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Bristol Jazz Week – Jan 21

January 21, 2019

Here’s the weekly listing on Bristol247, with lots of tasty videos as is now usual. It includes the resumption of the regular Thursday night gigs down at Future Inns, so all of our main jazz venues are now back in business. (You can hear the rather fine band they’ve got lined up – with different rhythm section – here on bandcamp. Impressive stuff.

The Fringe, (which never went away) had an especially good session with Andrew Bain’s quintet last week, and has another unusually interesting date on offer this week. Trumpeter Dave Mowat has a new project with two fine Korean musicians who he first performed with last year. That was a lunchtime set at St Stephens for the trio (trumpet, vocals/piano and guitar) that made a real impression – as I related at the time. It’ll be interesting to see how the superb singer Yunmi Kang and guitarist Sangyeon Park fare with a rhythm section, and a bit more rehearsal. I’m very choosy about voices, but she really struck me as having all the qualities a great jazz singer needs. Her work blends conventional jazz approaches with Korean elements, as she explains here on Dave’s website, where you can also read more about the band and the little tour he’s set up. But worth quoting in full I think:

“It’s true we got a lot of influences from America. Many musicians in Seoul studied in America or Europe. But Jazz is not limited to American standards. As musicians we want to write our own songs and tell own story. And Jazz is just the way how to express that, like a language. So if we tell our own story, of course we should think about our route. Where we are from, what kind of history we had.

Korea was a very strong Buddhist and Confucian country before the 20th century. These outlooks are about stillness and calm. And we were colonized by Japan for 36years. After the Korean war, we were divided. We had many sad stories but the vibes of society are such it was not easy to express this sadness openly. [Free speech was restricted] because of the army dictators (1970 to 1980) and society had interest only in fast economic growth. Everything has happened to us over the last 100 years.

For these reasons Korean people have a deep sadness inside which we call a “Hahn” translated as deep sorrow, manifested in a calm and still way. So our music based on these cultures. It makes our music different from Americans jazz music.”



Bristol jazz week, Jan 14

January 15, 2019

Bristol music not quite back up to full strength yet, with Future Inns extending their break until next week, but still plenty going on – as Tony Benjamin details here.

I’m anticipating another brilliant evening from drummer Andrew Bain and cohorts at the Fringe on Wednesday. To read why, see this review of his gig there almost exactly a year ago. There’s a slightly different line-up this time, and Jon Taylor suggests they’ll play material from Bain’s excellent Embodied Hope project (which, as recorded, featured George Colligan and Jon Irabagon, who appeared here with Bain a couple of years ago), rather than sticking to standards. Whatever they choose to perform, it’s sure to be a stirring evening.


pic: Jessica Watson

A few more 2018 CDs

January 9, 2019
tags: ,

Not saying these were the best CDs of 2018, or even the best ones I heard, but all the stuff I happened to review for LondonJazzNews turned out to be pretty good and I haven’t done a roundup for half a year. So here, for ease of recollection for me, if nothing else, a half dozen worthy recordings.

Lorraine Baker – Eden.      link


A drummer-led set, dedicated to the great Ed Blackwell, that really delivers.

Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest           link


A remarkable work. Will you like it? I can’t say. Should you give it a go? Definitely.

Cuong Vu 4tet – Change in the Air.      link


Second outing for this quartet, the leader joined again by Mr Frisell to excellent effect. And yes, he does spell it like that, even though there’s room, typographically, to do it right: it’s jazzier that way.

Dwiki Dharmawan – Rumah Batu.         link


Indonesian jazz is also a thing. Intriguing.

Matt Anderson Quartet – Rambling.          link


Actually bought this one at the gig as I liked the band so much – and the recording doesn’t disappoint.

OK, that’s only five, but I’ll mention also one I haven’t reviewed, but did choose as a CD worth noting from 2018 in LondonJazz’s end of year roundup – a live recording of a band I’d love to hear in the UK. All the details on the cover for this one –


And it did get reviewed, just not by me…      link

Apparently there’s a DVD as well, but I bought the audio download so haven’t seen it. Sounds good without visuals, though. And oh look, there’s something like it (sans Wynton Marsalis) here.

