Skip to content

Bristol gigs this week…

December 11, 2017

Are previewed here, as usual.

I have one to add. It’s not strictly a jazz gig, but if you have paid any attention to good stuff in the last decade you’ll want to know that Jasper Hoiby is visiting Cafe Kino in Stokes Croft on Friday. He’s accompanying singer and songwriter Ana Silvera (I think they are a duo offstage as well…) who is on a little tour to introduce a new set. She plays piano, guitar and harmonium as well as singing. I don’t know her work, but the samples sound very promising, and it should come across well in Kino’s intimate basement.


Read more about her here, and book tickets here. Or listen here on Bandcamp first…



Recent CD reviews

December 11, 2017

Last time I compiled them here back in July, I found I’d been reviewing a CD a month for LondonJazznews. Seems like that’s now a habit, as there are now half a dozen more to mention (most recent first). Maybe you’ll find an idea for Christmas…?

Django Bates’ BelovedThe Study of Touch.DBBTSOT.jpg

Latest from a superb piano trio.


Barry Altschul 3Dom Factor Live in Krakow

barry A.jpg

Freewheeling trio, also featuring a favourite sax player, John Irabagon.


Katherine Tagg and Andre PetersenWhere Worlds Collide


One you might not come across elsewhere. A duo of South African piano players exploring their own jazz tradition.


Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak CoalitionAgrima.


Shades of Mahavishnu here, I thought.


Marius NesetCircle of Chimes.


Neset is amazing in general, but some other folks liked this one more than I did.


Fred HerschOpen Book.


Simply, a master at work.




Bristol jazz this week – Dec 4

December 4, 2017

Don’t seem to be getting to any gigs at the moment  – but here are some for the rest of you – listed on Bristol 247 as usual.

Bristol jazz week, No 27

November 27, 2017

Nothing to add this week, so just your regular link to Tony Benjamin’s comprehensive preview of thew week’s gigs in Bristol (and, tonight, in Bath…).

Read all the details here.

Bristol jazz week, and Monk at LJF

November 21, 2017
tags: ,

Here’s the invaluable, but sometimes elusive, listing of the week’s gigs in and around town from Tony Benjamin for Bristol247.

He mentions all the main attractions, as usual. Highlights include Greg Cordez‘ gorgeous quintet at the BeBop club on Friday. Greg gigs sparingly, and his new line-up, and new CD, showcase a fine talent for composition as well as great playing. Mike Collins reviewed the CD here, and you can listen to it here. The quintet’s first outing at the Fringe in the Summer was pretty special, as you can read here.

Also note that Future Inns (not listed in the diary linked above) have the excellent guitar/organ trio of Matt Hopkins, Ruth Hammond and Scott Hammond on Thursday. Details here.

And as TB says, we should also look ahead to next week, when Nod Knowles offers the second of a brace of Monday night gigs featuring the cream of Dutch jazz players, brought to the UK courtesy of support from the Netherlands and organisation by the new Jazz Promotion Network. If you caught Nod’s previous promotion – the ICP Orchestra – at the splendid Widcombe Social Club a few weeks ago, you’ll need no persuading to go again. If you didn’t, here’s another chance to sample something that won’t come our way again any time soon. Details of the band this time (the trio Kapok) here, and you can sample their recording here.

Definitely going to try to make that one, but not sure about the intervening days as ears need a rest after a nourishing second weekend at the London Jazz Festival. Monk was the centrepiece, in recognition of the man’s centenary (and the fact that, y’know, he was an actual genius). There were regular nods in his direction from the peerless Fred Hersch on Saturday night at King’s Place – a Monk tune from the trio to end the set, a brief solo Blue Monk for the pianist’s second encore, and Hersch’s brilliant tune A Dream of Monk at mid-set. It was a brilliant gig, nicely reviewed by Mike Collins (again) for LondonJazzNews.

The same site also has a review of the Monk marathon at Cadogan Hall the next day. I think, reading between the lines, that the esteemed reviewer only heard the third set – reprising Monk’s orchestra gig at Town Hall in New York in 1959. So a few words here on the preceding two sets.

Tony Kofi, Jonathan Gee and co-conspirators played every other Monk tune (that is the ones not on the Town Hall gig – I didn’t take notes so not certain they didn’t squeeze in some of those as well) over two sets in four hours. It was a stunning display of Monk’s legacy. There are two or three of the seventy odd Monk compositions that are so slight they aren’t worth revisiting. But all the others, even if all they seem to do is cunningly re-work a trivial bebop riff, are insinuatingly attractive little pieces, and many are simply stunning. The fact they are all from the same musical mind still seems scarcely credible, even after all these years. I’ve been listening to Monk since I was 12 or 13 (thanks, elder brother who bought Misterioso, recorded live in 1958, sometime in the mid-1960s) – so half a century now, and I’m still loving it.

