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Upcoming gigs (of a kind)

May 17, 2020

How are you all doing in this weirdly inactive world? Two months in, and there are jazz things to report in spite of the block on actual live gigs – the kind where you can listen to the players in the same room. I miss that a lot (as I mused here). But musicians – who after all spend their lives grappling with a bit of technology for making controlled noise – and promoters are getting better at handling the tech for online collaboration and streaming.

So there are a few “live” events coming up that will offer some consolation for us lovers of locally sourced music. The Fringe have a series of shows under way undef the banner of Bristol Fringe Live, with Kevin Figes featured on Weds May 20th. Blurb as follows:

Kevin Figes is a regular name on the Bristol scene and a distinctive, formidable composer, front man and record label owner. Never standing still, his ethos is to strive to produce new music which is challenging, well-crafted and from the soul. Kevin’s new album ”Changing Times” is due out on June 12th. This is his fifth quartet recording and is fearless in its dynamic and risks. Kevin will be playing most of his instruments, some of his music, some Hindemith, some Chris Potter and will be joined by a very talented young drummer @Miles Figes-Jones in the second half. It will be awesome I am certain. For Kevin’s music see

There’s a video preview of the new recording

And an interview with Kevin here too. You can also hear the entire thing (and buy it) on Bandcamp.

He’s not the only artist with a new CD out. The brilliant pianist John Law has a fine new recording with his Configurations quartet on his new label, Ubuntu, and offers a solo piano gig streaming on May 22.

In this live stream John Law (“One of the UK’s most imaginative and versatile jazz pianists” International Piano Magazine) will be playing a solo versions of tunes from his recent Congregation quartet album CONFIGURATION, just released on May 1 on the label Ubuntu Music, plus tunes by himself and other composers. All coming to you, in COVID-19 Lockdown, from his home studio just outside Frome. Set in the countryside, it’s quite possible that the music may be augmented at times by birdsong and the bleating of sheep…! To find out more or to buy John’s new album please see

Then there’s a mini-festival (9 hours!) co-ordinated by Colston Hall on Sat 23rd – Bristol Takeover Online – with a massive line-up including No Go Stop (preview of their offering here) Waldo’s Gift, Run Logan Run, Adrian Utley and Three Cane Whale. Details here.

Speaking of Three Cane Whale, their front man Pete Judge has a new set of solo piano pieces somewhat in a Three Can Whaleish (sorry) mood – recorded at St George’s. No live stream, but you can check that out on Bandcamp, and read Richard Williams’ enthusiastic review.

Not live, but improv fans can revisit last year’s Tongue Theory festival in a Youtube stream that’s available from Sunday May 24th

And if you can’t wait for any of these, Lady Nade is offering a Facebook live session this evening (Sunday), with her choice of other singers joining.

All these streams have donate links, so if you want to support local musicians so there are some gigs to go to when (if?) they can resume you know what to do.

Meantime, I seem to have been reviewing more CDs this year, but that needs another post…

The view from here

March 18, 2020

So my prediction that Bristol jazz fest might just make it before shutdown has already – like so much else – been overtaken by events. Live music is no more, for now. As jazz is the love of my life, this feels a bit like a trial separation after 45 years of pretty regular gig going.

That’s trivial compared with everything else (not) going on, and I’ll cope fine with recordings and video. But it does mean there’s not going to be much doing for this blog, which exists to comment on gigs and maybe encourage you to go to a few.

I’ll probably let it lie, unless I get the itch to write about things that aren’t gigs. I could post links to good stuff on YouTube, I guess, but I’m sure you can find your own.

Still, if there are players who are coming up with clever schemes for live-streaming, or putting up recordings on SoundCloud or Bandcamp, happy to pass on details as they come up. I’m sticking to my policy that the tiny traffic here means there’s no benefit to reviewing CDs, but may do reviews slightly more often for LondonJazzNews. (That depends on allocation, as lots of other folk who write about jazz won’t have gigs to go to either).

Meanwhile, do buy music, and donate to your favourite venue or band to help them keep heads above water. I’ve seen so many appeals along those lines I can’t choose any to pass on. But note that bandcamp is waiving it’s fees to artists all day Friday, so anything you buy then will do even more good.

Keep well, all.

Bristol jazz week – 9 March – and beyond?

March 9, 2020

Here’s the list of good stuff in town- detailed as usual on Bristol 247.

It’s another week full of good prospects. Note especially the bebop club special at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday night with Joel Harrison’s stellar quartet. He’s a very interesting artists who seems to like playing Bristol when he comes over, so well worth catching. Note, too, that this is in a smaller space than the big upstairs rom that Ian Storror used to use, so very likely to sell out in advance…

I’m out of town for that, alas, and also managed to fail to hear any live music last week, for reasons too boring to relate here, making that a gig-free fortnight: a rarity, in my life anyway.

Thinking about that, I’ve decided – I’m sure you need to know – not to insist on putting up a jazz moment when I didn’t catch a live one, as it were. I posted a video last week, and it would be easy to do that again. But you can surely find your own. And it occurs to me, with all respect to the musicians who create for us week-in, week-out, there’s a contrast between the everyday fare one samples and the recorded music I listen to regularly. In any given week it’d probably be pretty easy to highlight a recording or a video that was better, in some sense, than the new gigs on offer. Since the point of this blog, as far as there is one, is to encourage folks to come out to hear the thing done live, I think I’ll avoid doing that. It does remind one, though, of what a jazz player these days has to live with. The entire history of this music, and its full current extent, including climbs to aesthetic or emotional peaks that are unlikely to be scaled again, or in your neighbourhood, is available to all now at the click of a mouse. That heightens my regard, really, for those who strive to add worthwhile moments to all that has gone before for local consumption.