Bristol jazz week – Jan 7 (and last weekend in Bath)

January 7, 2019

The new jazz year got off to a rip-roaring start with the new Bath Jazz weekend. Nod Knowles put together a terrific programme, with support from the cream of local players, and they were rewarded with good crowds (a solid sellout for both Saturday sessions) and a late festive atmosphere that suited the first weekend in January.

Listeners were rewarded with fine sets from all concerned. Among the ones I managed to catch, Karen Street’s Streetworks were a real pleasure to hear live, with Will Harris confirming again that he has the most beautiful bass sound around these parts and Mike Outram playing some wonderfully varied and subtle guitar. Jason Rebello and Iain Ballamy’s quartet were as superb as reports of their first gig suggested and Get the Blessing were at their excellent, slick best on Saturday night. I only made it for one thing on Sunday, but it was John Law’s Recreations, who are going from strength to strength as they play together more and ended the whole weekend on an artistic high note. I won’t write more here as I’m expecting reviews from others soon – we’ll see*. **

After that treat, it’s back to almost normal as the local scene reawakens after the break. Tony Benjamin’s listing this week on Bristol 247  emphasises that you needn’t go without live music if you are feeling hard up after Xmas. And the gigs he highlights do remind me how many places in Bristol charge little or nothing for excellent music. Not so good for the players, I guess (do donate when asked, if you can). But how lucky we are to have such a selection of venues accessible to all.

New year, new festival

January 2, 2019

A reminder that there’s a weekend (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) of excellent stuff in prospect in Bath to begin your 2019/round off the festive season (as you prefer). Many of the best players found in the South West are appearing, and it’ll be a great overview of how well off we are for excellent jazz.

Jason Rebello and Iain Ballamy’s quartet was singled out by Mike Collins on LondonJazz news as his band of the year, for instance:

Iain Ballamy Quartet. A very personal choice, unrecorded (so far), sporadically gigging, a regular line-up has taken shape at small venues around Bristol, Bath and Frome. With Jason Rebello on keys, Percy Pursglove, bass and Mark Whitlam on drums this quartet has been thrilling, sublime and genre defying at every appearance. They start 2019 at a pop-up mini-festival in Bath, and I’m hoping they end it no longer unrecorded or sporadic when it comes to gigs.

And I loved Karen Street’s Streetworks last CD – reviewed here

a very good-humoured set, in an English way. Certainly the accordion playing leans more toward the jaunty rather than maudlin side of the instrument’s personality. There are more dances than dirges, although the exceptionally beautiful closer Peace – introduced by simply-stated solo bass – does have a pleasantly melancholy air

I won’t say more, as there’s a handy preview here on LondonJazzNews, and the festival website is here. Lovers of good music will want to support this new venture, I’m sure.

(Belatedly) Miles Behind – Bebop Club, Dec 21

December 27, 2018

A bit late for a note on this, Xmas week having intruded, but the 30th anniversary (approx) of Bristol’s Bebop club deserves some words, even so.

It also marked 20 years since Robin settled in to taking the money on the door – the kind of long service that keeps jazz clubs going – and this Miles Davis tribute, put together by club co-ordinator Andy Hague with a characteristically self-deprecating title, was at his request.

I said the other day that it’s been a winter of tributes to old masters, and this was another good one – a homage to late, electric Miles. That’s less daunting than, say, tipping the hat to the the 1960s quintet, in some ways. The music was generally simpler. And, after his return from a long late 1970s layoff, Miles’ chops were never in great shape, though his note choices never wavered. That, and some dodgy signings of touring bandmates, made much of the music we have from those last years forgettable.

