May 24, 2024

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Crowd-pleasers crown safety-first Love Supreme summit at London’s Roundhouse: Photos, Video

A blazing afternoon sun, beer-drinking crowds, and smooth electronic beats suggested summer had arrived for Love Supreme at the Roundhouse, a one-day spin-off of the weekend-long festival.

The EZH terrace stage drew a relatively young crowd to its bass-heavy beats and synth-led sounds, including keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones and electronic musician-producer Maxwell Owin. Additional instrumentalists, as in the duo’s Idiomproject, may have made for a more jazz-infused and engaging set, yet sliding between atmospheric spaciness and beat-driven dance, Owin’s enthusiastic energy and Armon-Jones’ improvisations clearly pleased listeners.

Inside, a Jazz in the Round-curated stage showcased a more jazz-focused line-up, including the Arthur O’Hara Trio (below), featuring O’Hara on electric bass, Chelsea Carmichael on saxophone, and drummer Ed Harley. The young group’s sound suggested influences from more established ensembles, including fellow Londoners Sons of Kemet in their rhythmic use of driving saxophone riffs, nicely executed by Carmichael. The set contrasted explosive moments with a cooler minimalism, drawing on rock and funk structures. This trio is still developing, yet has exciting potential; my festival highlight, they are one to keep an eye on.

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On the main stage, sax-centric trio Moon Hooch contrasted starkly. The showy ensemble enthused the crowd with drums, tenor and baritone saxophones, as well as synth, vocals, an EWI, a traffic cone, and abundant high-energy dancing and showmanship. They filled the stage and hall with relentless techno-dance rhythms, dipping into metal, playing on jazz phrasing. Perhaps lacking some depth, this was fun and entertaining.

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As the other stages closed, the audience packed the main hall for the remaining performances. Cory Henry‘s (above) crowd-rousing greetings were a sign of the energy to come; The Funk Apostles dove into smiling, dancing pop-funk that had heads nodding and hips shaking. On originals or a ‘Stayin’ Alive’ cover, this show was driven by the familiarity of pop structure and melody, and charismatic energy. Instrumental solos and occasional electronic effects provided moments of cheeky playfulness, yet lack of deviation from conventional forms was disappointing for a ‘jazz festival’ headliner.

Mr Jukes followed, launching into upbeat, poppy soul-funk. Led by bassist Jack Steadman, typically short, snappy songs followed formulaic pop structures, with catchy, repeated horn and vocal melodies. The performance felt well-rehearsed, the group together, and the audience content. Improvisations enhanced the orchestrated delivery, but the whole lacked dynamic, heartfelt collective energy and communication.

Love Supreme at the Roundhouse was admirably diverse and intergenerational. Yet this Coltrane-honouring, so-called ‘jazz festival’ emphasised crowd-pleasing dance-pop, obscuring the progressive and innovative with the overwhelmingly ‘safe’. The day’s sounds lacked risk, the unexpected, the expressive rebellion of jazz. I found myself longing for a sound that was radical and underground: a sound that never arrived.

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 Celeste Cantor-Stephens;

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