n its 22nd year and curated by the world renowned Jamie Cullum, it’s fair to say that Cheltenham Jazz Festival is once again bringing the biggest names in jazz from 26 April to 1st May.
However, if you’ve missed out on tickets for the likes of Laura Mvula, Ben Folds and Gregory Porter then fear not as you can still get your groove on to the freshest, funkiest sounds around. With over 90 free gigs popping up all over town featuring a mix of local talent, the stars of future festivals, and maybe even a few surprise guest headliners, there is definitely something for everyone.
If you want to get involved but aren’t sure where to start, here are LewisLoves’ 10 top free picks for the festival:
(1) Sadie Roach Trio – Harry Cook Free House / Thursday 27 April / 8.30pm
19 year old piano vocalist Sadie is the daughter of US blue legend Michael Roach who produced her first EP, recorded in Gloucestershire. Her modern take on soul, jazz, rhythm and blues will be a great warm up to get you in the mood for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
(2) The Original Rabbit Foot Spasm Band – The Bottle of Sauce / Friday 28 April / 9pm till late
“Noisy and raucous and dangerously sexy.” Not my words but those of BBC Radio 6…and who are we to argue as this 7 piece bring prohibition era American jive, swing and blues to get The Bottle of Sauce faithful on their feet and dancing all night long.
(3) Latimo – Cambray Place Stage/ Saturday 29 April / 5-5.45pm
A super funky 8 piece bringing all the jazz, funk and soul you could ever need with their infectious horn riffs and Katie Birtill’s soaring vocals. (Added bonus: we can’t help but notice this gig is ideally located to enjoy a refreshing pint at Wild Beer or one of The Ox‘s glorious new summer cocktails afterwards – we’ll see you there!)
(4) Thrill Collins – Free Stage, Montpellier Gardens / Saturday 29 April / 9-10pm
Thrill Collins have rocked many a festival stage since forming in 2009 including a couple of Glastonbury appearances (their “Gangsta Medley” on YouTube below truly is something to behold). Their unique brand of skiffle pop is somewhat reminiscent of a more chaotic Ed Sheeran as they rearrange many a pop classic with surprising results.
(5) Jazz It Up: Schools – Free Stage, Montpellier Gardens / Sunday 30 April / 10.30am-1pm
It wouldn’t be the Cheltenham Jazz Festival without seeing hundreds of excited Gloucestershire school children take to the stage. Last year over 160 kids from 9 Gloucestershire school big bands wowed crowds with their amazing young talent. We’re sure this year will be even bigger and better.
(6) Pocket Dragon – Cambray Place Stage / Sunday 30 April / 1-1.45pm
Cool new age jazz courtesy of Pocket Dragon, a 5 piece band fusing neo-soul with fusion funk. Very groovy, very weird, very cool and definitely unmissable.
(7) Demi Marriner – Cambray Place Stage / Sunday 30 April / 3-3.45pm
Within 48 hours of Demi releasing her debut EP, it was already topping the UK iTunes Country Album Chart. Her soulful country pop sound could easily come directly from Nashville although she actually hails from the Midlands. This is a perfect booking for a lazy Sunday afternoon session so make sure you get there early!
(8) Namiwa Jazz – Free Stage, Montpellier Gardens / Sunday 30 April / 4.30-5.30pm
At just 22 years old, Namiwa has created her own unique “Afro-Twang” sound to deliver her powerful messages of peace and empowerment through a blend of Nu-Soul, Hip Hop, R&B and African Jazz. Namiwa is definitely destined for the main stage soon. Don’t miss this chance to catch her early in her career.
(9) Swing From Paris – Free Stage, Montpellier Gardens / Sunday 30 April / 6.45-7.45pm
French café jazz meets gypsy swing. The Cotswold’s very own Swing From Paris strum their way through classics by the likes of Edith Piaf and Duke Ellington.
(10) Late Night Jam Sessions – Hotel Du Vin / Friday, Saturday, Sunday / 10.30pm til late
The perfect way to bring your day out at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival to a close with the Birmingham Conservatoire. They will be the house band for a series of impromptu late night jam sessions in this upmarket venue.
If we’ve got your feet tapping or you find your fingers subconsciously drumming a bluesy beat, the full free programme is available from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival website or you can check out their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages for the latest updates.
Heading to the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and need some inspiration for where to eat or drink? Read LewisLoves top 10 Festival food and drink picks here.