10th Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham, England
Hancock made it a point to use both the piano and the synthesizer, sometimes seemingly just for the fun of it. Nevertheless, he was most inspired on piano and swung veritably when the occasion called for it; solid, mad, inspired and impromptu. Loueke was solid and adventurous on guitar, and doubly inspired when he combined it with Richard Bona-esque vocals. Carpenter was steady on the bass and the young Barsay more than impressive on the drums. I was a little miffed as I could not quite see him from where I sat.
The material played on the night was, as Hancock said, new and upcoming. Admittedly it was mildly disappointing not to hear some of his old favourites like Watermelon Man, or even the seminal Rockit, especially considering he had his synths set up. The night seemed to highlight more contemplative compositions for the quartet. The music was not the only new thing; Hancock pointed out that this was the first tour the quartet was playing as a group, having played Edinburgh the previous night.
The highlight of the night was the solo guitar/vocal piece by the talented Loueke. The full house was not disappointed and showed their gratitude to Hancock and his band.
Cheltenham Town: Something for Everybody
In between the performances, there was plenty to enjoy in Cheltenham. Quite aside from the annual jazz festival and several other related festivals, Cheltenham also lays claim to being located in some of the most beautiful countryside in England. The town itself is easy to explore on foot. It's known for being at its prettiest in the spring, when in full bloom. Spring therefore is a particularly good time to visit Cheltenham, when the trees are at their greenest and the flowers at their brightest and freshest. The weather on the two days I was there was excellent; sunny, warm and dry.
There's lots of shopping to do for those so inclined, with shops amply spread within the town centre catering for high fashion and glamour as well as antiques and gift items. A walk away from the outskirts provides glimpses into large, ornate houses, leafy winding driveways and expensive convertible cars, giving the impression that Cheltenham is home to lots of well-to-do folks. Certainly the presence of the large Cheltenham Racecourse at which the Cheltenham Horse Races are held in May and June confirms that reputation as a playground for the rich.
So what do the not-so-rich do in Cheltenham? Alive with pubs, clubs (Sub Tone, The Office), theatre (Everyman Theatre), a museum and art gallery and plenty of leafy parks and the beautiful Imperial and Montpellier Gardens, there are plenty of options for relaxation in Cheltenham. For those not inclined to jazz, Cheltenham hosts several other festivals including a science festival, music festival, literature and folk festivals. Details can be found on the website.
Getting to Cheltenham is easy enough by road and rail from all over the UK. There are several hotels and lodges dotted over the town, with budget charges ranging from â‚¤15 (4-beddormitory accommodation at the Cheltenham YMCA) to â‚¤30 at places like the Central Hotel. Booking can generally be done online, with a deposit required. However, one would be advised to book early as the demand can be high around festivals such as the jazz one.