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FESTIVAL REPORT: Love Supreme 2024

When: 5th – 7th July 2024

Where: Glynde Place, East Sussex, England

The United Kingdom awoke on Friday morning to the news that Labour had won a landslide victory in the country’s general election, with the Tories consigned to their biggest ever electoral defeat.  No such dramatic changes at the glorious parkland of Glynde Place, though, as the Love Supreme Festival opens its gates for the 11th time. Whilst this annual event does continue to evolve and develop year after year – for example, 2024 sees a number of positive alterations to the layout of the site – the next three days and nights will firmly attest that the country’s largest outdoor festival of jazz, funk, and soul still remains as big, bold, and beautiful as ever.

There can be no bigger star in the world of funk than Chaka Khan and it reflects Love Supreme’s global status that she is the festival’s headline act in 2024. Fresh from her curation of the 29th edition of London’s Meltdown festival the legendary singer and musician brings Love Supreme to a triumphant close on Sunday night.

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Chaka Khan

As the montage of opening audio credits roll and the sense of anticipation to Chaka Khan’s entry builds, one observer recalls “she opens her mouth and this powerful things just comes out.” “She’s bad,” they conclude. And they are absolutely right. Half a century in the music business has not diminished any of the potency of Chaka Khan’s voice. It remains just as volcanic and just as vibrant as it ever was.

For the next 75 minutes Chaka Khan moves effortlessly across the wide spectrum of her recording career, taking in old Rufus standards such as ‘You’ve Got The Love’ and an imperious ‘Sweet Thing’, the huge 1984 hit, her peerless cover of Prince’s ‘I Feel For You’ – as the familiar intro of “Chaka, Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan” is heard it is a genuinely spine-chilling moment – and a tumultuous finale of ‘Im Every Woman’ – surely the song of the entire weekend – plus a glorious encore of ‘Ain’t Nobody’ she is the Queen of the South Downs and all that she surveys.

Yet Love Supreme had begun in earnest more than 50 hours earlier with Jordan Mackampa. The British-Congolese musician quickly punches a huge hole in the vast canvas of the South Downs tent, puncturing the sullen skies outside as they do so with their infectious blend of R&B, soul, funk, and even a little disco on the powerful ‘Alibi.’ It’s a lovely start to the weekend.

“Love is a great thing”, the American singer-songwriter, poet and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello tells us and affirms the sentiment with an absorbing set that fuses space, melody, and an immersive groove that may well have its roots in R&B and jazz but relocates itself to some point far beyond this moment in time.

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Mahalia may well open with ‘Simmer’ – from her 2019 debut album Love and Compromise – but very quickly brings her performance to the boil with an exhilarating set that spans her entire recording career but rightly places a greater emphasis upon her second album, last year’s critical success IRL. Many of her songs may be immersed in the dramatic turmoil of personal relationships, but the British singer oozes positivity, confidence, and no little class with her hook-laden take on neo-soul.

Outside of the South Downs stage great things are also happening in other areas of Love Supreme, not least at New Generation Jazz. With the eloquent grandeur of the Glynde Place’s Elizabethan Manor House looking down upon us, innovation and diversity are key to the sounds emerging from this southern point of the site. Tjoe and NTBM lay down the most transcendental vibe of the evening with their emotive jazz fusion.

Saturday immediately clicks into gear where Friday had left off and first to power up the Love Supreme machine on the festival’s main North Downs stage is Joel Culpepper. Striking a sonic resemblance to no less than Prince he lays down a strong marker for the rest of the day, aided in part by a surprise guest appearance from Tom Misch.

Over on Supreme Standards – one of the five principal music stages at the festival – Norman Willmore evidences the diverse range of music on offer as he and his two cohorts with their respective sax, fiddle and drums breathe fresh and vigorous life into a bunch of folk songs from the Shetland Islands.

“What’s going on?” enquires Christone “Kingfish” Ingram. It’s Kingfish time. That’s what’s going on. And this is a man who sure knows how to play the blues. A blistering ‘Empty Promises’ illustrates the point. The guitarist and singer from Mississippi thanks us all for “letting us Southern folks come here and party.” The gratitude is all ours but his sentiments are but another example of Love Supreme’s warm welcome and strong sense of inclusivity.

