Skip to content

Bristol jazz this week – Feb 20

March 20, 2018
tags: ,

So the jazz festival didn’t signal the advent of Spring after all, but was still splendid, if a bit chilly at times in the foyer, and even the Lantern! My reviews of Get the Blessing on Thursday night, and highlights of the other three days, are up on London jazz, with some great photos from elusive genius Mick Destino.

There are also some nice “instant” reviews from Emma “40 gigs” Champion, which are well worth a look. And Tony Benjamin had generous overviews for Bristol247 – here and here.

As usual, Tony is also your best guide to what’s coming up, in case you weren’t sated over the weekend. I hadn’t spotted Nick Malcolm’s new quartet playing Colston Hall foyer on Saturday, so that’s nice freebie. Visitors from over the (Welsh) border Duski look like a good bet at the BeBop club on Friday, too. Mike Collins rated their CD highly, here, so it’ll be good to catch them live. Saw Mike at a couple of jazz festival gigs on Sunday, so hoping he’ll find time to share his impressions as well – see his spiffy blog redesign here.

Finally, Andy Novak’s date at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday is the last before the venue has an extensive upstairs refurb. None too soon, if you ask me. The music/comedy room is fine, but the terminally damp windows in the gents do appear to sport new life forms each time you visit, which can take the shine off your evening. Ah, the jazz corners of the city, doncha love them?


Jazz festival week

March 13, 2018

Mere days after blizzards made the city virtually un-navigable, it appears to be Spring again. And to confirm it, here’s the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival, now settled in mid-March.

Tony Benjamin has a preview, as well as details of what else you can hear this week, here. I’ve already previewed the jazzier end of the festival – here – so won’t repeat. I’ll add, though, that looking again at the programme the meeting between percussionist Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK (Richard Harold on bass, Richard Kass on drums and (even more) percussion, and uber-gutarist Ant Law) on Saturday is an intriguing prospect, and the double ticket offer for Edition Records’ stars SnowPoet and Ivo Neame on Sunday is excellent value. Snowpoet’s new recording has been attracting lots of plaudits, and judging by this review, just posted, at LondonJazzNews, we can expect similar acclaim for Neame’s new release.

Also a strong double is the two-concert evening at St Georges on Thursday – featuring Tommy Smith’s powerful tribute to John Coltrane, followed by Gary Crosby’s recreation of Miles’ ever-popular Kind of Blue. Crosby, a key performer, organiser and educator across the UK for decades, had a stroke last month. He’s recovering, and hopes to be at the gig, but bass duties will now be in the supremely capable hands of Neil Charles. These two are separately ticketed, but there’s another worthwhile double ticket offer. Time to dig deep, I suggest, if you can afford to.

Saturday at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, 30/04/2016.

Gary Crosby at work at Cheltenham in 2016. Get well soon Gary.

And while you’re digging deep, do stop by the Books for Amnesty stall during the festival in Colston Hall foyer, who will have second hand jazz books, CDs, vinyl, and a collection of photos by the late, great David Redfern that you can’t buy anywhere else ‘cos he donated his prints to Amnesty. Well worth a look.




(Photo: Tim Dickeson)

Martin Speake trio, Fringe bar, 7 March

March 8, 2018

Sometimes, there’s something about a trio. No time to repeat so here’s a link to a review elsewhere, where I tried to say why.

There certainly was last night at the Fringe. Partly because master drummer Jeff Williams was back in the room, getting reacquainted with Tony Orrell’s sparkly kit. But mainly because the trio – Martin Speake on alto and Mike Outram on guitar – are such a superb unit. They’ve played together on and off for a long while, with long layoffs, and now can just come together when opportunity presents and immediately reach peak form, apparently.

Exchange alto for tenor, and the sound is strongly reminiscent of the Motion/Lovano/Frisell trio – one of the groups I love best and to my mind one of the finest improvising ensembles of the last 30 years. It’s not a difficult connection to make: Speake recorded with Motian, and they play a tune dedicated to the late, great percussionist. But it’s difficult to do what they did, and do it this well. This formation does.

Speake’s alto sound  and line – descended from Parker via Konitz and Coleman – is always riveting. Outram isn’t especially Frisell-like (though he could be), but shares Bill’s complete command of the instrument. His several freewheeling duos with Williams were   a joy. And the drummer, who can offer out of time commentary as interesting as Motion’s, although he’s usually more assertive than the latter was in the last decade or so of his career, has that relaxed intensity that draws you in to the music.

