REPORT: Launch Event for Cambridge Jazz Festival + Pete Churchill/Mishka Adams Stories to Tell

The brochure with cover painting by Charlotte Cornish
Sebastian writes:

The Cambridge Jazz Festival, with nearly sixty events in eighteen venues, the first jazz festival in the city for over 45 years, was officially launched at the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane Cambridge last night. "Hopefully," says the brochure, "we might break down some of the old preconceptions and stereotypes, and present jazz in Cambridge as it truly is - a thrilling, varied and compelling art form."

The opening/ welcoming speech was given by New Hampshire born saxophonist/ composer Kevin Flanagan, who drew attention to the range of different events. The full programme is at www.cambridgejazzfestival.org.uk


Kevin Flanagan's opening speech at the launch of
the Cambridge Jazz Festival


Cambridge Modern Jazz, at the Hidden Rooms in Jesus Lane, with their active volunteer base are pivotal on the Cambridge scene, and have built successfully on the legacy of Joan Morrell. Last night they presented the Pete Churchill / Mishka Adams / Ben Barritt unit called Stories to Tell, with saxophonist Mark Lockheart and drummer/percussionist Adriano Adewale.

This group just gets better. Perhaps the strongest impression I had is of quite how affecting, engaging, how good a singer Mishka Adams now is. Time and again, the thought kept coming back that it was not just that everything musical and diction-wise was so completely in place, but that the emotions and ideas were coming through with astonishing clarity. She could, arguably, be bolder, brasher, sassier, but people who haven't heard her for a few years will, I confidently predict, be bowled over, by the way she can make a line swoop effortlessly upwards.

As a group they have collectively gone for a particular sound - the objective is to "frame the songs," as Pete Churchill puts it. There is no bass, which gives Adriano Adewale the chance to inject life and surprise in the lower frequencies, delightfully unimpeded. Mark Lockheart is as fluent an improviser as any saxophonist in Europe. Churchill, Barritt and Adams all harmonise as singers as a mini-choir, but this is also a context in which any one of them can step forward and carry forth a new solistic idea. And the repertoire is expanding as each of the three brings new songs to the party. Ben Barritt's song in homage to crowded London tube trains, memories of being sandwiched "between a banker's briefcase and a lawyer's armpit," as he described it, was particularly effective.

Their performance has a feel-good factor. Or, more specifically, it reminded me of a quote from Marcus Miller in a recent interview with Peter Bacon recently. Describing what all the good session he played with as a young musician starting out were capable of, he said: "I saw that the thing that all the great players had in common is that they knew how to make stuff “feel” good. Playing fast or slow, it didn’t matter. They knew how to support a song ....they made the music feel good." Any of these five great musicians is capable at any moment of suddenly adding pace, pep and pulse - and joy.


A picture from the Stories to Tell launch at the Forge
L-R: Pete Churchill, Mishka Adams, Ben Barrist
Mark Lockheart, Adriano Adewale

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