Ian George, Cheltenham Jazz Festival’s Head of Programming – and co-CEO of its parent charity, Cheltenham Festivals – picks out some personal highlights of this year’s programme. Even better, there some hot tickets remains for each of these select events – so get them while you still can!

Jordan Rakei

Jordan’s appearance at 2024’s BBC 6 Music Festival in Manchester was a highlight of the whole weekend – high praise, given it also feature Gossup, Young Fathers and Thom Yorke’s The Smile! Fresh from that barn-storming set, Jordan comes to Cheltenham to give us all a sneak peak of his forthcoming album, The Loop.

Jordan is such an exciting artist because of the way he mixes genres so smoothly. Jazz is right there in his music at its very centre, but he creates such fresh and contemporary-sounding music that the seams between one type of music and another become invisible.

You’ll want to dance, chill and let it all wash over you – Jordan’s music has it all. Listen to his latest single ‘Freedom’, to see what I mean – and make sure you book tickets for this one, it’s going to be special.

Brand New Heavies

The Heavies were last with us in 2016, when they sold out a standing-room-only Cheltenham Town Hall. It’s always so great to have them: not only are they among the most influential acid jazz groups of all time; they are back this year with a greatest hits collection and a really fantastic new live show.

This time they join us in the Big Top with the London Concert Orchestra, which is going to be very special indeed. Originally formed in 1985 under a different name, the Heavies went on to define an era in pop music with songs like ‘Never Stop’and ‘You Are My Universe’ without ever abandoning the serious musicianship that always underpinned their success.

To have a definitive band like the Heavies play Cheltenham is one of the reasons we look forward to the Jazz Festival every year … it’s one of those shows people will remember 2024 for.

Theo Croker

One of the absolute pleasures of Cheltenham Jazz Festival is being able to bring the very best of international jazz to our corner of the Cotswolds. Theo Croker is contemporary jazz royalty, one of the very best American trumpeters at work today.

A student of Donald Byrd – who himself worked with Thelonius Monk, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock – Croker is keeping the flame of exciting, innovative and above all beautiful jazz alive and well. Check out his amazing Tiny Desk Concert for evidence of his live brilliance.

Fusing jazz, hip hop and pop, Croker is a legend of the future. And you can see him on his way into jazz mythology, wrote here in Montpellier Gardens.

Huey Morgan

I promised myself I’d write this without mentioning scooby snacks, but honestly it felt rude not to. The Fun Lovin’ Criminal himself is joining us at Cheltenham with a newly-minuted live show – we’ll be among the first to see it. He’ll be playing old favourites, of course … but, as any listener to Huey’s BBC 6 Music show will know, his frame of musical reference is wide and deep.

From funk and hip-hop to pop and rock, Huey’s set will take in every element of the music that has made him such a beloved figure. It’s a real honour that Cheltenham is in at the ground floor of this new chapter for Huey’s career – his new show really is a treat, and will raise the roof off the Town Hall.

If you’re after a good time at this year’s Festival, I can promise you: no show will put as wide a grin on your face as this one.

We hope to see you dancing in our aisles (and our food courts, to be honest) this May bank holiday! Come see what we have on offer.