Jon (Fringe Jazz) Taylor says:
ANDY SHEPPARD QUINTET at THE MALL PUB CLIFTON VILLAGE last night… were just back from playing at the Tbilisi Jazz Festival in Georgia to an audience of 2300 – not quite that many here in downtown Bristol but we’re really proud to announce that last night was our best attended gig since we started FRINGE JAZZ. And the interesting thing about our new venue is that we could have fitted even more people in without the room becoming uncomfortably full. THANKS to everybody who came, thank you for all your support and please be sure to tell your friends and keep coming to the gigs so we can really build on the success of the club. Both Andy Sheppard and Dan Moore are back at The Mall on 13th November with THE PUSHY DOCTORS and Dan is actually back NEXT WEEK with the JOHN PEARCE & MATT HOPKINS QUARTET on Thursday 6th Nov at 8PM.
It’s a bit after 10.00 pm, the Canteen is heaving with drinkers, talkers, hangers out – and some listeners – and above the hubbub the band are flying. Matt Brown‘s powerhouse drumming sets the pulse, Greg Cordez – on electric bass for a change – fills out the groove, along with Joe Wilkins on guitar, and Sophie Stockham is delivering a blistering alto sax solo, while tenor-player Jake McMurchie smiles his approval.
They are Sefrial, a quintet named by Stockham after a tune by New York eclectic John Zorn, and they may have only played a few gigs but they have settled in to this music beautifully. Brown and Stockham work together in the excellent Dakhla Brass (see them at the Be-Bop club next week) and this band shares something of Dakhla’s rhythmic drive and catchy hooks. The whole thing is a little looser, though. Grungier, too – Wilkins takes some extrovert and heavily electric solos when he’s not concentrating on the rhythm. The two saxes offer plenty of solo depth, and the compositions, including Sefrial, a moody, Eastern-tinged ballad and self-penned numbers like Little Bittern (I thought at first it was Little Britain, but no…) in which the two saxes play off each other in time-honoured fashion, hounded by howling guitar lines over an insistent groove, give them plenty to work with.
All in all, they have the makings of the next line-up from Bristol’s ever-recombining jazz scene to develop into something distinctive and consistently interesting. We didn’t make it to the end of the second set, an hour or more later – a combination of a weekday night and a venue where, this evening, it takes a lot of manoeuvring to find a tolerable listening spot between the front, where you can hear but at uncomfortably high volume, and the rear, where the audience roar makes it hard to follow the music at all. The Canteen in its night-time guise as Stokes Croft central is a great hang-out but the continual coming and going means it doesn’t always lend itself to more complex music.
Worth looking out for another chance to catch Sefrial in a more sympathetic setting, then. Meanwhile, you can sample their sound here (with Greg on acoustic bass, which also works!).
Bristol 247 listings seem to be shaping up quite well. But they’re not complete yet, dammit. So for now I’m going to mention mostly things they’ve omitted, and leave out items there seems little point in repeating – in hopes this little job will soon be completely redundant :)In that light, this week – while they have details of this week’s gigs at Future Inns (Thurs), the BeBop club (Friday) and the Canteen (the interesting new outfit led by Sophie Stockham, Sefrial, on Wednesday – they don’t seem to have caught up yet with Ian Storror’s gigs (Alison Rayner’s quintet at the Hen and Chicken, Southville, tomorrow night: recommended) or the Clifton VIllage jazz sessions now at the Mall pub on Thursdays. (I don’t know why this para is in italics, either, but it won’t let go of them so I’ll leave it looking pointlessly urgent)
This week’s session at the Mall is Andy Sheppard‘s quintet, including Percy Purseglove and Dylan Howe, so there’s bound to be quite a crowd.
Also worth a mention, if you’re nearer Bath than Bris, is a welcome date for John Etheridge tomorrow night (Sunday) at the Chapel Arts Centre.
Venue links down the page. Do note any gig omissions in the comments.
A first visit to Fringe Jazz (or Clifton Village Jazz as it’s now known) at its new home at the Mall pub – round the corner and up the end of the street from its former home – was a chance to enjoy one of our finest saxophonists at close quarters.