But judicious choice, and some excellent playing on the night on the often quite exposed material, made this a properly festive evening. They began with the unmistakeable guitar intro to Zawinul’s In A Silent Way,  the earliest of Davis’ electric albums, with the remnants of the second great quintet joined by McLaughlin and Holland. It establishes an atmosphere that immediately transports me back to the early ’70s, when it was the first jazz record I remember buying  for myself – so long ago!


And so cool.

Even allowing for that nostalgic glow, this was a great realisation, and segued satisfyingly into It’s About That Time, as on the original release.

Then they leapt forward to We Want Miles, the live set from the early 1980s that sold mainly because we were all grateful Davis was back in action, for Fast Track. More guitar now, from the brilliant Matt Hopkins, and a bit more for Scott Hammond to do on the drums, though Riaan Vosloo‘s bass part remained as simple as could be. Another tune from that set was a slight cheat, as Miles revisited Porgy and Bess. But we also get an authentically sleazy chunk of the earlier Bitches Brew, the once radical-sounding set that time has shown contained the seeds of innumerable later rock and soul and funk-oriented jazz ventures.

A couple of other tunes rounded out a splendid evening. Jim Blomfield had fun on a brace of electric keyboards – managing to sound like Zawinul, Hancock, Corea and, at one point, Jan Hammer. Greg Sterland put in some fervent sax soloing. And the crucial trumpet parts were handled with aplomb by Hague, open or muted, with some well-weighted Milesian phrasing opening out into solos of real substance.

All great to hear in the packed back room of the Bear, and a credit to all concerned after one rehearsal that afternoon. Andy allowed as how they might do this again. They should  . Meanwhile, here’s a selection from the evening, and here’s to the next 30 years…





Bristol jazz – Dec 17 ’til New Year

December 17, 2018

Here’s a full festive rundown from Tony Benjamin, running though ’til the tasty looking Bath jazz weekend just after New Year.

That’ll be a good way to begin 2019, but plenty of things on offer to round off your 2018 listening before then. I seem to be on a run if gigs that celebrate heroes (sort of) at the moment. Two last week, beginning with Darius Brubeck’s fine quartet at St George’s.

The audience was large and enthusiastic, and clearly had a big share of people who had heard Brubeck the elder (I think I did, once, but can’t remember when or where). Darius, 70-odd himself now, has found a gracious way to deal with this. You’d think having a superstar dad could be a drag, especially if you choose the same instrument. He seems to have decided to treat it as a great gift.

And so it is. Dad left a vast book of compositions to explore, and these are mixed in with Darius’s own, and a few South African tunes (well, just the one tonight, but this one from Zim, which I love).

As that shows, Darius is no mean piano player himself, and has a superb band – Brandon Allen in the video, Dave O’Higgins more regularly, and Matt Ridley on bass both excelling themselves. And they confine themselves to just a couple of the Brubeck lollipops, the first set ending with Blue Rondo a la Turk, the second with “the tune that put the Brubeck boys through college”, Take Five. Which actually still sounds pretty cool when it’s delivered this well. No envelopes were pushed out of shape, but a thoroughly enjoyable evening, honouring a legacy in the best possible way.

And much the same applies to Friday at the BeBop club, when Terry Quinney played in tribute to Stan Getz. Given Getz’s always effortless-sounding technical accomplishment that’s a pretty demanding brief, but he carried if off as if it was mainly just fun – with support from Phil Doyle on piano, Will Harris on bass and Andy Hague on drums. The tunes were ones associated with Stan, rather than composed by him – with one exception – but that gives a wider range (a couple of Jobim’s, of course, but plenty of others too. And all excellently timed so that slipping out before the last number permitted meeting the other pair of ears off the airport bus, so we’re both now installed here for the holiday and may benefit from some of the dates listed for the next few weeks.

Meantime, have a listen to Iain Ballamy and Jason Rebello’s Xmas carols, which they’ve been adding to on soundcloud for years and now make up a full recital that’ll see you through Christmas dinner, and may entice you to hear their quartet in Bath during the jazz weekend in Jan. See you there?