Now the city I live in actually has a jazz (and blues) festival – hurrah! – it seems wrong to let it go by without a preview. I’ve done a bit to help promote the thing online, so am bound to recommend it in its entirety. The atmosphere down at Colston Hall at the first festival a year ago was lovely all weekend, and there’s every reason to expect that again – more buzz audible this time round, I think. Lets hope there are big crowds for the likes of the Ilett-Bruce band’s swing dance extravaganza, Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley, and Zigaboo Medaliste.
But since it’s a proper festival, money, timing and stamina will stop you hearing everything, so here are a few more personal recommendations from the jazzier end of the programme…
Andy Sheppard has two nice shows (and a workshop), both in duo. Friday sees him perform with John Parricelli on guitar and it’s always a pleasure to see these two old collaborators reunited. I imagine they’ll do some stuff from their one CD for Provocateur (review here), which sounds lovely ten years on. I don’t know his other duo partner, percussionist Michele Rabbia but I imagine he’s more likely to push the sax into more unexpected areas so looking forward to hearing that on Sunday as well.
Hadn’t heard of Beka Gokiaschvili before this date, but he does look like a remarkable young piano virtuoso so must be worth a listen on Saturday afternoon. Earlier there’s a chance to hear the amazing guitarist Howard Alden with good old Alan Barnes.
Then on Sunday the Interplay project which has pianist Kate Williams playing Bill Evans tunes with the Bristol Ensemble should be fascinating, and there’s new music from the Festival Composers’ Ensemble, a new agglomeration of the city’s top players. Here they are in rehearsal
That clashes with the local launch for Get the Blessing’s new album, supported by another brilliant guitarist, in a rather different style, Dan Messore. There’s also a welcome appearance in the afternoon by the great Wes-style guitarist Jim Mullen with his organ trio – the festival artistic director has excellent taste in guitar-players…
All those are ticketed gigs in the main hall or the Lantern. There’s also a more or less continuous free programme in the Foyer. As last year, that features pretty well everyone who plays jazz regularly in Bristol. No highlights from me, just drop by and see if you like what you hear. That’s what it’s for!
Bristol pretty much looking forward to peak jazz this week. The Festival begins on Friday – hence no date at the Be-Bop club. If you’re reading this little blog, and in town, I’m assuming you’ve already looked at the programme. Going to try and do a note of some personal highlights later in the week.
Meantime, there’s plenty to divert you between now and then. The Sunday afternoon session at the Fringe in Clifton has a tribute to the Adderley brothers. They say:
THIS SUNDAY - The Jazz Rendez-Vous at The Bristol FRINGE Cafe-Bar - TRIBUTE TO CANNONBALL & NAT ADDERLEY featuring the wonderful French trumpeter Olivier Desplebin and the Julien Alenda Trio. Followed by Jam Session. Sunday 2nd March, Music Starts at 4PM. FREE ENTRY.
This months special guest is the trumpeter Olivier Desplebin who is flying in from France specially for the occasion ! Olivier is one of the finest jazz trumpet players in France, having shared the stage with Roy Hargrove, Joe Cohn, Flavio Boltro, Stephane Belmondo, …
Olivier Desplebin and Julien Alenda started out playing jazz together over 15 years ago they are both massive fans of Cannonball and Nat Adderley – this months Jazz Rendez-Vous promises to be really special.
Tuesday there is a date to note at the Coronation Tap where a crew of local (mostly jazz) musicians are putting on a benefit for those in need after the Somerset floods. Details:
Banding together for this very special gig are
Saxophonist, Craig Crofton
Trumpeter, Jonny Bruce
Keyboardist, Jonny Henderson
Guitarist, Jerry Crozier Cole
Drummer, Ian Matthews
and special guests to be confirmed!
We’re asking £5 admission on the door and ALL proceeds will go to
SOMERSET COMMUNITY FOUNDATION specifically earmarked for their Flood Relief Fund.
We sincerely hope you’ll join us! EVERYBODY’S WELCOME!
