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In years past, the Burton Agnes Jazz & Blues Festival lineup has never failed to impress, and 2016’s was arguably the best yet, with Octopus and Bugalu Foundation entertaining the crowd on Friday evening, and Manjula, Pan Jumby and Blind Monk Trio “warming up” the crowd in time for “star” acts Elaine Delmar and P.P. Arnold on Saturday evening.

Widely considered to possess one of the greatest British Jazz voices of all-time, Delmar sounded exquisite, her voice drifting right across the site, her interpretations of Porter and Gershwin songs going down a storm.

Immediately following her, P.P. Arnold came on stage just after 8:30 p.m., delivering a set laced with sixties classics, straying into “pop” territory with covers of Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” and The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” It came as no surprise that she performed at least one song immortalised by Turner, for Arnold had arrived in England from America as an Ikette. Whilst performing with Ike and Tina, she was spotted by Mick Jagger, which led to her being signed to Andrew Loog Oldham’s “Immediate” label. And the rest is history – and what a “history” hers is! Indeed, Arnold has worked with an astonishing number of musical legends over the years, from The Rolling Stones to Jimi Hendrix, from Eric Clapton to Primal Scream, the versatility of her voice literally speaking for itself. Back in sixties London, P.P. was an integral cog in the music-scene, going on to have various songs gifted to her by the likes of Cat Stevens and the Small Faces, her rendition of the latter’s “If You Think I’m Groovy” encouraging a high percentage of crowd-members to stand up and dance. Lingering in Small Faces territory, she also performed “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” to rapturous applause. Her own “new” number, “Beautiful Song,” received an even greater response. Essentially an ode to gratitude, its gorgeous melody and lyrics couldn’t fail to strike a chord. ‘Okay, okay — so I’ve left the best one ‘till last,’ P.P. burred, thanking the crowd for their support, easing into “The First Cut is The Deepest,” Cat Stevens’ most famous number, which had also been a hit for Rod Stewart.

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In spite of the cold, a huge number of festival attendees loped towards the bar tent once P.P. had finished her set, with Nick Rooke and Paul Blackburn kicking off Saturday’s “Late Night Session,” allowing old-school R ‘n’ B experts The Alligators to send people back to their tents on a high.

Sunday saw Matt Holborn, Lindsay Hannon and Graeme Wilson take to the Main Stage, ensuring that the crowd was suitably “warmed up” in time for Ben Beattie’s After Midnight Band. Fusing different genres of music, and accompanied by festival organiser and hall-owner Simon Cunliffe-Lister on sax, the band routinely act as “Festival Climax,” their interplay impossible to fault.


(Steve Rudd)


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