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Bristol jazz week – 17 Jan

January 17, 2017

Here’s Tony Benjamin‘s round-up of forthcoming gigs on Bristol247. You should read it. That is all.

Bristol jazz diary – Jan 10

January 10, 2017

Here’s the link for the regular weekly roundup on Bristol247, for those who still need pointing in that direction.

Ignore this bit, folks – the website entry is undated: turns out the gig is on Jan 26th...[It doesn’t include “Hammond, Hammond and Hopkins” at Future Inns on Thursday, as they have only just updated their website for the New Year. There don’t seem to be any further details there either, yet, but I assume it means Matt Hopkins (gtr), Ruth Hammond (organ), Scott Hammond (drums), as seen at the Alma in December.]

Appreciating Andy Sheppard

January 9, 2017

What does it take to get to know a jazz player’s work well? Repeated listening, obviously. Recording allows that. But then there’s more to be gained by hearing them live, preferably in different settings. The often-heard advice to hearken to your local musicians rather than just pursue star performers is right. Even better, your local scene may harbour a star performer who you can enjoy again and again.

That’s been our good fortune in Bristol with Andy Sheppard. A capacity crowd at the Hen and Chicken just before Christmas heard Ian Storror finish 2016 as he began it, with Sheppard’s quartet Hotel Bristol. It was a kind of farewell gig, as Sheppard is moving to Portugal in 2017. He’ll be back for some local dates – guest spots like the one he made at the Fringe last week, I imagine – and as I’ve mentioned before he’s doing a big show at the jazz festival featuring a new score for Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. But he won’t be the regular presence on the Bristol scene he’s been since the ’80s.

That was before my time here but it’s been a privilege to hear his work up close so often for the last decade. I knew the sound well before I came, from numerous recordings. If you’re a Carla Bley completist – and who isn’t? – you automatically own a big batch of the man’s best work. You know the formidable control in all registers. The ability to switch from breathy intimacy, to fluted laments, to old-fashioned raunch. And that’s just on tenor: the soprano playing, and improvising, has extra dimensions still. Add the seemingly endless melodic invention of the compositions on his own recordings, and you have more good things than one artist can normally provide.

But it turned out there was more – quite a lot more. He’s obviously someone who, if he’s in town, would sooner go out to play of an evening than stop at home. So I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Sheppard in the last ten years.

Not going to list them all, but they include solo shows (at St George’s and in the intimacy of the Alma Theatre), dates for the increasingly impressive Hotel Bristol, a band put together for a festival date that grew to have it’s own repertoire, regular sightings of the hugely enjoyable Pushy Doctors with Dan Moore and irrepressible Tony Orrell joining in playful renditions of other people’s tunes, guest spots with Vein, collaborations with James Morton, a commission for a giant choir to mark Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, a splendid recreation of John Coltrane’s Ballads album, the occasional duo with John Parricelli and quite a few gigs for Jon Taylor that were just “Andy Sheppard and Friends” – lots and lots of gigs that never made it on to audio, or video – they were just for the weekly jazz punters of Bristol. Lucky us.

That all happened alongside the larger scale festival gigs, in Bristol, Cheltenham or Bath, for Carla Bley small bands, and – as his association with ECM has blossomed – Sheppard’s own Trio Libero and quartets.

I’ve never quite got used to being able to hear someone as good as this, week in week out, often just down the street. It doesn’t make music less of an occasion – familiarity surely breeds deeper appreciation. As I say, almost all of it was gone on the air, so here’s a video of the great trio with Carla and Steve Swallow instead. The point is that, although they perform with the empathy of a decades long collaboration on the world stage, Andy pretty well always plays at this level.


It’s been a huge pleasure to get to know his playing better in all these contexts. At the Hen and Chicken gig, Sheppard called for applause to acknowledge Ian Storror’s tireless efforts to promote jazz in Bristol – and quite right too. But his own presence has been invaluable too. How great for promoters to have a world class player who wants to book in as many live dates as he can, and will get an audience every time. They, and we, will miss him.

So thanks, Mr Sheppard and bon voyage. Now, who’s going to help me to persuade Iain Ballamy to move up to Bristol?

Bristol jazz diary – January

January 3, 2017
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Bristol venues are back in action after the New Year break (if they had one), and the immediately scheduled gigs are collected in Tony Benjamin‘s usual listing over at Bristol247.

If you want to plan further ahead, there are some notable dates coming up quite quickly. The newly expanded Cloudmakers (once a trio, now a quintet) open 2017 for Ian Storror at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday 15th Jan. There’s a great interview with leader Jim Hart explaining how the band has developed since he moved a France a couple of years back here. A similarly stellar line-up, in the form of Solstice, appear in Cardiff at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama the following week (Jan 27th).

Then next month early booking is advised for the magnificent Quercus, where Iain Ballamy and Huw Warren are the best possible company for the peerless June Tabor. They have a new CD about to drop, so there will be new songs – a few featured in their memorable show in Cardiff last year, but it will be wonderful to hear them back at St George’s on Feb 9th. If you’ve the stamina, notable Australian piano trio Trichotomy play the RWCMD the night after, Friday 10th.

Also looking forward to John Law’s Congregation at the BeBop club the following week (17th Feb). Then it’s only another month until Bristol’s own Jazz Festival, which has a strong line-up this year. Some smart booking brings two of the most sought after British bands to the Lantern – Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur and bassist Jasper Hoiby’s Fellow Creatures, also featuring Jurd along with saxophonist Mark Lockheart. Their respective CDs were on most top ten lists in 2016, ands it’ll be fascinating to hear both bands the same weekend. Lots of other good stuff, including a Lantern gig for Dakhla and guitarist Remy Harris , sets from bassist Alec Dankworth, trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and Gilad Atzman and Alan Barnes, and a new score for Metropolis penned by Andy Sheppard, as well as the usual big helpings of blues and soul. Full concert hall line-up is here, with free foyer sessions coming soon to round out the weekend.



Festive jazz dates for Bristol

December 19, 2016

Tony Benjamin over at Bristol247 has a run down on festive jazz dates covering the next two weeks.

He doesn’t mention the excellent Dakhla Brass on late(ish) at the Wardrobe Theatre tomorrow (Tuesday), but that’s probably because he’s already interviewed them here.

They’ll be presenting some new pieces, as they work toward a London gig at King’s Place in January. Always a fun band to hear live, it’s great to see them still developing now they are a regular five-piece.

Bristol jazz week 12 Dec

December 13, 2016

Some deservedly packed out gigs last week, by all accounts (Darius Brubeck, Get the Blessing, Andy Sheppard – I only made it to the last due to illness. It was good.). Less on offer this time – as detailed by Tony Benjamin here – but still enough to cover the range from grooving vibes to free and fiery at the Fringe with Paul Dunmall, Percy Pursglove (his second Bristol visit in a week) and Tony Orrell).

Bristol jazz week – 6 Dec

December 6, 2016

Going to content myself with linking to Tony Benjamin’s preview again because, you know, it’s all there.

A busy week of crowded gigs as we near the Xmas break*. Brubeck at St George’s is more or less sold out, I think. Get the Blessing at Arnolfini are sure to pull the crowds, and Andy Shepppard’s farewell (for now) gig on Sunday looks like being packed out as well.

But don’t overlook the superb line-up of the band visiting the BeBop club this Friday, or the delights of Sefrial the previous  night at Future Inns.

Me, I haven’t been to a gig for a couple of weeks as I wanted to hang on to the memory of hearing the Liberation Music Orchestra in London, but I think it’s time to turn out for some of these…

*note: some extra keen venues don’t actually take a break – see the programme for the Fringe.