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Cheltenham Jazz Festival reveals star names for 2018

Courtney Pine and Omar
Van Morrison, Imelda May, Kamasi Washington, Courtney Pine and Omar, Corinne Bailey Rae, Rick Astley, Caro Emerald, Gilles Peterson, Jordan Rakei, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Bill Frisell & Thomas Morgan, Andy Sheppard, Portico Quartet, Eric Gales, Jay Rayner and many more
Stars from all corners of the globe will once again descend on the Regency town of Cheltenham for the return of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.


Boasting a unique programme packed with UK debuts, one-off performances and exclusively curated concerts, this year's festival, which runs from May 2nd to 7th, is set to deliver its trademark, broad-appealing mix of the best classic and contemporary jazz, soul, blues, and pop on offer from an array of international powerhouse acts, and the brightest emerging talent.  

Joining an impressive raft of high-profile names already announced for this year’s festival, including the likes of Kamasi Washington, Randy Crawford, Donny McCaslin, Beth Hart and Nigel Kennedy, are visionary singer-songwriter Van Morrison, multi-million-selling Corinne Bailey Rae, award-winning pop-jazz singer Caro Emerald and chart-topping Irish vocalist Imelda May.  Rick Astley will be exploring jazz and the Great American Songbook backed by the Ronnie Scott’s Big Band and internationally revered food critic Jay Rayner fronts his much-lauded piano quartet.  2018 will also see the festival's first curated concert series by DJ and broadcaster Gilles Peterson, which will feature shows from neo-soul frontrunner Jordan Rakei, MOBO and Jazz FM Award-winning drummer Moses Boyd's Exodus, and the hotly-tipped UK singer-songwriter Zara McFarlane.  Artistic Curator Jamie Cullum has once again selected some of his stand-out acts for the festival, with Mercury-nominated prog jazzers Dinosaur, cinematic nu-jazz outfit Portico Quartet, and the first ever UK performance from Christian McBride’s Big Band among his top picks.  

Other heavyweight names confirmed for the 6-day event are British jazz giant and multiple MOBO winner Courtney Pine’s celebrated collaboration with soul singer Omar, legendary funk crew Tower of Power, Roller Trio with an exclusive set premiering new material, inimitable US jazz vocalist China Moses, boundary-pushing sounds from venerable British saxophonist Evan Parker’s Trance Map+ for what will be their second ever performance, Seun Kuti, the son of the legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, with his late father’s band Egypt 80, and previously unheard material from Empirical..  Kansas Smitty’s House Band return to the Daffodil following their sold-out takeover last year to present their best of the programme from their East London bar. Also back by popular demand are electronic musicians Iain Chambers and Dan Nicholls with their Recomposed series, which this year will see performances from Swiss vocalist Lucia Cadotsch and Kit Downes’ fierce piano trio ENEMY, who launch their new album at the festival, reworked and artfully mixed into an entirely new piece of music at the Parabola (“an exhilarating ride” – The Guardian). A unique cross-arts project is also set for the Parabola, which brings together the dynamic Birmingham-based band Hansu-Tori with dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet to perform excerpts from their show Wolves Are People Too, inspired by the iconic Japanese animation film Wolf Children.  

Long-standing festival partner BBC Radio 2 will host live onsite broadcasts across the weekend, including a Rollin’ On The River themed Friday Night Is Music Night which will see the BBC Concert Orchestra and Guy Barker Big Band plus a host of acclaimed guest vocalists including Shaun Escoffery and Vanessa Haynes on a musical journey along the Mississippi River.  There will also be live broadcasts from Clare Teal and Jo Whiley, as well as from Cerys Matthews and Gilles Peterson on BBC Radio 6Music.  

Representing the younger generation are London-based contemporary jazz guitarist Rob Luft, the breathtaking vocals of Jazzmeia Horn, who blew audiences away with her performance at this year’s Grammys ceremony, US soul singer Jalen N’Gonda, best known for his 2017 breakthrough hit “I Need You”, Jamie Cullum’s festival pick vocalist Anoushka Lucas, and a double bill from 24-year-old rising star vocalist Hannah Grace, and last year’s winner of Glastonbury’s ‘Emerging Talent’ competition Josh Barry.  

As well as providing a platform for a new generation of artists, the festival offers a range of inspirational opportunities for young people: introducing jazz to preschoolers in the Yamaha Discovery Space; initiating primary-aged children in the joy of jazz; providing performance opportunities for local school jazz bands; and offering behind the scenes access and one-on-one career advice from industry professionals, which will be available for the first time this year by appointment. The winner of the inaugural LetterOne ‘RISING STARS’ Jazz Award, 19-year-old guitarist Tom Ibarra, will start his tour of the seven major jazz festivals in Europe at Cheltenham.  

The 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival is hosted in a tented festival village in the town centre’s picturesque Montpellier Gardens, featuring the Henry Westons Big Top stage, Jazz Arena, Free Stage, Yamaha Discovery Space, a programme of family activities and events and a food, drink and market area.  The Festival reaches beyond the festival village into Cheltenham bringing jazz to venues throughout the day until late into the night.  These include Cheltenham Town Hall, Cheltenham Ladies’ College Parabola Arts Centre, Hotel du Vin, Malmaison and The Daffodil, as well as a dynamic free fringe line-up …around town with over 90 shows across the festival weekend.

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