REVIEW: Tom Ibarra at the 2018 Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Tom Ibarra at Cheltenham
Photo by Peter Jones

Tom Ibarra 
(Free Stage, 5 May 2018, Cheltenham Jazz Festival. Review by Peter Jones)

One of the chief pleasures of Cheltenham, in common with other jazz festivals, is the amount of music you can enjoy without having to buy a ticket. This year the Free Stage, set right in the middle of the park among the food stalls and bars, has been the venue for some stunning new talent, including Lydian Collective and pianist/singer/composer Joy Ellis. But one unexpected treat came in the shape of 18-year-old French guitarist Tom Ibarra.

Looking and sounding rather like a teenage Pat Metheny, Ibarra specializes in a similar kind of surging, life-affirming music, providing yet another example of the unstoppable rise of the prog-jazz movement. Despite his prodigious talent on the guitar, Ibarra has the confidence not to grandstand, but allows plenty of space to his equally accomplished confrères, notably tenorman Jeff Mercadié, whose playing was muscular and rhythmical, dovetailing perfectly with Ibarra’s more flighty style.

The huge grins all over the stage at the end were testament to the band’s enjoyment of the gig, mirrored by that of the audience who had crowded around in their hundreds, on an increasingly hot and sunny afternoon.

LINK: Interview with Tom Ibarra

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