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Bristol jazz this week – Sep 26

September 26, 2016

If you want to catch Soweto Kinch in rap mode at the Wardrobe Theatre tonight (Monday) or the inimitable Moscow Drug Club at the Fringe on Wednesday, you’re out of luck if you don’t have a ticket already: both are sold out according to the venues. Some of us may have to plan our evenings a bit further ahead…

What’s left? There are interesting dates at Future Inns, with Italian-born singer Rosanna Brandi appearing on Thursday, and the BeBop club, where Andy Hague’s quintet play on Friday. I’ve not come across Brandi before, so you’ll have to judge for yourself. Hague’s band has long been a showcase for some of the best local players, has a strong book of the leader’s tunes, and always come across well at the Bear, which seems like their natural home. The classic line-up of Hague on trumpet, the formidable Ben Waghorn on sax, sparkling Jim Blomfield on piano and Mark Whitlam on drums is completed by a new bass player Chris Jones, also recently seen in Jim’s trio.

Competition that night comes from one of Andy Sheppard’s occasional solo performances, in the theatre (as opposed to the back room) at the Alma Tavern – another sellout in prospect there, I imagine. And on Saturday you can hear the power of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at Colston Hall’s Lantern.



Tony Orrell’s Thinko, Sep 23rd

September 25, 2016
Friday night this blog’s unstoppable search for jazz in every corner of Bristol took in the hitherto unvisited Cafe Kino, which is, er, eight minutes walk from our house.
There are venues nearer home (James Morton‘s Thursday night sessions in the Gallimaufry are only just out the door), but this is the newest, and the music is rather different from Morton’s fluid, funky ways. The Stokes Croft cafe has a neat basement, home for a new monthly series of improv gigs (next one is on 28 October).
This opener featured the marvellous Tony Orrell on drums, powering a quartet known as Thinko (don’t know where the name came from). The four – drummer, bassist and long-time Bristol free jazz stalwart Paul Anstey and two reed players, Kevin Figes and Mark Langford, delivered two neat sets of loosely organised, highly reactive music. This wasn’t out-and-out improv – no squeaky bonks – but an excursion into the relatively well-worked soundscape somewhere between the heartfelt torrents of late Coltrane and Albert Ayler’s cracked lyricism. It didn’t have the sometimes exhausting qualities of either, but certainly applied their overall lessons thoughtfully. That is, anyone can do anything at any time, but mainly the band played variations on simple melodic motifs and rhythmic figures, developing them collectively and moving on when anyone was moved to do so.
A few pieces had names and written lines, but all were spontaneously organised to make gripping music. Langford played striking tenor sax and Dolphyesque bass clarinet, while Figes stuck to alto and has a cooler sound, though his occasional nods to Ornette Coleman bring more heat. They played off each other excellently, with the bass now underpinning it all with a deep, plucked riff, now adding a third interweaving arco line in the same register as the horns. Orrell, playing with the most infectious drummer’s grin since Billy Higgins, was indispensible throughout, maintaining a constantly varying dialogue with the other three. He has that irresistible quality that always lifts this music: even when he is not playing strict time, he still swings.
It’s no longer radical music – but still contrasts with the routine of many (so many) jazz gigs – no heads and solos, no cute ostinati behind yet another obligatory drum solo, no exchanges of fours to play out a tune. In fact, as you let it draw you in, it’s jazz without the boring bits. You might say the lack of structure makes it higher risk, relying more on the inspiration of the moment, but it’s not really true. If any jazz lacks that, it’s going to be pretty uninspiring. If it manages to find it, as these four did this evening, it’s unfailingly enjoyable.
The Kino gigs mean there are two regular venues for sessions like this – the other being the Greenbank in Easton, one Thursday a month. They start up for the Autumn on Sep 29th and have two different line-ups each time. And don’t forget that the Fringe bar in Clifton has an improv session on Monday nights. If you like music in this occasionally challenging but rewarding vein, all three are worth checking out. You can keep up with all of them via Freetone records facebook page, and I’ll post details of individual dates here as they come up, too.