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Sananda Maitreya

You certainly have to admire Sananda Maitreya. After the huge critical and commercial success he had as Terence Trent D’Arby, he changed identity at the start of the millennium and turned his back on that life. Whilst he has continued to make music in the interim – and plenty of it – this is the first time that the American musician has performed in this country in over two decades. He is here with his Italian band The Sugar Plum Pharaohs and together they tear through some fairly heavy-duty rock songs. That beautiful soulful R&B voice of his is still there, albeit a little more frayed round the edges. Then, perhaps contrary to hope and expectation, he delivers an exquisite reading of ‘Delicate’ from Ternce Trent D’Arby’s third album Symphony or Damn before later playing the number 1 single from 1987, ‘Wishing Well.’

The Love Supreme party then gathers some pretty serious momentum with the arrival of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. Their interpretation of Prince’s ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ is delirious fun, fast, furious and fuelled by some very high-octane energy. The place is jumping. And a lovely gospel-inspired blast of ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ – complete with a mass audience singalong – reinforces their New Orleans roots.

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Now 83, and with a career which now spans more than six decades in the music industry, you can forgive Dionne Warwick for her voice not being the impeccable force that it once was. But she is the stuff of legend and to hear her gently ease her way through some of the greatest pop songs of all time – many of which were penned by Bacharach and David, surely one of the greatest songwriting partnerships of all time – is an absolute pleasure and a privilege.

Only last week Olivia Dean was playing on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. Now she is making her debut headline festival appearance. Still only 25 years of age, the English pop-soul singer’s star is firmly in the ascendency and despite having been unwell for the past few days, this performance shows us exactly why. Exuding a wonderfully understated confidence, supreme control, and contagious charm, and backed by her superb seven-piece band, she is clearly having the time of her life. In a setlist featuring many tracks from her debut album Messy – shortlisted for last year’s Mercury Prize – she invests each and every song with radiance and power.

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Olivia Dean

Easing into Sunday requires some gentle persuasion as Sundays often do but assistance duly arrives courtesy of the Linda Impallomeni Quartet who lay down such a mellow groove at New Generation Jazz. Some poetry readings in the nearby Jazz Lounge provide a similarly eloquent balm.

The day starts to gather momentum with Alice Russell. The British soul singer promises a lot of material from her latest album I Am and a commitment to “go for it.” And this she most certainly does, her powerhouse vocals filling South Downs no more so than on new song ’Rain.’

Recently reformed and with the release of a new record almost three decades on from their last, Galliano are back. One of the main acts who were signed to Gilles Peterson and Norman Jay’s pioneering independent label Talkin’ Loud in the early ‘90s are revitalised and they avow to give us “the funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk.” They remain true to their word with a hi-energy set injected with every granule of that very element.

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Joss Stone

Joss Stone is a revelation. Long since gone is that slightly gauche teenager I first encountered on the old West Holts stage at Glastonbury Festival 20 years ago, replaced now by a supremely self-assured performer who along with her ten-piece band transforms her early evening show into an all guns blazing late night soul revue. Equally at ease with her own songs or those of others – The Chi-Lites‘Stoned Out of My Mind’ and Womack & Womack’s ‘Teardrops’ are nothing short of monumental – Stone commands the stage. A medley of old disco hits, including ‘Everybody Dance’, adds to the sheer fun of the occasion.

Hiromi’s Sonicwonder bring maximum innovation and muscular artistic force to Love Supreme. The virtuosic Japanese pianist Hiromi Uehara and her quartet push sonic boundaries way beyond jazz as they make bold incursions into the lands of bebop, classical and prog rock. The American rapper and poet Noname share’s Hiromi’s limitless dynamism – “I’m the new vanguard” she proclaims on ‘Song 33’ – and is a perfect example of Love Supreme continuing to extend the boundaries of its cultural and creative reach.

And the fast-emerging British singer-songwriter and guitarist Rosie Frater-Taylor later emphasises this very point when she describes Love Supreme as “one of those iconic festivals you just want to play. It’s for people like me who play music that doesn’t fit into any box.”

Photos: Simon Godley

Photos from Friday at Love Supreme 2024

Photos from Saturday at Love Supreme 2024

Photos from Sunday at Love Supreme 2024

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.