Thursday has (deep breath): John Pearce with Dave Newton at The Fringe, a pre-Festival special double bill at Future Inns with Blakeley’s Messengers and the Greg Cordez Quintet and a notable gig at St George’s where Ivo Neame and Jason Rebello appear as part of the venue’s piano duo festival. It’s slightly unfortunate that one comes just before the Colston weekend, but it certainly deserves a good audience. Neame, judging from the soon to be released new CD from Phronesis, is on startling form. Rebello, seen recently in a nice club in a city not far from here, is also a simply superb player. It’ll be fascinating to see how they work together. See also Tony Benjamin’s Bristol Post preview here.
Then it’s Festival time, starting Friday evening, with loads of free foyer music, concerts galore in both Colston’s main hall and The Lantern, and jam sessions after hours, not to mention workshops at the Folk House and a film show at Watershed. Can’t wait.
Looking forward to the Jazz Festival in a fortnight now, but there’s still plenty going on this week.
The Christian Wallumrod ensemble at St George’s tomorrow rounds off the first New Music Weekend in the city, and seem perfectly suited to the venue’s thrilling acoustic. The after hours show from Nick Malcolm on trumpet and vibes marvel Corey Mwamba should be memorable, too. Denny Illett has a solo guitar gig at the Canteen in the afternoon and the Zen Hussies are the Alma Tavern in the evening.
Monday has the regular monthly free improv session at the Fringe in Clifton, ”with special guest David Mowat, trumpet, plus regulars Mark Langford, bass clarinet and tenor saxophone, Phil Gibbs, guitar, Paul Anstey, double bass, Bob Helson, drums”.
Gary Alesbrook‘s trumpet leads his Duval Project at the Coronation Tap on Tuesday
Difficult choices, as usual, on Thursday: Sax player James Morton‘s band at the Fringe, while Nick Dover on sax and Rob York on guitar lead the enigmatically named Within These Vessels at Future Inns. They say:
Within These Vessels is the combined writing of Nick Dover and Rob York. The quintet features entirely original music inspired by the desire to write tunes that prize a higher degree of through-composition, beautiful harmony, and good melodies. Inspired by the music of the Brian Blade Fellowship, Pat Metheny, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner, Dave Binney and many more; ‘Within These Vessels’ aim to continue writing and performing music that is true to their love of music. Though a new group, ‘Within These Vessels’ debuted to a critical yet receptive audience at the Bristol Composers Collective night, and followed this success with a gig at the Big Chill for the JFS society with great success. ‘Within the Vessels’ are now developing material in preparation for an EP recording in the spring. We look forward to welcoming these guys to the Jazz at Future Inn stage…
In addition, the splendidly raucous Bristol Afrobeat Project play the Canteen, and Brass Junkies enliven the Old Duke, while I’ll be checking out John Renbourn and Wizz Jones, who offer a tasty acoustic blues guitar evening at St George’s.
On Friday there’s a date for Kevin Figes’ new octet – as seen at Bristol Composers’ Collective – at the BeBop club.
This new project from Kevin Figes has grown from the Bristol Composers Collective sessions, and features an unusual line-up which really allows Kevin to flex his composing and arranging chops. The group includes two singers who are utilised wordlessly as instruments, and two drummers provide extra percussion textures. Kevin Figes – alto sax, Nick Dover – tenor sax, Emily Wright & Cathy Jones – vocals, Jim Blomfield – piano, Will Harris – bass, Mark Whitlam and Lloyd Haines – drums. The band will have just recorded their first CD so should be on top form, and are also booked to play at Birmingham Symphony Hall the following week.
If you’re up the Gloucester Rd, the mighty Dakhla are at the Golden Lion, making themselves heard over the Friday night crowd, I hope.
Quick post to link to a few recent reviews…
One gig which deserved recording in words was Kit Downes‘ quintet last week, and who better to do that than a piano player, as Mike Collins showed.
