FESTIVAL REPORT: Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival 1

FESTIVAL REPORT: Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival

When: 8th – 10th July 2022

Where: Moseley Park and Pool, Moseley, Birmingham, England.

Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival is back. In 2020, and like every other such event, the ravages of the Coronavirus pandemic forced its cancellation. Then last year Covid-19’s ongoing impact and associated restrictions meant that the festival was only able to attract UK artists to the bill. Furthermore, Mostly had to move from its original dates in July to late August. But now in 2022 it has returned, fully restored, further evolved, and once more back in all its splendid glory in its regular weekend place on the UK festival calendar.

As always, Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival takes place in the delightful surroundings of Moseley Park and Pool. It may well be less than two miles due south of Birmingham city centre but once you have entered through the private park’s gates you could easily be in another world altogether such is the peace and sense of well-being it affords the visitor. Due to the physical limitations of the park, and the perfectly understandable desire to remain in this beautiful setting, the festival is unable to expand in size or its 5,500 capacity. However, it has developed several new features for 2022. In addition to the pre-existing open-sided caravans, complete with table service, this year also sees the return of the Off Piste area by the lake, boasting a bigger marquee and the introduction of a bar facility. In addition to this, the top tennis court – on the left-hand side as you enter the park down the narrow pathway – now features a new marquee which hosts dance workshops and late-night dance parties across the weekend.

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Moseley Park and Pool


You felt the opening day of the festival was always going to be about The Specials. The proliferation of men on site sporting traditional Rude Boy pork pie hats had already suggested as much. And the legendary Two-Tone band from the neighbouring West Midlands city of Coventry weren’t about to let us down. Recent national and international events had quite understandably further stoked singer Terry Hall’s ire. Putin and Boris Johnson – a man described accurately by Hall as “an absolute bastard” – are in his crosshairs tonight and both have songs dedicated to them. An electrified, caustic reading of Fun Boy Three’s ‘Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum)’ assumes an even greater resonance when heard in the context of the current political climate.

Whilst it would most certainly be an exaggeration to suggest that Terry Hall is in a more playful mood as the set progresses, he does at least attempt to tell a joke. He doesn’t quite make it to the punchline, though, as in rather un-Mostly like fashion a minor skirmish then breaks out in the crowd. I am pretty sure that the two events are not connected. However, order is quickly restored and despite Hall saying what sounds like a most conclusive “over and out” after a mighty blast of Toots and the Maytals‘Monkey Man’ he and the others do return to the stage to sign off with first another cover – this time Talking Heads‘Whispering Wind’, with Hannah Hu taking the lead vocal – and finally, and almost inevitably, I guess, given that it still remains one of the greatest singles of all time, ‘Ghost Town’.

The Specials

But long before The Specials, Mostly had promised, and delivered, much more besides. The main area of the festival site provides a natural amphitheatre for such occasions. With both main music stages sat cheek-by-jowl at its base and acts seamlessly alternating between the two, the crowd can sit on the bank and enjoy an uninterrupted sight and sound experience.

The 21-year-old London-based singer, songwriter and guitarist Rosie Frater-Taylor makes an early appearance on the second stage and beguiles us with an elliptical performance that is true to the spirit of the event by fully embracing elements of jazz, funk, and soul. Her cover of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ is divine. Another young musician, Maya Delilah is similarly enchanting. Her sultry sound may seem better suited to a late-night jazz club setting, but it is just as effective in this glorious afternoon sun.

The North London rapper Coops takes us nicely into early evening, whilst the revered English DJ and record producer Nightmares On Wax mans the decks at the Off Piste stage, a vibrant area of the festival a mere hundred yards away from the main drag which slopes down towards the park’s magnificent centrepiece, the ornamental lake. ACE Dance and Music – a national touring dance company based in Birmingham – populated by local youngsters and ably supported by a couple of fire eaters – bring colour, energy, and yet even more good vibes to the occasion, before Children of Zeus and DJ Yoda crank up the heat before the arrival of Coventry’s finest.


As a stark reminder that Covid is still very much amongst us, we awake on Saturday to the news that several of the day’s scheduled acts have unfortunately tested positive for the virus and are no longer able to perform or join us at the festival. I was to later hear someone say, “it won’t be the same without Craig Charles”, the famous DJ and former Coronation Street star having been one of those who was to miss out this year. It probably is different without the cheerful presence of the perennial Mostly favourite, but Boca 45 one of Bristol’s most in-demand DJs more than ably fills the void left by him.