I’ve listened to Speake a lot since the Itchy Fingers days, mainly on record, and he’s always been a fascinating player: one of the quietly industrious but rather brilliant talents who adorn the UK scene but who you aren’t likely to find making headlines in Jazzwise. He always has something interesting to say, whether on his own distinctive compositions, well-chosen standards, or even a favourite bit of Puccini. On last night’s evidence, and from the CD the trio made a few years ago that’s now on my shelf, this trio may allow his best work. Hope it’s not too long before they get together again. Meantime, he’s visiting Bristol again next month, when a rather special quartet including Ethan Iverson – late of The Bad Plusare booked at St George’s.

Bristol jazz week – March 5

March 5, 2018

Here’s the regular weekly roundup on Bristol247, for those who find this link convenient.

Nowt to add, except see previous post here about one of the several excellent gigs on this week that it would be a shame to overlook (Tom Arthurs at St Georges).

A chamber jazz treat – Tom Arthurs trio

March 4, 2018

Snowpocalypse erased a few gigs, but you’ll be able to make up for any lack of jazz in the next week or so as there’s a welcome burst of notable visitors. I’ll point to a few more in a day or two but for now want to highlight one especially tasty prospect that might be overlooked.

Tom Arthurs, who appears with his trio at St George’s next Sunday (March 11), is one of the most accomplished players to emerge from the UK scene in recent years. (He was a BBC Radio3 New Generation Artist back in 2008). But he’s been rather off the radar here, lately, working busily in Europe. That’s just been consolidated by an appointment as leader of the jazz and contemporary music department at Bern University of the Arts – they employ Django Bates, too, so know a good recruit when they see one.

He’s been involved with many prominent European players in a host of different projects, but now has a new trio recording with just piano and drums that harks back to earlier work in that format. He’s a beautiful player with a ringing trumpet tone and a melodic improviser after the fashion of Kenny Wheeler.

That side of his work isn’t well represented on youtube, but this fragment from New Generation Artist days gives the flavour.

He’s only got. better since this clip was filmed – the samples fro the new recording sound gorgeous: atmospheric and affecting. He’s only playing 2 dates in the UK in this visit – the other a CD launch at Pizza Express in London – so we’re lucky to have the chance to hear him. A full concert, unamplified, in the acoustically friendly space of St George’s should make for a memorable evening. See you there?

Bristol jazz at its best – now on video

February 28, 2018

Much enjoyed Greg Cordez’s quintet playing a CD launch gig (and some brand new tunes) last week – and feeling bad I didn’t get round to writing a review.

Never mind, there are a trio of nice videos from the gig now posted. In B&W – very atmospheric – but the sound is good. As we were in the back row and the camera was two seats to our right they have the added appeal, for me, that this is pretty much the vantage point I had on the night at the Wardrobe.

Anyhow, all three are worth your time, to hear one of the best combinations of the city’s players – Greg, Jake McMurchie, Pete Judge, Matt Brown and Steve Banks. Here’s the title track to get you going. But stick around on YouTube for the others and you’ll hear some fine acoustic bass, too.

Bristol jazz week – Feb 26

February 26, 2018
tags: , ,

Excellent, and completely packed, CD launch for Greg Cordez at the Wardrobe Theatre last week, on normally unjazzy Monday evening.

This week’s offerings are on more usual nights at the more usual places, as detailed by Mr Benjamin here. Worth noting that John Law’s gig at the BeBop club (hot from what looks to have been a very successful short tour in India) is open for reservations. You still pay on the door but Andy Hague promises this means you’ll get in in to what is sure to be a crowded night. But if you get there too late you’ll still have to stand at the back.

Here’s the band the other day in Delhi.


Further ahead, as Tony Benjamin says, not long now ’til the Bristol jazz festival – I’ve mentioned before, but my preview is here.

And Books for Amnesty would still love to have some of your vinyl to sell on their stall at the festival. Thanks!

There’s also a pretty startling programme out now for Cheltenham Jazz festival at the beginning of May, incidentally (preview later), but sad to report that the formerly enterprising Bath festival is a jazz-free zone this year, and has indeed clearly taken a policy decision to eschew risk-taking of any kind. Money troubles will do that…