10 of the best jazz, blues and world music festivals to look out for in 2018
- Alex Johnston
- 19 January 2018
Celebrate the diversity of today's music in these boundary-breaking festivals
Did you know that the phrase 'world music' was originally coined to describe a jazz album?
It now means 'every kind of music from around the world that we don't necessarily know the name of but which isn't rock, pop, hip-hop, jazz, blues, folk or classical', but it first appeared in a review of Pharoah Sanders' 1967 debut album Tauhid: 'an excellent showcase for a maturing creative talent and an exploration of communicative world music.'
No wonder, really, that jazz, world music and blues still share, to a great extent, a similar set of fans: people who like music that feels like it comes from somewhere in particular, whether it's the heady excitement of a good jazz performance, the authenticity of great blues, the ecstatic intensity of Indian classical music or the sheer diversity and imagination of musics from the African continent. Here are ten of the best UK jazz, blues and world music festivals in 2018.
Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival
This celebration of jazz, funk and soul is perhaps heavier on the funk and soul end of things than on the jazz: previous headliners have been Public Enemy and Chaka Khan, but it's still an excuse for a three-day party in one of Birmingham's most beautiful green spaces.
Moseley Park, Birmingham, Fri 6–Sun 8 Jul 2018.
Glasgow Jazz Festival
The Glasgow Jazz Festival isn't the biggest jazz festival in the UK but it subscribes to the idea that jazz is, as they say, 'the sound of surprise', typically featuring a mixture of the best Scottish musicians, and international legends. The 2017 festival ranged from young musicians playing traditional jazz, free improvisation from the Glasgow Improvisers' Orchestra and Fela Kuti's great drummer Tony Allen presenting a splendid tribute to Art Blakey. 2018 should be no less vibrant.
Various venues, Glasgow, Wed 20–Sun 24 Jun 2018.
The UK's biggest festival of Indian classical music and dance was established in 2006, and the 2018 festival is dedicated to the memory of inspirational tabla teacher Bhai Gurmit Singh Ji Virdee. You can expect top-class musicians and dancers in the classical tradition, but the festival also features fusion and Bollywood styles, introductory courses and masterclasses. Performance times vary widely, because a morning raga should be played in the morning, right?
Southbank Centre, London, Sat 22–Sun 23 Sep; Barbican Centre, London, Thu 25–Sun 28 Oct; Sadler's Wells, London, Sat 24–Sun 25 Nov.
Gateshead International Jazz Festival
Having the Sage Gateshead as your venue makes it possible for this festival to boast that it's the biggest UK jazz festival to take place all under one roof. The 2018 lineup has some crowd-pleasing pairings, such as Ruby Turner appearing with the great Maceo Parker, but there's plenty to intrigue, such as a strand of Estonian jazz and a project, Jazz for Toddlers, led by enterprising Newcastle guitarist and educator Chris Sharkey (Acoustic Ladyland, trioVD).
Sage Gateshead, Newcastle, Fri 6–Sun 8 Apr 2018.
Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival
Bristol's jazz and blues festival is broad enough to encompass swing from Clare Teal and her Big Mini Big Band, a tribute to the pioneers of rock improvisation with Cream '68, clarinettist and composer Arun Ghosh presenting his new music in a band featuring the brilliant guitarist Shirley Tetteh, a big-band tribute to Jimi Hendrix and a true jazz legend in the form of 90-year-old Lee Konitz and his quartet.
Various venues, Bristol, Thu 15–Sun 18 Mar 2018.
This giant, free celebration of African and Caribbean music and culture has more than just music to offer. There's food and drink, clothing stalls, hair demonstrations, face painting and much else, but above all, there are four days of international performers in what's become one of the biggest African music festivals in Europe.
Sefton Park, Liverpool, Sat 16–Sun 17 2018.
Knockengorroch World Ceilidh
The World Ceilidh has grown from modest origins to a wildly popular festival of roots, world and Celtic music, partly on account of its spectacular setting in a natural amphitheatre on the edge of a forest in the Carsphairn Hills. If you're not prepared to dance, you might want to stay at home, because line-ups tend to be all about the groove, whether it's ragga, forro, samba, dubstep, or drum & bass: 2017's honoured guest was reggae legend Max Romeo.
Knockengorroch Fam, Castle Douglas, Thu 24–Sun 27 May.
Naming your festival after John Coltrane's greatest album is one way to get attention, but Love Supreme, now in its sixth year, is the UK's first greenfield jazz festival in years and it attracts headliners of the stature of Burt Bacharach, George Benson (who for all his pop success is a phenomenally talented guitarist) and Herbie Hancock. It's not cheap, but if you take the camping option it's an immersive weekend of jazz in the open air. 2018 sees the launch of a one-day mini-festival at London's Roundhouse, in advance of the main festival in July.
Roundhouse, London, Sat 5 May; Glynde Place, Lewes, Tue 26 Jun–Sun 1 Jul.
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival
Over the past few years, Edinburgh's own jazz and blues festival has grown to the point that it really does have something to offer everyone (except for the most determinedly jazz-phobic or blues-intolerant, who wouldn't come anyway.) From Parisian gypsy jazz to the latest in post-post-bop, there's a lot of music here. It gives equal space to emerging Scottish artists and international stars (2017 saw John Scofield, Mike Stern and Randy Brecker, and that was just one bill.)
Various venues, Edinburgh, Fri 13–Sun 22 Jul 2018.
World of Music and Dance was by no means the first festival to bring music together from all over the world, but it's mix-it-up spirit has been enormously influential: the 'cool aunt of festivals' delights in fusion, having previously programmed theremin virtuosi, a ska band from New Delhi, a Haitian-American singer-songwriter whose principal instrument is the cello and a scratch ensemble of refugee Syrian musicians. The only criterion is musical excellence, which the festival consistently delivers.
Charlton Park, Wiltshire, Thu 26–Sun 29 Jul 2018.