Ian George, Cheltenham Jazz Festival’s Head of Programming – and co-CEO of its parent charity, Cheltenham Festivals – picks out some of the gems in this year’s programme that will only be found off its beaten tracks. With tickets still available for each of these shows, marvellous musical adventures most certainly await.

Nadine Shah

I may cheat a little with this list, if I’m being totally honest. Our renowned programming strand hosted at the Parabola Arts Centre brings some real forward-facing jazz to Cheltenham, showcasing tomorrow’s jazz virtuosi and the absolute best in the contemporary genre, including this year Charlotte Keeffe, Kit Downes & Norma Winstone and un.procedure plus. For anyone looking for the latest jazz and the newest names, look no further than PAC.

I want to highlight some fantastic acts appearing elsewhere on our programme – and who you should have heard of, even if you haven’t. Nadine is definitely one of these: a close friend of Amy Winehouse who has also collaborated with Ghostpoet, she’s a singer-songwriter continually lauded by those in the know. Her appearance at Cheltenham is a real chance to see a true artist at work.

Her latest album, Filthy Underneath, came out in February and is as essential listening for fans of post-punk and indie folk as it is jazz and funk. Get to know Nadine – you won’t regret it.


Liam Shortall is a producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist from Glasgow, and the band of which he is ringmaster, corto.alto, has just released a real corker of a debut album. Bad With Names has it all: electronica, drum & bass, hip-hop … and of course, jazz.

This might be no surprise, since the band began as a collective intended to produce regular singles. That spirit of collaboration has gone further and deeper than that, however, and sparked something really special. Corto.alto also features STRATA’s Graham Costello on drums and Fergus McCreadie on keys, whose solo set at Cheltenham kast year was one of 2023’s highlights.

My tip? corto.alto’s show this year will be one of 2024’s: think crunchy, chunky, joyful stuff. In fact, don’t think about it – just be there.

Zara McFarlane Presents The Music of Sarah Vaughan

Now, it’s likely I don’t need to introduce Sarah Vaughan to you. Famous for her classic and often canonical renditions of songs like “Summertime”, “If You Could See Me Now” and “Misty”, she was – is – indelibly one of the greatest vocalists twentieth-century jazz ever produced.

In this glorious show, Zara McFarlane – herself no stranger to success, being named Best Jazz Act at the MOBOs in 2014 – presents a tour of Vaughan’s music that uncovers what remains so special about her glorious songbook and special interpretations … and finds new space to explore, too.

Zara is one of her own generation’s finest jazz vocalists – this show really will be a real meeting of musical minds. In fact, it’s sure to put you in a sentimental mood (I’m not sorry).

Lakecia Benjamin

You’ve probably heard Lakecia play with even knowing it. Her saxophone has appeared in the music of Alicia Keys and The Roots, Missy Elliot and Gregory Porter. She’s performed with Stevie Wonder and at Barack Obama’s first presidential inauguration. Her solo work walks in the footsteps of her idols, from Charlie Parker to John Coltrane.

Her most recent album, Phoenix, is a red-hot return to recording after a serious single-car accident in 2021 in which she sustained a number of injuries – including to her jaw, which for any reed player can be difficult. I could not be happier that she’ll be bringing brand new music right here to Cheltenham – Phoenix is an instant jazz classic, and Benjamin already one of the music’s greats.

This is her first ever show for us at Cheltenham, so come and give her the big welcome she deserves – and hear her amazing work for yourself.