Cheltenham Jazz Festival Celebrates 25th Edition with Record-breaking Year

“Cheltenham points to jazz’s bright future” The Telegraph ****

“eclecticism reigns — world, folk, heritage pop — and all are welcome to the town’s genteel streets” The Times ****

After a break of two years due to the pandemic, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2022 came storming back for its 25th edition.

Festival highlights included:

A BBC Celebration of 25 Years of Cheltenham Jazz Festival broadcast on BBC Radio 2 Sunday Night Is Music Night (Sunday 1 May) and BBC Four (Sunday 8 May) featuring 70 musicians including Gregory Porter, Paloma Faith, the Guy Barker Big Band and the BBC Concert Orchestra. The unique symphonic Festival commission recalled some of the standout moments from across its 25-year history.

Artistic Curator Gregory Porter performed a sold-out show and popped up across the Festival, making guest appearances at Jamie Cullum’s closing concert, late night jam sessions with Kansas Smitty’s House Band and recorded an exclusive Henry Westons Session for the Festival’s YouTube channel.

Other legendary artists included Led Zeppelin rocker Robert Plant and Suzi Dian on the final date of their Saving Grace tour, Emeli Sandé performing songs from her new album for the first time, James Bay, Corinne Bailey Rae, Tom Odell, and Nitin Sawhney.

Faye MacCalman’s Jerwood Jazz Encounters audio-visual installation Invisible, Real transformed an empty shop on Cheltenham’s Promenade into a subconscious dreamscape exploring themes of mental illness, attracting over 600 visitors.  Other new commissions included Neil Charles’ Dark Days inspired by the searing essays by American writer James Baldwin; while Laura Jurd assembled the musicians from her Stepping Back, Jumping In album, to play it live for the first time.

1200 excited children from 17 primary schools swarmed into the Big Top for a special Concert for Schools performed by musicians from the Festival’s Musicate education programme alongside star trumpeter Laura Jurd and Kansas Smitty’s bandleader Giacomo Smith.

A further estimated 25,000 people enjoyed free music on the Festival Village free stage and on street stages and in pubs, bars and clubs all weekend across the town.

In a crossover of festivals, for the first time ever Science met Jazz as AI curator AIDA created a set of three tracks using machine learning, based on the first note (B flat) performed at the very first jazz festival back in 1996 – guests were able to listen (free of charge) at one of the Jazz Puddles situated in Montpellier Gardens.

Gregory Porter, Tom Odell, PP Arnold, Laura Jurd, Lady Blackbird, Brian Jackson, Mike Westbrook, Adi Oasis, Elles Bailey, Year Of The Dog, Lola Young and Ben Cipolla recorded exclusive Westons Sessions for Cheltenham Festivals YouTube channel.

Head of Programming David Gaydon said “We are extremely proud that Cheltenham’s 25th Festival was chosen to showcase Jazz at the BBC, bringing the Festival to millions of listeners and viewers. We’ve broken box office records with our mix of international acts, jazz icons, trailblazing up-and-coming talent, intimate club gigs, world premieres and family-friendly shows, which means we are in a very good place to deliver 25 more years.”

Festival Facts for 2022

  • Over 34,800 tickets issued
  • An estimated 25,000 people enjoyed free music in Montpellier Gardens and at Jazz Festival gigs around the town
  • Accommodation in Cheltenham was booked solid. The Festival office alone booked out 501 hotel rooms for performers and crew, while Festival fans snapped up the remaining rooms
  • Over 150 freelance stage crew worked on the Festival
  • 10 secondary school jazz bands performed on the Free Stage for Jazz It Up
  • The Festival distributed around 160 free tickets via our local social prescribing team and Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees thanks to funding from Cheltenham Festivals Patrons and the Summerfield Charitable Trust.

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