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The venues, streets and record stores of the Cotswold cultural hub that is Stroud will once again come alive to a whole universe of sounds when the Jazz Stroud Festival returns for its eighth edition from 23-26 May, writes Tom Berry.

This year’s line-up features headliners including keyboard maestro Joe Armon-Jones (of Mercury Prize-winners Ezra Collective) this time leading his own hugely talented band; Mercury nominated saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi appears with her thrilling electronica jazz trio un.procedure; renowned bass guitarist and singer Ruth Goller (Rokia Traoré/Melt Yourself Down) brings her beguiling vocal project Skylla to the festival, and rising Scottish sax star Matt Carmichael performs his jazz-folk-infused original music.

JowArmonJones | Jazz Stroud returns
Joe Armon-Jones.

Things get under way with a Tomorrow’s Warriors Takeover on the Thursday night (23 May) showcasing three emerging bands: newly formed five-piece BIG MASSIVE, who energetically explore sounds from hip-hop and dub to jungle and videogame music; the female-led Frontline whose funky horns and heavy grooves will make you move while internationally renowned drum prodigy Romarna Campbell unleashes her mix jazz and fusion with fire and finesse. The festival’s plethora of new names includes exciting singers Donna Thompson, TLK, Ines Loubet, Tianna, plus Steam Down’s And-Is-Phi; Run Logan Run drummer Matt Brown’s powerful new horn-heavy project 6161, while label PRAH Foundation will be showcasing some of its roster alongside DJ sets.

Donna Thompson | Jazz Stroud returns
Donna Thompson.

Bristol’s Space Jam will be in residence for some spontaneous musical inventions across the weekend. Now in its eighth year, the festival, which began as a small, single venue weekender featuring Get The Blessing and Andy Sheppard, has organically grown to take in several key venues around the town including the magnificent Grade 2 Listed Brunel Goods Shed, beautiful St Laurence Church and funky SVA Studios Bar as well as break out live spaces in the town’s two vinyl emporiums, Sound Records and Klang Tone.

Initially featuring bands and artists drawn from the Bristol and South West talent pool for the first two years – Jazz Stroud was perfectly placed to ride the British New Jazz explosion of 2018-19 and featured some of the leading lights of the scene – often before they hit the big time – these included stunning shows from Nubya Garcia, Comet is Coming and Emma Jean-Thackray relatively early on in their careers. This laid the blueprint for Jazz Stroud’s programming ethos: keeping tabs on emerging artists but also building relationships with them and creating an environment that makes them want to spread the word in their networks and return to Stroud in years to come – Joe Armon-Jones was in Nubya Garcia’s band when they performed in 2018. The festival also strives to give young musicians a platform, this year handing a whole evening over to Tomorrow’s Warriors.

And while the town has a rustic charm and a hippie heritage, the festival features cutting edge audio tech with a longstanding partnership with spatial audio specialists d&b audiotechnik (whose UK base is in nearby Nailsworth). With their 360-degree immersive soundscape system installed at the Goods Shed for the festival, and with many shows presented in-the-round, the system really comes into its own alongside projections on the venue’s lime-stone walls. Jazz Stroud creates a thrilling audio-visual presentation of some of the freshest jazz sounds around – Buy Your Tickets Here Buy tickets – Jazz Stroud 2024 Festival 23- 26 May 2024 – SVA John Street (tickettailor.com)

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