Beverley Knight, Rumer, Jon Cleary and Lucky Peterson: world-class jazz and blues at Rye

Six world-class artists are performing headline concerts at the 2019 Rye International Jazz and Blues Festival.

Beverley Knight. Picture by Uli Weber
Beverley Knight. Picture by Uli Weber

The event, which is now in its eight year, takes place from Saturday to Monday, August 24-26, over the Bank Holiday weekend.

As well as the headline shows, the three family-friendly days will feature free outdoor music performances, workshops, marching bands and gigs at fringe venues across the picturesque town.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

It’s like having New Orleans in East Sussex, says festival director Ian Bowden.

Richard Thompson

“You’re coming for the whole experience that Rye gives people,” he explains. “The restaurants, the hotels, the music of course, and the history. It’s a really lovely combination of those things that make it a great weekend.”

It’s an intimate setting as well, Ian says. Visitors can walk around the closed-off streets and hear music everywhere.

“It’s quite unusual,” he adds. “There aren’t that many jazz and blues festivals in the UK and we’re quite small by design.”

So are there any acts in particular that Ian is looking forward to?

Lucky Peterson

“Well they’re all great,” he replies. “I mean, I handpicked them. But Rumer is a wonderful singer. She’s opening the festival on Saturday, August, 24 (3pm), with an afternoon show at the church.”

Ian confirms that all the afternoon and evening headline gigs are taking place at St Mary’s, before he goes into more detail about Rumer.

“She’s flying over from Georgia with her family and her husband who is the musical director for Dionne Warwick,” Ian says. “That’s how we connected last year, so she’s coming over especially to do a UK exclusive show for us, which is brilliant.”

The acclaimed singer’s programme will feature some of her favourite songs from her collaborations with Burt Bacharach, as well as her own excellent tunes.

James Taylor Quartet

Afterwards, the Saturday evening artist will be the UK’s Queen of Soul Beverley Knight (8pm). Accompanied by her eight-piece band, Beverley is set to celebrate 25 years as a professional performer.

“Jon Cleary is performing on the Sunday afternoon (3pm),” Ian continues. “He actually lives in New Orleans. He’s lived there for 30 years but he grew up in Cranbrook, Kent, which is not a million miles away from where were are in Rye.”

“We’ve been trying for the past three or four years to line it all up and get him to come over and we’ve finally managed to do it.”

Sunday evening (8pm) will see the incredible Lucky Peterson appear onstage with his six-piece band. Lucky is always in demand and performs to sell-out club and festival audiences around the world.

Jon Cleary

“He’s performed with everyone including BB King,” says Ian. “I mean, he’s that good.”

The Monday afternoon concert will be the James Taylor Quartet (3pm), who aim to provide a funky, upbeat and exciting feast of acid jazz. James, who is arguably one of the great British Hammond organ players, is renowned for his vibrant live shows.

“Then, to finish the festival on the Monday evening, we’ve got Richard Thompson, who was one of the founder members of Fairport Convention,” Ian continues. “He’s a legend in his own right really, a sort of rock, blues, folk guitarist and singer.”

The 2019 event should be the biggest and best version of the festival since Ian created it back in 2012.

“My first act was Ginger Baker from Cream,” he says. “Then we built the festival organically, year on year. Each year we try to do a little bit more and bring even better artists to the festival.”

Click here to book tickets online and to find out more.


Join prog rock star Rick Wakeman on his Piano Odyssey. Click here to read more.

Four things to do in Hastings. Click here to read more.