the acts and performers on a smartly curated line up.
The good time memories of a stunning weekender sure to outlast the raging sunburns and clinging hangovers felt by those invested most in the celebrations.
For an event that could have been so easily marred by World Cup mania, everything ran at maximum jazz, funk and soul tenacity.
Festival team – Take a bow.
Words: Kristian Birch-Hurst