LALAH HATHAWAY | Love Supreme Festival

On a rare visit to the UK, vocal legend Lalah Hathaway guided the Saturday crowds through a diverse and unexpected set.  In what is so often considered to be one of the purer jazz festivals, her revival of early 90s R&B, along with her minimal set up of drums, guitar and DJ was an unusual combination that risked dividing the audience.

The female turntablist DJ Spark warmed up the crowd with a mix of 70s disco and old school hip-hop before Hathaway emerged.  Her first song ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ hinted at her full vocal capabilities, but the rapid transition between songs limited the opportunity for connection with the audience. This, along with the pre-recorded backing seemed at odds with an artist who is so known for the spontaneous nature of her vocal performances.

The first half of the set separated the true Hathaway fans from the curious, and those that stayed were heartily rewarded. She came into her own during her scat solo on Shine, gifting the audience with her famed multiphonic ‘vocal chord’ technique.  This was followed by the ballad Forever, For Always, which rooted a stronger connection with the audience.  The real highlight, however, was an a cappella version of A Song For You, a classic by the late soul legend, and Lalah’s father, Donny Hathaway.  Comparisons between her voice and that of her father are inevitable, with the richness of tone and flawless technique.  She rounded off the set with a track from her new album, entitled Honestly.

In a swift and perhaps a little over-polished performance, Hathaway chose to cut a path not intended as a catch-all crowd pleaser.  For those that know her for the Grammy award-winning collaboration with Snarky Puppy, it might have been a disappointment. For the real fans, however, the unrivalled competence and richness of her vocal performance was gift enough.

 

Read all of our reviews from Love Supreme 2018, here.

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