Some words about the venue first. It is an agreeably rambling space in the basement, with lots of odd corners, but a central area where you sit right in front of the band. There’s an excellent bar in the same space, a keenly priced food menu, and no noise leakage from upstairs. No stage, as featured in the Fringe bar’s rather smaller room, and no piano, but a very nice ambience for jazz – definitely an addition to the city’s music venues that deserves to flourish.
A great place, then, to hear the master at work. Ballamy‘s music has been important to me for a long time – it was moving as well as exhilarating to see him step out front to take the first (soprano) solo at the Loose Tubes reunion gig at Cheltenham this year, as if the music had been waiting to come back to life all the intervening 20-plus years. Add recent gigs with his own expanded band Anorak XL at Cheltenham, a set with Dan Messore‘s splendid Indigo Kid at Bristol’s jazz festival, front line duty for Huw Warren‘s Dylan Thomas centenary project at Brecon this year (the day after another two hours of wonder from Loose Tubes), and regular appearances with Warren and June Tabor in the peerless Quercus and you still only cover some of his projects. He had a fiftieth birthday gig at Kings Place in London this year, another reminder that the Loose Tubes generation are now all professionals of long-standing, most of them with startlingly creative careers.
This wasn’t like any of those projects, though. Every now and then he likes to just get together with other good players and work through an evening of standards. Which is what we got on Thursday, aided by the well-developed understanding between one of the city’s best rhythm sections – Jim Blomfield on piano, Will Harris on bass, and Mark Whitlam on drums.
These were very standard standards, and none the worse for that. The pleasure lies in hearing them taken to unexpected places, something Ballamy delights in. So in the first set, after a sumptuous I Fall in Love too Easily and a beautifully wistful Some Time Ago we had Autumn Leaves sounding more like a Bach prelude than you’d expect. I knew the fourth tune too, but failed to put a name to it, but there was no mistaking the openers in the second half – Naima, emerging slowly from a characteristically oblique intro, and Footprints, sounding amazingly fresh for a tune that is played by pretty much every quartet in the world.
That Wayne Shorter classic evoked Whitlam’s best solo of an evening when he played, it seemed, unusually well even by how own high standards – as did all three of the Bristol regulars. I assume it is as satisfying to play with Ballamy as it is to listen to him. That appealingly throaty, unassertive but always nimble tenor sound (no soprano tonight) took us on paths diverting-from-then-returning to these tunes that always sounded as if they had just been waiting for the right musician, and the right moment, to unfold.
And so it went for two further familiar pieces, whose names again didn’t leap to mind, and a closing It Might as Well be Spring. Everything treated with a kind of playful respect, no grandstanding from the leader, just thoughtful variations, and beautiful sound. An evening of delights, then, enhanced by a congenial new space.
Also a delight is a 2014 CD release I fetched home – a new set from Ballamy’s duo with the phenomenal accordion player Stian Carstensen, known as Little Radio. It offers an other way to enjoy standards, beginning with the title track, Muskrat Ramble. It’s on the Feral label but I can’t find anywhere you can buy it, so you’ll just have to catch Ballamy at another gig if you want to hear more like this.
Vocalist Victoria Klewin is at the Alma Tavern on Sunday night, with Jim Blomfield (piano), Greg Cordez (bass) and Eddie John (drums).
Gilad Atzman, with string quartet, at St George‘s on Thursday is a chance to hear probably the most convincing interpreter of Charlie Parker around just now – with a searing alto tone to match – in a setting that offsets his playing beautifully.
Mike Willox and Johnny Henderson offer a two keyboard extravaganza (el. piano and Hammond organ) at the Mall Pub in Clifton the same evening, while pianist Rob Barron plies the acoustic instrument at Future Inns. Just to add to the Thursday night competition for Bristol’s jazz punters, bassist Richard O’Brien leads an interesting funk-leaning quintet at the Coronation Tap – which is more or less within earshot of the Mall…
South West newcomer Damian Cook leads a quintet at the BeBop club on Friday. They say:
Another fine player who has moved to the south west is saxophonist Damian Cook, who is living in Bradford on Avon, although much of his work is still around London. A graduate of Leeds College, Damian won the BBC Big Band Outstanding Soloist Award in 2004. As well as pop band tours and West End theatre work Damian has been working with established names such as trumpeter Henry Lowther and up and coming trumpet star Freddie Gavita. He’s joined by Andy Hague – trumpet, Jim Blomfield – piano, a special guest appearance from bassist Riaan Vosloo and drummer Andy Tween for a set of hard-bop and beyond.