Respect, too, to the organisers, especially this week to the Bristol Jazz Festival Team. Getting emails from friends now asking me whether it’ll go ahead. The coronavirus spillover must make the Festival lot wonder what they need to do to catch a break. My guess – wearing my science writer’s hat now if you like – is that we will move to cancellation of most such events soon, but there’s a good chance on the current numbers that it won’t happen before the end of this month so the Festival should be OK. The fact they’ve hardly any artists from outside the UK should help, as well.

Here’s hoping, anyhow. If there’s no bad news, I’ll do a preview in a bit…


Bristol jazz week

March 3, 2020

Quick link to a full list of this week’s live offerings



Bristol jazz week – Feb 24

February 24, 2020
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Jazz moment of the week: Nothing to report from the live stage, partly due to choosing a distinctly underwhelming gig on Saturday night. To make up for that, somehow ended up  spending much of Saturday listening to Carla Bley. I’ll spare you the 5,000 word essay on what Bley has meant to me as a listener, going back to the early 1970s. But it is rather wonderful that at 84, big bands behind her, she’s still recording and touring her trio with Steve Swallow and Andy Shepherd. The mutual understanding between the three of them after decades playing together is remarkable. So to celebrate the fact that their third ECM CD just appeared, here’s a live version of a tune from their 2013 release for Mr  Eicher. It’s a Carla Bley earworm that she’s recorded half a dozen times with different ensembles, but unlike many earworms it doesn’t get annoying over time because it is such a great tune. I reckon this performance is definitive, and as only a few hundred people have found it on YouTube so far, you’ve probably not heard it. Gorgeous playing, especially from the saxophonist.

Back to live dates – and while Bristol Jazz Festival is not far away now, this week’s listing from Tony Benjamin has such a panoply of gigs it feels like there’s a jazz fest in Bristol every week. See all the details here.

That said, there are still notable dates a bit further afield. I mentioned Martin Speake and Ethan Iverson’s Tuesday night gig in Cheltenham last week. And on Thursday in Cardiff there’s a new band led by Chris Batchelor. As the blurb says:

Renowned for his melodic and warmly lyrical trumpet playing, Chris Batchelor has been composing music for almost as long as he’s been performing. Winner of the prestigious Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Composers and a BBC Jazz Award, this new ensemble sees Batchelor further honing and distilling the approach he established in his writing for Loose Tubes and Big Air.

Details of that one here. Looks like a tempting alternative to Tord Gustavsen, a player who can be just a little too meditative to keep my attention. He’ll probably sell out St George’s anyway – a player Bristol can’t seem to get enough of. Also tempted by the South African singer Sisanda, who I raved about , when I caught her last year and who seems to be back in town for a bit.

Bristol jazz week – 18 Feb

February 18, 2020

Jazz moment of last week: One of those moments when someone you’ve never heard (or heard of) suddenly shows you really need to pay attention. In this case, the piano solo from Claus Raible three numbers in to the Raible/Herwig Gradischnig quintet’s tribute gig to Elmo Hope at Future Inns. It was driving, boppish, inventive, slightly flinty, and full of surprise. In a band of many excellences, Raible was the player of the night – appropriate for a set devoted to pieces by a piano player.


For this week’s good prospects, see the ever-comprehensive list here on Bristol 247.

And a little further ahead, note that you can hear the excellent combination of Martin Speake and Ethan Iverson at Wells Cathedral School on Sunday (23rd) and in Cheltenham next Tuesday (25th). The pair made an excellent recording last year, and the first night of this tour is reviewed here by ace photographer John Watson. They will record again live during the tour, as Speake explains.

You can hear the last one here.a4111400442_16.jpg

And oh, look, they recorded live at St George’s when they were last in Bristol, too – I never knew!

Bristol jazz week – 10 Feb

February 10, 2020

Jazz moment* of last week: Lewis Wright and Gwilym Simcock delivering a perfectly balanced vibes and piano duet in the second set at Wiltshire Music Centre on Saturday night. A bright, bubbling stream of music, beautifully refreshing. An interlude in an excellent concert featuring a quintet (Empirical + Simcock), but an outstanding interlude.

Among the gigs coming up – a date featuring the compositions of Elmo Hope might look like one for the jazz cognoscenti. He’s one of a clutch of outstanding piano players from the be-bop era who never got the attention they deserved (see also Herbie Nichols, Phineas Newborn, et al). But his work when you sample it is pretty amazing. Try Harold Land’s The Fox for perhaps the best-known example.

So the session at Future Inns on Thursday, when a European-led quintet play his compositions should be a good bet for anyone who cares for the music that burst out in the middle of the last century. They’ve been working on this stuff intensively, with two CD’s worth of pieces recorded so far. Here’s LondonJazzNews review of the second, which came out late last year. Not quite as starry as this Hope-centred show in the US in 2014

But still looks an excellent evening.

There is lots of other stuff, naturally, if that doesn’t appeal – see the details from Tony Benjamin here.



*New policy – noted here in case anyone else cares.

After ten years I get round to full reviews here less and less often. It gets hard not to repeat stuff, and the feeling grows that the world has plenty of opinions to be going on with, especially mine.

Still, I want to note things that caught my ear. So I’m going to try and mention just one thing each week. Maybe a single piece from a gig or a recording, or even something briefer. I’m not big on larger musical structure anyhow, and tend to recall what I hear as a succession of small experiences. And jazz has (mostly) been at its best with affecting miniatures – setting aside your favourite hour-long solo saxophone excursion. 

So moments it is. Maybe jewels from a performance that was an unbroken string of pearls; brief flares of interest in an otherwise humdrum set; or just sounds from when I happened to be alert and something went down that was straightforward enough for me to grasp. Moments, anyhow, that stay with me.