IT’s a slightly volatile time for British music festivals at the moment, with some, including Brighton’s Together the People, being forced to pull the plug on their plans. Love Supreme Jazz Festival deserves credit, then, for going from strength to strength and filling a niche on the Sussex cultural calender.

It was organiser Ciro Romano’s quest to bring together the specialist music of European jazz festivals with familiar UK camping weekends and, five years into his project, you would have to say he’s succeeded. “It was a bit of a risk, we’ve had our ups and downs but I think this year’s line-up is our strongest yet,” says the former Universal Records lawyer. “We’re getting better at it.”

Not that Love Supreme has ever struggled to attract big names – Van Morrison, Nile Rogers, Grace Jones, Jamie Cullum and Chaka Khan have all appeared at the event, which is held in the scenic grounds of Glynde Place. It goes without saying that not all of these names are directly associated with jazz, something that could also be said about some of this year’s acts, most notably The Jacksons, who fall under the pop and funk genres.

“We always had a strategy,” says Romano. “We wanted to attract that core jazz group from around the country but we also wanted it to be inclusive; we didn’t want people to think the music was ‘scary’.”

The organiser adds that all musicians who appear at the festival must have “some kind of jazz DNA”,which certainly applies to American icons George Benson and Herbie Hancock. As for The Jacksons, Romano admits it wasn’t easy as one, two, three to get the pop act on board but he’s glad to have done so. “It took a while but they are what I would call a ‘uniting headliner’ – core jazz fans will enjoy it as well as pop fans.

Everybody will be dancing.” Romano says he had attended Together the People, the festival held in Preston Park that was cancelled this year, adding that “it was great”. He’s not treating its demise as a cautionary tale, though, because the two shindigs are so different.

“There are quite a few festivals like that [Together the People] and it’s a day festival.” It was always Romano’s aim to have festivalgoers camp on the premises, making for an experience like Bestival, Latitude and Green Man. “I felt there was a gap in the market for something which celebrated jazz, soul, funk and that there might be an audience out there who wanted more than chart fodder,” he says.

Love Supreme works with Brighton jazz venue The Verdict and record label Tru Thoughts to showcase new local talent, making for a nice contrast with the bigger names. As for Romano’s personal highlight over the past five years, he can’t look past the queen of disco Grace Jones, who played the festival last year. “People said she was outside our focus area but she put on a great performance.”

The best of Love Supreme

The Jacksons

Saturday, 9.30pm

Four of the original members of pop sensation The Jackson Five – minus Michael, of course, who died in 2009 – headline the festival. Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon will play a career-spanning set including pop hits Blame It on The Boggie, Can You Feel It and Shake Your Body Down to The Ground. The quintet were one of the first black American groups to attain a mainstream following, along with The Supremes and The Temptations.

Gregory Porter

Sunday, 8.30pm

Since bursting onto the scene in 2010 with debut album Water, Porter has gone from strength to strength. He won a Grammy Award in 2014 for Best Jazz Vocal Album for his record Liquid Spirit. It has gone on to become the most streamed jazz album of all time. In an interview last year, he said: ”What makes jazz different is that you can’t predict it, it’s all about freedom. Just when you think you know what you’re going to hear there’ll be a left turn, a jazz musician will change it up.”

Corinne Bailey Rae

Saturday, 7.30pm

After scoring a number one album with her self-titled debut, Leeds-born Corinne Bailey Rae became something of an overnight sensation. Her soul single Put Your Records On could be heard on both Radio 1 and 2 at any hour, and she was nominated for three Grammy Awards in 2007. Following the death of her husband, musician Jason Rae, she channelled her emotions into follow-up record The Sea. In 2014, she played a gig for then US president Barack Obama.

Herbie Hancock

Saturday, 8.30pm

Hancock’s biography on the Love Supreme website admits “one can’t track exactly where he will go next”. The musician is a genre-hopping pioneer. Winner of 14 Grammy Awards and with a career spanning five decades, the multiinstrumentalist was once a member of Miles Davis’s band. He began studying piano when he was seven years old and a few years later he was playing Mozart with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Hancock is a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism.

George Benson

Sunday, 6.30pm

Over a career spanning 50 years Benson has incorporated jazz, soul, funk and blues into a distinctive sound and is best known for Breezin’, his instrumental single from the album of the same name which sold three million copies across the world. The 73 year-old, who was born in Pennsylvania, has been honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He said: “I’m looking forward to performing – the UK fans are some of the best in the world and every show is a special experience for us all. Come and join the Benson Party.”

Laura Mvula

Sunday, 6pm

The soul singer is no stranger to Love Supreme having performed at Glynde Place twice before. Since her nomination for the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll, Mvula has received both Mercury Prize and MOBO Awards nominations.


Saturday, 6.45pm

The four–piece initially attracted attention with their jazz interpretations of hip-hop tracks, leading them to work with rap artists such as Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean. Their 2014 album III, featuring more unique jazz improvisations and even some ballads, was warmly received by critics.

Mica Paris

Saturday, 5pm

Mica Paris is one of the UK’s most respected female singers with a number of Top 10 hits to her name. The power and soulfulness of her singing made an immediate impact on the UK music scene in 1988 when she released her debut, platinum-selling album, So Good. Now, she’s a regular guest on ITV programmes This Morning and Loose Women. At Love Supreme, Paris will be performing covers of the legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald.

Robert Glasper Experiment

Sunday, 8pm

Glasper was inspired to start playing piano by his mother, a gospel singer. Since his graduation from Houston’s High School for the Performing Arts he has released a stream of records including Black Radio, which featured rapper Lupe Fiasco. The record won Best R & B Album at the 2012 Grammy Awards.


Saturday, 5.45pm

Raised in East London, NAO began playing piano in early childhood. Her early songs uploaded to a SoundCloud page in 2014 attracted label interest but NAO opted to establish her own label, Little Tokyo. After she signed with major-label RCA, she released her debut album, For All We Know, in July 2016, which debuted at number 17 on the UK chart.

Dave Drake

Saturday, 8.45pm

Since the famous jazz pianist Barry Harris (who played with Miles Davis and other jazz greats) invited Drake – then aged just 13 – to join him on stage to play a duet with him after hearing him play, he has joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra as its youngest ever player and gained a scholarship to study jazz at New York university The New School, where he is currently completing his final year of study.

June 30 to July 2. For more information and tickets visit: lovesupremefestival. com