Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival review – Sunday!

Mostly Jazz Funk & Soul Festival was founded in 2010. Since that time this mini-music-festival has welcomed some of the world’s most legendary musicians to the leafy Birmingham suburb of Moseley.

This year was no exception to the rule, of international masters being drafted in to fill Brum’s airspace, with soulful funky vibrations. Monday bore witness to reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff, and hip hop supremos The Jungle Brothers, Saturday was Candi Staton and Lack of Afro (gutted I missed those) and Sunday, the day we attended, Fred Wesley and the New JBs, Roy Ayers and Sister Sledge graced the stage – and of course many others, too many to mention.

Moseley holds a special place in my heart, where my late mother grew up, Cadbury Rd, and also where my parents were to later marry, St Agnes Church. The village has a hippy vibe which it never lets go off, firmly grasping despite the many changes in recent years. Moseley will always have something other parts of the city, and England, cannot even attempt to achieve. So it’s a rightful home of such a cool festival in my opinion.

Moseley Park and Pool is less than two miles from Birmingham city centre. Eleven acres of peaceful parkland, a beautiful lake packed with fish surrounded by trees, and on this occasion, mega sound-systems and thousands of people all basking (baking) in the afternoon summer sun.

The entrance is deceptive, sandwiched between two shops, you are led down a dusty path to a huge space that opens up like some magical mystical land.

Walking around the festival you are immediately struck by the colourful stalls of deliciously tempting street-food, arts & crafts stalls, but also the diverse mix of people.

Security were right but tight. A quick chat with Tony (pictured in high vis vest) you quickly realise the whole event would not happen without these dedicated and professional security guys, keeping a watchful eye. Bags checked, kids being told to get down off high banks, and a reassuring presence without being anal or too intimidating, all matching the chilled atmosphere. And trust me, having nearly had a stay at Big Chill Festival ruined by unprofessional security accusing me of being a tent thief one year, and watching security at the Malvern Mountain Bike Classics end in teams of police being drafted in to break up fights and complete chaos when security lost control, good security is essential.

Walking around the festival you are immediately struck by the colourful stalls of deliciously tempting street-food, arts & crafts stalls, but also the diverse mix of people.

Yes, the music was fantastic of course, Fred Wesley sounded great, but I just couldn’t help wishing James Brown would suddenly parachute down from heaven and scream “I feeeeellllll nicee… sugar and spice” (his old backing band). Lots of brass and funk, and soul, and jazz.. well I guess a perfect fit then and they rocked the crowds.

The next band, from Manchester equally as raw and funky. Apparently we do a swap with a Manchester jazz fest each year, and send a Brum band up there too – nice touch!

During the break we pootled around the site a bit more, so busy, and hot, and the need for cider drew us to the bar. Cash only, but fast efficient service and I now own a plastic Mostly Jazz souvenir pint glass. I have to mention at this point, a chat with Russell Blakey from Enviro Cup who had a stall there. A Brummie manufactured stainless steel solution to reduce plastic pollution – bravo!

A short walk along a path by the pool (more like a lake to me), brings you out into another smaller area with a DJ boat, well half a boat, and a more relaxed atmosphere. Something you quickly recognise at Mostly Jazz is the family environment, which is a huge draw to those who were avid acid jazz fans in the 80s & 90s, and who now have the responsibility of kids. My pal Ollie from the Yardbird Jazz Club was there the previous day with his nippers and solves a problem of having to rely on babysitters etc.

In this second little arena we caught up with Neil Rushton (pictured in the blue Stax T-shirt). Neil was instrumental in not only the UK Northern Soul scene, but also in bringing the Techno music genre to the UK, and Europe, via his Brummie Kool Cat and Network Records label in the 1980s (check out Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit LP).

I think this is a good opportunity to mention the other notable Brum music faces we bumped into that day. After-all, this is a Birmingham music fest, and whilst the organisers do an incredible job of curating this event in the heart of the second largest city in the UK, without the support and attendance of the local population it would be nothing. So, we also bumped into/had a quick chat with: Jez Collins of Birmingham Music Archive (pictured wearing the Alright Bab T-shirt), Mazzy Snape of The Night Owl, Chicks Dig Jerks DJ nights & Bread Birmingham (pictured in maroon top and shades) & her pal Clare Edwards of The Night Owl (pictured in spotted top with hubby). We also met Andrew Purvis and Davina Muirhead from Rebel Chicken (pictured in front of green shed) and Adam Johnson of The Plough Harborne, formerly Global Grooves, 52 Degrees North and Circo Bar (pictured in stripey top smiling). It was great to see so many happy familiar faces and made it easier to take a few pics without having to bother people I didn’t know.

Finally, we made it back to the main arena and caught the awesome set of Roy Ayers. Jazz Funk legend Ayers performed two of his best known tunes, Everybody Loves The Sunshine and they really did that evening, a rapturous applause by hundreds of snazzily dressed people grooving to this masterpiece while this English heatwave sweltered down on the masses. I was pleased to also hear his masterpiece Searchin, I mean how better could it get?

We didn’t stay for Sister Sledge, by the end of Roy Ayers, a few pints of cider and the intense heat, it was enough to leave us smiling in a slight stupor as we glided out of the park, in search of a Royal Watan balti.. which we found after an hour long walk in more heat, erm yeah Ok let’s not go there.

A huge thanks to Lyle Bignon and John Fell and to all those who helped bring this fabulous groovy event to life each year. It genuinely places Brum on the musical map, and something many people, I am sure, travel far and wide to appreciate, whilst leaving with a highly positive impression of Birmingham.

Big up Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul!

Review by Nick Byng for Grapevine Birmingham