Alison Rayner‘s quartet, whose new CD is getting nice notices, make a rare Bristol appearance at the Hen and Chicken next Sunday, Oct 26. More on that next week.
Finally – a note on listings. The new, and nicely designed, Bristol247 website launched last week. It brings together contributions from its immediate predecessor, as well as BristolCulture and people from the late, lamented Venue. It should fill a real gap in the city (word is there’ll be a monthly print mag, too – worth looking out for). The site is a bit clunky at the moment, and I don’t find it all that easy to navigate, but when it beds down should be invaluable.
With that, and the fact that the listings in the Bristol Post’s weekend mag are a bit better of late, I’m thinking I have an excuse to drop this weekly listing here soon. One or two folk (mainly promoters) have said they find it useful, but it would feel more of a chore to maintain if it is duplicated elsewhere. (The Excellent Listomania in Bath catches most Bristol jazz gigs as well, incidentally).
That would give me time again to write the odd review or preview, which I’ve hardly been doing the last six months. But before I give up on the weekly list, do comment if you think anyone would miss it.
Gary Alesbrook‘s Duval project play for the University Jazz/Funk/Soul crowd at the Big Chill on Tuesday. Not so jazzy, but the duo of Seckou Keita on kora and Catrin Finch on harp at St George’s on Wednesday looks like a great prospect. There’s Afro-jazz from pianist Ibou Tall at the Canteen the same evening.
The mesmeric improvising of Australian piano trio The Necks – last seen in Bristol at a fine gig at St George’s – is on offer on Thursday night, this time at the Lantern, Colston Hall. Will they be good? Well, every show is completely improvised, so it depends on the inspiration of the moment. But their continuous, slow-building sets can be very rewarding.
Iain Ballamy is at the Mall in Clifton for Fringe Jazz the same evening, his tenor and soprano sax playing always a delight. He’ll be joined by the familiar Bristol team of Jim Blomfield, Will Harris and Mark Whitlam on piano, bass and drums.
Something very unusual at Future Inns, also on Thursday. They are putting on a celebration of Ivy Benson‘s all-female jazz orchestra, featuring several of her players. Much more detail on the venue website.
On Friday the BeBop club in Hotwells presents Empyreal a new (to me) quartet led by Julien Alenda on alto sax, with Dan Waldman, guitar, Pasquale Votino, bass, Paulo Adamo, drums. Gary Alesbrook‘s Duval Project make their second appearance of the week, at the Canteen.
ADD, Oct 13. Also need to mention a late addition to Colston Hall‘s programme – Andy Sheppard and Pee Wee Ellis playing together in the Lantern on Friday night, backed by Dan Moore’s trio, as part of the build up for the next Bristol jazz and blues festival, who’s programme launch arrives next month.
Finally, many of Bristol’s finest will be popping down to Shipham in Somerset on Saturday 18th, for the Swing Machine Jazz Orchestra‘s annual gig in the Village Hall. Sax player Edward Leaker leads, and has enlisted the likes of Andy Tweed, Ben Waghorn, Andy Hague, Andy Nowak, and a host of others for an evening of jazz and swing. More details and tickets here.
Quick update on the week:
Andy Sheppard and Denny Ilett’s quartet are play Fringe Jazz at the Mall, Clifton on Thursday, while pianist Andy Novak ‘s trio appear at Future Inns.
Friday – guitarist Nigel Price‘s organ trio call in at the BeBop club in the middle of a massive UK tour. Dave Perry trio (Perry on sax, Joe Allen, bass, Paul Wigens, drums) play an early evening set in Colston Hall foyer.
Bartoune (Charlotte Ostafew, baritone sax, Seb Gutiez, guitar, Tom Allen, bass, enliven the Coronation Tap on Sunday 12th.