Bristol jazz week (and a couple of other things)

September 18, 2016

Tony Benjamin’s rundown of the coming week for Bristol247 is here. My own highlights below.


Kinda thought The Headhunters at Colston Hall’s Lantern on Fri 23 would be sold out by now, but looks like there are still tickets (not seats – it’s a standing show, so not for the likes of me). They do have great chunes, so if you want to hear some funky 70s sounds, albeit without Herbie Hancock, Bennie Maupin, or the peerless drummer Harvey Mason whose beats, to my mind, were the making of the classic album, then that’s where you’ll need to be.

Other notable gigs this week include the great saxophonist Art Themen down at Future Inns on Thursday. Themen kept up a first rate jazz career for forty odd years while also working as an orthopedic surgeon. Since retiring from medicine a decade or so ago he’s just had to make the jazz gigs, and has been playing, if anything, better than ever. He’s best known as a long-time associate of Stan Tracey, from 1974 until the great pianist’s death, but has played with pretty much everybody, and has made a canny synthesis of Rollins, Gordon and Coltrane his own. Always a pleasure to hear him. Here he is playing with Stan back in the day, on soprano (when the Coltrane influence really comes out)

The day before (Weds) you can catch guitarist John Dalton‘s trio (with Jean-Paul Gard on organ) at the Fringe, and on Friday the BeBop features their second touring band in a row when they present drummer Corrie Dick‘s band. The personnel listing promised is an all star affair: Jessica Radcliffe – vocals, Tom Dennis – trumpet, George Crowley – sax, Rob Luft – guitar, Joe Webb – organ, Matt Robinson – piano, Conor Chaplin – bass, Felix Higginbottom – percussion and Corrie Dick – drums. Should be fun to see all of them trying to find space in the back room of the Bear.

Finally, two other events of interest to note. John Law is well-known as one of the finest jazz keyboard players in the region (or anywhere, really). Next Saturday he departs from jazz for a performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in Bath. Law recorded the piece in 2015, with a little augmentation of his own, and you can hear the whole thing, with accompanying visuals at the Holburne Museum. I have the recording (one of four Goldbergs on our shelves) and it should be a special evening. It’s billed as 7.00-9.30 so I assume there’ll be some additional solo piano as well.

Not live but a National Theatre cinema relay, which is almost as good, you can catch the National’s musical production of The Threepenny Opera on Thursday at various venues (try the Odeon or the Showcase in Bristol). Brecht and Weill’s masterpiece has had many incarnations: this looks like a good one. It would mean missing Art Themen, though, so I really can’t decide where to be that night.

Jazz service resumed…

September 11, 2016

I’ve been a bad blogger. Pretty intermittent, and sketchy, posting here over the Summer. You don’t care why, I’m sure.

Still, the invaluable Bristol247 listing seems to have become less regular just now, and doesn’t pop up ’til Tuesday when it does appear*, so I’m going to try and do a weekly note again from now on. It won’t be comprehensive (no time), but I’ll highlight what look to me like the most enticing forthcoming gigs.

First up this week are Andy Sheppard‘s good-humoured Pushy Doctors, playing in what seems like their natural habitat at the Fringe on Wednesday. OK, it’s not the most comfortable room in the world but it’s a great space to hear them in, and to enjoy Tony Orrell‘s drumming and Dan Moore‘s keyboards. A superb band who give the impression of playing mainly to amuse themselves, thus amusing everyone else.

Thursday sees Gary Alesbrook in the comparative comfort of Future Inns, then there’s a stunning offering at the BeBop club in Hotwells on Friday (16 Sep). Let them tell you about the line-up.