Also worth mentioning, perhaps, is that, I’ve been reviewing the odd CD for LondonJazzNews. The estimable Chris Parker, who used to do most of their reviews, has stood down. He’s a hard act to follow, so a bunch of us are trying. My efforts so far are responses to Basquiat Strings, Get the Blessing, and Jon Irabagon, in case anyone’s interested. Still feeling my way here, but they’re fun to write because of the self-imposed necessity to think about the music as well as just enjoying it. I’m interested myself to see if the style settles down. A review of a recording, which I’ve rarely done in the past, also has the possibility that you can see if it stands up to later scrutiny, or at least makes sense, with the music still accessible. Anyway for me, to state the obvious (no opportunity missed) it’s another way to explore the curious preoccupation of a non-musician puzzling over what music does, and how.
I didn’t find time to review the Kit Downes‘ quintet gig last Sunday properly, but it was a supremely satisfying night. However, there may well be things to match it in the next seven days, which look pretty busy.
Tomorrow (Sunday) there is an unusually well-staffed function at the Coronation Tap, with – as mentioned in last week’s list – a seven piece band, apparently. I’m wondering how they’ll squeeze in but I bet they sound good.
Monday sees the monthly session from the Bristol Composers Collective upstairs at the Wardrobe Theatre at The Bear, St Michael’s Hill. They will be airing new compositions by Jake McMurchie, and probably other stuff. It is all quite ad hoc, as this nice profile by Mike Collins just explained. Well worth sampling for that intriguing atmosphere of work in progress.
(UPDATE – not Jake, in fact, as he’s on tour with Get the Blessing. Mike Collins – again – reports it will be ”quite varied, with compositions from several different people in the group”)
Thursday night has the The Pushy Doctors at the Fringe for the second week, but this time presenting Frank Sinatra tunes with, they say, ”a Special Guest Singer who will answer to the name of Frank for one night only”. Your guess is as good as mine. Singing, too, at the Future Inns club which has an unusual outfit that evening called Realms, which they can tell you about.
Realms is an intriguing collaboration founded by singer Rosalie Genay and pianist Rebecca Nash, two artists who share a fascination and fondness for the songs of contemporary lyrical legends Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Together they have embarked on an ambitious journey to arrange some of their idols’ tracks for this new project, consciously including less well known songs in amongst the more popular ones and setting them into imaginative new arrangements.
The covers might lend themselves well to a more jazz-inspired backing but Genay is careful not to lose anything in the transition. By offering a different perspective on Waits and Cohen’s music, and by including their own original tunes in their repertoire as well, Genay, Nash and co. provide ample opportunity to enjoy the collective talent of the band. This tour takes them outside their London base and around the UK to promote the release of their debut album in February 2014.
I’d quite fancy that, but I have a date with Jane Eyre at the Old Vic.
A treat in store at the BeBop club on Friday with the brilliant John Law and his new onomatopoeic project Boink! Why the name? well…
electronic sounds and effects over drum grooves. Spontaneous group interaction between keyboards and guitar, coming out of pre-composed electronic music scores. Underpinned by propulsive drum grooves. Jazz, rock, ambient, electronic…. The music will be performed in front of a screen, showing live interactive visuals, using artwork specially put together for this tour. This concert is part of a UK tour supported by Jazz Services and the Arts Council of England. John Law – electric keyboards, Jon Lloyd – soprano sax/bass clarinet, Rob Palmer – guitar, Lloyd Haines – drums plus a live visuals artist.
Read a review of one of their earlier gigs in this tour here.
Then there’s an unusually interesting weekend in prospect, too, courtesy of the Bristol New Music Festival. There is a host of gigs under this banner, beginning on Friday – full details of them all here. Jazzy things include a rare appearance by the great pianist Keith Tippett’s Octet at Colston Hall on Saturday – at 4.00 in the afternoon – playing a new work. The last time this happened it was the superb From Granite to Wind suite, which you can now buy on an excellent Ogun CD, so expect something special.
Then on Sunday evening the Christian Wallumrod ensemble grace St George’s with another visit. Phil Johnson explains why you should give them your time on the St George’s blog here. Even better, in my book, there’s one of Trish Brown’s excellent after hours sessions in the Crypt after the big gig. She has enticed the phenomenal vibes player Corey Mwamba, last seen in these parts for a memorable trio gig in Bath, to make the trip from Derby to play duos with Nick Malcolm. I can’t be sure, but I have a suspicion that will be the tucked-away highlight of a packed week.
