Cheltenham Jazz Festival is set to return in 2021 with a free-to-view, two-day digital event taking place across the May Bank Holiday weekend followed by a series of ticketed in-person concerts at Cheltenham Town Hall over three nights in July (government guidance permitting). The festival will present an array of world-class shows from a varied selection of established stars, heritage legends and emerging talent from across the jazz, pop and soul spectrum. The weekend will be hosted by BBC 6Music presenter Cerys Matthews and the Festival’s Artistic Curator Gregory Porter and features the all-female ensemble created by the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall, Rise Up.
The first artists to be announced for this year’s digital festival include headline shows from one of the singular soul voices of the ‘60s and ‘70s, the British rhythm and blues star Steve Winwood, and one of the major voices of 21st century jazz, the multi-million-selling US vocalist Gregory Porter. Winwood will be premiering brand new material recorded during lockdown whilst Porter will be performing a set especially created for Cheltenham. Winwood and Porter’s streamed concerts will top the bill on Saturday May 1st and Sunday May 2nd respectively.
Additional acts lined up for the May Bank Holiday programme include, pioneering saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch, recording-breaking beatboxer, producer and live-looper SK Shlomo , distinguished British vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, shows from rising star saxophonists Rachael Cohen, Faye McCalman and Lara Jones, revered sibling duo Zoe & Idris Rahman, and a premiere from guitarist Chris Montague, who will unveil his new trio Warmer Than Blood featuring Kit Downes on piano and Ruth Goller on bass. Also performing will be ensembles from the innovative jazz development organisations Tomorrow’s Warriors and Rise Up, an all-female ensemble created by the music charity responsible for Town Hall and Symphony Hall.
Rise Up is an initiative which offers talented female musicians from the region mentorship from world renowned jazz musicians, access to rehearsal spaces in the iconic Symphony Hall and a platform to showcase their musical and compositional talent through concerts and access to recording studios. The ensemble were selected by a panel of experts including jazz artists Trish Clowes, Alica Gardener-Trejo and Yazz Ahmed and is supported by Ian Reaves and the PRS Foundation.
A vibrant selection of international acts will also appear across the weekend including Broadway and West End star Marisha Wallace, Cuban trumpeter Yelfris Valdes, French singer Leïla Martial with her Baa Box group, and a first UK show from Portuguese punk-jazz outfit The Right of Trio.
This weekend reflects the breadth that Cheltenham Jazz Festival offers, giving a platform to some fabulous young upcoming artists as well as international stars, and with more exciting announcements to come.David Gaydon, Cheltenham Jazz Festival's Head of Programming
The festival’s live programme in July, which will be taking place following the proposed easing of lockdown restrictions, will feature a selection of the leading lights of the UK scene, with acts to be announced in May.
The 2021 programme continues the Festival’s focus on championing women in jazz. One of the first to sign up to the PRS Foundation’s Keychange programme, Cheltenham Jazz Festival is leading the debate on Women in Jazz. Research conducted at the Festival in 2019 by Dr Sarah Raines from Birmingham City University revealed that there is much work to be done to transform the landscape of the music industry in giving equity to female jazz musicians. A link to Dr Raines’ full report can be found here.
The Festival will once again run in association with BBC Radio 2 who will broadcast a special edition of Jamie Cullum’s radio show on Tuesday 4th May 2021, marking what would have been his tenth appearance at the festival, featuring highlights from some of this year’s performances alongside classic live tracks from previous years.
Cheltenham Jazz Festival is part of Cheltenham Festivals, a charity known for creating world-class cultural festivals and year-round accessible talent development, outreach and education programmes. Over 225,000 visitors a year are inspired by its Literature, Science, Jazz and Music Festivals.