For our first touring band of the autumn we welcome Danish bassist Henrik Jensen and his quartet Followed By Thirteen. The group is on the road to promote their second CD release Blackwater, and features a truly international line-up. American trumpeter Andre Canniere is a rising star on the European jazz scene who has performed with such luminaries as Maria Schneider and Bjorkestra. Also from Denmark, pianist Esben Tjalve’s delicate playing compliments Jensen’s compositions with exquisite taste, and underpinning the whole band is the sensitive touch of Italian drummer Antonio Fusco. Henrik Jensen’s rich bass tone has gained him work all over world from the Blue Note in Tokyo to concert halls in Moscow while still keeping busy on the London jazz scene. Henrik Jensen – bass, Andre Canniere – trumpet, Esben Tjalve – piano & Antonio Fusco – drums.

And next Sunday (Sep 18) there’s another stellar touring band, guitarist Kristian Borring’s quartet, at the Hen and Chicken.

With Corrie Dick (BeBop club) and the effortlessly stylish Art Themen (Future Inns) coming up next week, Autumn jazz in Bristol is well under way.

  • Monday update – no, here it is…

Bristol bank holiday jazz – and beyond

August 23, 2016

Here’s the Bristol247 listing from Tony Benjamin for this week, with the Old Duke Jazz festival featuring over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Looking further ahead, as per previous post, The Fringe have now passed on their gig list through to  mid- November. The chance to hear Ian Ballamy with Percy Purseglove stands out, but there’s lots of other good stuff on offer in the coming weeks up in Clifton.

Check out the full list:


32 Princess Victoria Street
Clifton Village


Every Wednesday at 8PM

in association with TREBLEROCK Guitar Shop
31 Aug     SILVERADO – £10

A Tribute to Horace Silver

Andy Hague – Trumpet
Ben Waghorn – Tenor Sax
Kevin Figes – Alto Sax
Jim Blomfield – Piano
Greg Cordez – Double Bass

                Simon Gore – Drums


                   Andy Sheppard – Saxophones
                   Dan Moore – Keyboards
                   Tony Orrell – Drums
21st Sept  JON DALTON TRIO – £10
                   Jon Dalton – Guitar
                   John-Paul Gard – Hammond Organ
                   Paolo Adamo- Drums

28th Sept  MOSCOW DRUG CLUB  – £12

Katya Gorrie – Vocals
Andy Bowen – Guitar
Mirek Salmon – Accordion
Jonny Bruce – Trumpet

                 Andy Crowdy – Bass
5 Oct   Jonny Bruce’s BROTHER HUBBARD – £9
            A Tribute to Freddie Hubbard
12 Oct  DAVE NEWTON TRIO – £10

             Dave Newton – Piano
             Nat Steele – Vibes
             Luke Steele – Double Bass
              Iain Ballamy – Sax
              Percy Pursglove – Trumpet & Double Bass
              Jim Blomfield – Piano
              Mark Whitlam – Drums
26 Oct    JAMES MORTON BAND – £10

James Morton – Alto Sax
Jerry Crozier-Cole – Guitar
Jonny Henderson – Hammond Organ

              TBA  – Drums
           Josh Kemp – Saxophones
           Steve Fishwick – Trumpet,
           Liam Dunachie – Hammond Organ
           Tim Giles – Drums
            Trevor Watts – Saxophones
            Stephen Grew – Piano
              Phil Robson – Guitar
              Ross Stanley – Keyboards / Hammond Organ

Gene Calderazzo – Drums

Dates for the jazz diary

August 17, 2016

A quiet month on the blog, and on the Bristol jazz scene. The regular Bristol247 listing will tell you what’s on offer –  note that the Fringe are keeping their regular Wednesday night programme running through the Summer, with a return visit for the excellent Jazz Defenders next week.

If you, like me, are beginning to miss the gigs where we can enjoy interesting visitors to the city, don’t worry, there are plenty coming up when things liven up again in the Autumn. Here are a few highlights.