Despite these enforced absences Saturday is yet another perfect day spent in blissful festival company under beautifully clear summer skies. It all begins most serenely courtesy of rising star, Isabelle Brown who blends RnB, soul, jazz and hip hop with infectious cool.

The highlight of the day for me, and I strongly suspect many others besides, is Oh My God! It’s The Church. Led by the talismanic Right Reverend Michael Alabama Jackson and joined on stage by the Three Hail Marys choir and their band The Missionary Position, their all-singing, all-dancing show is an absolute riot of style and substance. They set their stall out early doors with an outrageous waltz through Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ before unleashing full Pentecostal mayhem and no little mirth with a blistering set that crosses shades of the Alabama 3 with a vintage all-star soul revue.

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Oh My God! It’s The Church

It is certainly a hard act to follow but The Fatback Band have been doing this sort of thing for more than half a century, so it probably causes them no nevermind. Led by the indomitable Bill ‘Fatback’ Curtis, who formed the band in New York City in 1970, they are true disco-funk legends and can rightly claim to have laid the foundations for rap with ‘King Tim III (Personality Jock)’, their 1979 song which is considered by many to be the first rap tune ever commercially released. They do not disappoint, cruising at altitude through elongated funky soul incarnations of an astounding ‘Gotta Get My Hands on Some (Money)’ and despite encountering some severe sound turbulence en route, ‘(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop’. They reach a final destination that lies way beyond these points.

TOUCAN is the brainchild of Waterford singer-songwriter Conor Clancy and musical director, arranger and keys player Martin Atkinson. Earlier in the day, together with their fine musical cohorts, they bring a bright, breezy blast of pop, funk, and soul to the occasion, enhanced by the rich vocals and genuine bonhomie of Clancy himself.


“Summertime and the living is easy”. The opening line to George Gershwin’s classic composition ‘Summertime’, the sentiments of which ring so true here this afternoon with prolonged temperatures that are even higher than in the Greek islands. And ‘Summertime’ is also the opening song to Lady Blackbird’s set in what is surely the musical highlight of the entire weekend. Looking and sounding like a million dollars, the Los Angeles musician oozes sophistication and class. She eases into Nina Simone’s civil rights’ anthem ‘Blackbird’, clearly not afraid to tackle the big tunes. Lady Blackbird’s extraordinary voice comes steeped in jazz as she introduces us to a raft of other songs from her astonishing debut album, last year’s Black Acid Soul. She disappears into the heat haze with a carefully understated reading of Tony Joe White’s deep South blues, ‘Did Somebody Make A Fool Out Of You’. Utterly, and incredibly supreme.

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Lady Blackbird

From that point on Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul is on a very comfortable home run. The Wailers pay an honest and most respectful homage to the ground-breaking reggae band of the same name once fronted by the Jamaican icon, Bob Marley. Featuring on drums Aston Barrett Jr, son of the original Wailers’ bassist ‘Family Man’ Barrett, the lineage runs deep and true as they honour their forefathers’ legacy and proudly deliver a string of black diamonds from ‘Lively Up Yourself’ to ‘Could You Be Loved’.

The American hip-hop trio De La Soul are a man down this evening – Maseo is somewhere missing in action – but Dave and Posdunos bravely soldier on, the latter routinely posing the rhetorical question ‘Where’s the party at?’ Nobody in the crowd seems to much care whether there are two or three up there as both men still rock a party through their most estimable back catalogue.

Little did I know at the time but the ten or so sharp-dressed dudes I had seen about an hour beforehand enjoying the delights of pakora fish and chips at one of Mostly’s many delightful food stalls were, in fact, the Earth Wind & Fire Experience. Now they were up on the main stage, looking even more sharply attired – though sadly minus guitarist Al McKay due to illness – igniting ‘Serpentine Fire’ in a breathless opening salvo before embarking upon a most classy odyssey through the funk-soul legends’ peerless back pages. By the time they reach a concluding medley that includes ‘Magic Mind’, ‘Let Your Feelings Show’ and, of course, ‘September’ the sky has turned into a remarkable mackerel fusion of pink and blue, signalling a triumphant finale to yet another hugely successful Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival.

Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival 2022

Photos: Simon Godley

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