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Live Review: Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Cracking Band

by Brian Payne | Jazz Journal | May 11, 2023

In mixed weather, this year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival spanned six days from 26 April to 1 May. Most performances took place in Montpellier Gardens, the site of the Big Top and Jazz Arena. Other locations in town included the Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham Town Hall and the Daffodil Restaurant. The Daffodil is a restored 1920s cinema with a balcony, sweeping staircase and superb art-deco features.

I hadn’t come across Damian Lewis before. He’s a television and film actor by day yet here he was at Cheltenham fronting a cracking band. I was pleasantly surprised. Lewis sang and played a mix of roots, blues and rock ’n’ roll and his vocals and guitar accompaniment were spot on. Some of the numbers were his own compositions. He was backed by members of Kansas Smitty’s House Band with Giacomo Smith on alto saxophone, David Archer on guitar, Joe Webb on piano, Will Sach on bass and Will Cleasby on drums. Kitty Durham supplied backing vocals, hand-held percussion, harmonica and at times also guitar.

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