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Andy Sheppard and Trio Libero: Live at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Jack Losh reviews performance by saxophonist and his new trio with drummer Sebastian Rochford and bassist Michel Benita, appearing at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in UK

Andy Sheppard

British sax maestro Andy Sheppard kicked off the UK’s world-class Cheltenham Jazz Festival weekend with the first airing of his new outfit, Trio Libero. This special collaboration featuring drummer Sebastian Rochford and French bassist Michel Benita was a triumphant premiere, setting the bar high for the festival’s ensuing acts. Beneath the soaring marble pillars and stately private boxes of the Regency-era town hall, backed by a huge multicoloured swirling projection of psychedelic proportions, the visionary sax player delivered what was arguably the best performance of the entire festival.

A good-humoured rapport between the players was palpable from the outset, despite being a relatively new venture. Sheppard’s whispering sax ascents and Benita’s fabulously rubbery tone were underpinned by the extraordinary percussion of Sebastian Rochford, the young, pokerfaced prodigy of Polar Bear fame. The drummer, complete with a staggering afro, was in characteristically deadpan form but exhibited an exquisite touch on the cymbals, breaking out a seemingly limitless supply of imaginative rhythms and exotic beats.

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