The BeBop club returns, as ever, in September (with the Jazz Defenders, as it happens), and then has a terrific sequence of three gigs by bands touring to support notable new recordings. Danish bass player Henrik Jensen‘s band is on 16th September, with drummer Corrie Dick up the following week. Then the brilliant sax player Tori Freestone brings her long-running trio with Dave Manington and Tim Giles on 7 October – their second release on Whirlwind records is a great set, and their last visit to the BeBop was a memorable evening so glad to see them back.

Micheal Janisch‘s Whirlwind label combines a superb catalogue of releases with a policy of making sure their bands tour – and a few more of their signees will have exciting things on offer. Trumpeter Andre Canniere (also in Henrik Jensen’s band) visits Future Inns toward the end of a long tour, way ahead on December 1, with a line-up that includes Freestone, Janisch, Andrew Bain on drums, and John Turville on piano, with vocals from Brigitte Beraha. Ivo Neame‘s quintet at the same venue the week before, Nov 24, has Freestone again, along with Jim Hart on vibes. Both are pretty remarkable line-ups. Before then, the Futurists’ autumn season opens on September 1 with a splendid sax/piano duo of Paul Towndrow and Steve Hamilton down from Scotland. I heard them in Manchester the other week, and they make a great pairing.

Also eagerly awaited here is a yet another Whirlwind tour, featuring Andrew Bain and Janisch but this time with the superb US saxophone exponent John Irabagon – who I think has only been to the UK once before, and George Colligan on piano. Another mouth-watering line-up, who should be at the Hen and Chicken for Ian Storror on November 6, and also play Dempsey‘s in Cardiff a few days before. Andre Canniere’s lot have a date at Dempsey’s, too, by the way, in late October, and they have an amazing gig before then, September 6, when another Janisch project features the stellar pianist Geoff Keezer, in a band led by trumpeter Ryan Quigley and energised by Clarence Penn on drums. Anyone who, like me, heard Penn play the Cardiff room in 2014 will need no persuading to go back for more…

The larger Bristol venues have goodies on offer too. Colston Hall’s Lantern will see shows from jazz funk legends Headhunters (Sep 23) , and contemporary heroes The Bad Plus (7 Nov)  and Robert Glasper (19 Nov). Equally notable, to my mind, is the date headlined by Keith Tippett on 5 October. It’s a bill shared with Tippett’s long time musical soulmate (and Fringe regular) Paul Dunmall, fronting a quintet due to include the inspirational Chicagoan drummer Hamid  Drake.

Equally good things are happening at St George’s, where you’ll be able to catch Tim Garland‘s powerful new quartet with Jason Rebello and Ant Law (20 October) and the interactive wonder that is piano trio Phronesis on 15th November. Also sure-fire seat-fillers will be GoGo Penguin (8 November) and The Darius Brubeck Quartet (8 December).

And that’s just the out-of-towners. There’ll be scores of gigs featuring the leading lights of the Bristol scene too, as usual – but I’ll note those from week to week when things pick up again. Not long now.




August lull

July 29, 2016

Well a bit of a lull on the blog, anyhow. Apologies to my reader(s?) for failing to post the weekly link to Tony Benjamin’s Bristol247 jazz roundup this week. Hope you found it anyway – I was distracted by 3 pleasant days in Manchester, including a jazzfest sample of which more anon.

Various impediments mean I probably won’t manage to post the new link next week, although you’ll be able to read it somewhere here.

There is, in any case, a bit of an August lull in prospect at our jazz venues. Future Inns have a nice Thursday date this coming week, then a short break, the BeBop club are off ’til September, and Ian Storror says he’s nothing to offer for the next few weeks, not intentionally but just because there wasn’t anyone to book…

So you’ll all have to go to the Fringe and the Canteen, won’t you? Details of their coming dates from links on the right.

And there are plenty of good things getting into the diary for the Autumn – preview of some those when normal service here resumes in a week or two.