(venue links on RH side of this page)
Kit Downes quintet this evening (Sunday) is a must, as per previous post. If you’re free earlier in the day, Emily Wright and the Royals play the Canteen‘s Sunday session, starting around 4.00 pm.
Zen Hussies are at the Big Chill Bar on Tuesday for the JazzFunkSoul society session.
The ever resourceful Pushy Doctors trio of Andy Sheppard, Dan Moore and Tony Orrell are at the Fringe on Thursday, while James Morton is at the increasingly popular session at Future Inn at Cabot Circus.
The line up at the BeBop club in Hotwells on Friday goes Crofton, Smith and Moore, thus:
Tenor saxophonist Craig Crofton has assembled this new organ based group to play tunes by Pat Martino and Stanley Turrentine plus some grooving standards. Craig’s powerful and energetic sax style sees him playing in many Bristol groups of all styles. He’s joined by Neil Smith – guitar [Rita Lynch Band, Tamco, The Liftmen], Dan Moore – organ [often heard alongside Andy Sheppard in The Pushy Doctors] and the fabulous drumming of Andy Tween. So it’s really Crofton, Smith, Moore and Tween.
And one week hence, there’s a stellar line-up on Sunday 16th at the Coronation Tap, led by New York baritone player Frank Basile. They say:
Steve Fishwick – trumpet; Osian Roberts – tenor sax; Frank Basile – baritone sax; Ross Stanley – piano; Jeremy Brown – double bass; Matt Fishwick – drums; joined by James Gardiner Bateman on alto sax.
Frank Basile is quickly becoming one of New York’s busiest and most in-demand baritone saxophonists. Since moving to New York in 2001, Basile has been heard with The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, The Dizzy Gillespie All Star Big Band, The Jimmy Heath Big Band, The Dave Holland Big Band, The Joe Lovano Nonet, and Michael Bublé amongst others. After four years on clarinet and alto saxophone, he made a permanent switch to baritone sax. He graduated with honors and a bachelor’s degree in Jazz Studies from UNT, and moved to New York in 2001 as a selected member of the first Jazz Studies program at the Juilliard School.
And did I mention that Kit Downes’ quintet at the Hen and Chicken tonight promises to be rather good?
Sunday evening offers a chance to hear one of the very best ensembles British jazz has to offer just now, led by the immensely talented Kit Downes. He first came to prominence with his lovely piano trio, with the suitably telepathic rhythm section of Calum Gourlay on bass and James Maddren on drums. His other main gig has been with the electric (keyboards and guitar) trio Troyka, now occasionally expanded to Troykestra. But my favourite setting for his unfailingly brilliant playing is the augmented trio he brings here this week. Lucy Railton’s cello and James Allsop’s sax and bass clarinet add sonorities that blend wonderfully well with Downes’ slightly sweet-sour piano voicings.
That’s because Downes is a superb composer and arranger, with a knack for creating delicious, frequently bluesy tunes, and a well-educated modern jazz player’s wide range of reference – everything from Skip James to Paul Bley. Their quintet CD last year, Light from Old Stars was deeply enjoyable. It had universally warm reviews, like this one from MOJO
“Jazz Album of the Month …perhaps the most admired and creative musician of his generation ….Lucy Railton’s Cello and James Allsopp’s reeds bring unfeasible depth to this magnificent ensemble. ~ 4 stars”
Less impressively, it was one of my albums of the year, too. The pieces only grow with repeated listening. Live, they sound even better.
Try this soundcloud track, which like several of his best pieces is a marvellous study in a slow build.
They played a great short set last year at Colston Hall, under less than ideal circumstances, so hearing them do a full evening at the Hen and Chicken is a prospect to relish. They are heading here for the last of four gigs on successive nights, so ought to be on top ensemble form – although with musicians this good that can probably be taken as read.
Oh, and a word for those who enjoy Bristol’s frequent offerings of jazz at free-entry venues (there must have been 100 people down at Future Inns the other week). This gig will cost money. Trust me: It’s not dear for a world class quintet from out of town. If you are going to splash out on a jazz gig this month, this is the one.