Gee and Kofi have done the marathon before, but they had more support this time. There were brass trio segments in the middle of both sets – featuring Andy Grappy on tuba and Jim Rattigan on French horn, and Jason Yarde or Byron Wallen respectively. These featured some genuinely imaginative arrangements that brought out the beauty of Monk’s concepts. Some, especially, Wallen’s sonorous, melancholic reading of San Francisco Holiday, normally performed at a jaunty tempo more in keeping with the title, shed new light on the tunes. Others allowed familiar virtues to shine. Jim Rattigan’s solo ballad did that all on his own. These two little suites of new trio arrangements, reminiscent at times of some of Henry Threadgill’s earlier work, would make a lovely recording if someone wanted to bring these players together again in the studio.

The bulk of the rest featured Gee and Kofi with Ben Hazleton (who played bass all day) and Rod Youngs on drums. But there was a striking baritone sax duo (Kofi and Yarde), too, a quartet stint from Yarde, a pair of tunes featuring the brilliant Neil Yates on trumpet, a fine trio segment at the start of set two with Ed Jones (who deserves a special mention as he was only drafted in for the day just before the gig) and five or six numbers with Cleveland Watkiss strutting his stuff (Green Chimneys taking a long time to become recognisable after a big helping of McFerrinism; Ask Me Now faring rather better, though I still think Carmen McRae’s version is definitive). I nicked these pix from Ed’s Facebook feed.


Then just time to grab some food before the Town Hall gig. The sound was a bit boomy, the piano amplification coming up a lot from the earlier sets but the ensemble – all of the above, minus Wallen, plus Denis Rollins on trombone – sounded fab, never more so than when ripping through Little Rootie Tootie, the Monk tune that sounds as if it was always destined to be played by a big band.

A fantastic day – and a truly festive one-off. Special honours to organisers Gee, who began solo in set one, did the same again in the Town Hall set, and was hugely impressive whenever he was on stage, and to Kofi, who – remarkably – was hard at it the previous evening in one of the bands paying tribute to Alice Coltrane. All in a weekend’s work for jazz musicians at a festival! And props to Tolliver, who didn’t really bother to play his trumpet, for transcribing Hall Overton’s lost arrangements and (I think) Monk’s original solo on one number, which had Gee on his feet following a vast score while playing.  Nearly as good as being there in 1959…

Bristol jazz this week, (and Festivals etc)

November 14, 2017

Here’s Tony Benjamin’s weekly preview – and I am reminded that linking here might be helpful by the, ah, persistence you need to actually find it on the Bristol247 site.

As usual it covers an amazing selection of gigs – special mention for Iain Ballamy at the Fringe, which is bound to be full, and Dave O’Higgins at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday. I won’t make either, but they should both be especially good.

As mentioned, I’m diverted by the London Jazz festival – you can read reviews of three diverse but equally splendid gigs here (Pat Metheny at the Barbican), here (Out of Land at Cadogan Hall) and here (Mark Guiliana at Ronnie Scott’s.

No time to write more, but also a pleasure to catch sets on the freestage at RFH from Arun Ghosh, Rob Luft and – best of all – harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, Tony Kofi and Larry Bartley playing Alice Coltrane, all soon to be heard on BBCR3 Jazz Line-up. The lovely Malija were superb, enjoying their touring-borne rapport, in the foyer room at Cadogan Hall yesterday, and were rewarded with a 200 strong capacity crowd. So look for the jazz audience in Sloane Square on a Monday afternoon – who knew?

I’ll be back at LJF in a few days for Fred Hersch, and then a Monk fiesta at Cadogan Hall on Sunday – not reviewing those for LondonJazz but might find time here: we’ll see. But for that, I’d be thinking seriously about a visiting quartet at the Royal Welsh College in Cardiff on Friday that includes the superb US tenor player Mark Turner, or perhaps the small but perfectly formed Teignmouth jazz festival at the weekend. But this is one of those months when the inexhaustible interest of live jazz comes squarely up against the impossibility of being in two places at once. Not a bad problem to have.

Misha and more

November 10, 2017
tags: ,

Such a feast of live music at the moment. I am indulging, in anticipation of thinner times in December and January, and it’s already been a memorable musical week. Off to the London Jazz Festival shortly for some reviewing (Pat Metheny, Schaerer/Wollny/Parisien/Peirani and Mark Guiliana since you ask – the reviews will follow on So no time to write much about other things, but a few notes about the earlier part of the week to help fix some things in the memory.

Memory very much on everyone’s mind in Bath on Monday, when the fab ICP Orchestra‘s set was preceded by a screening of Misha enzovoort, the affecting documentary about their main man Misha Mengelberg’s last overseas performance with the ensemble at the Vortex in 2013. Mengelberg – who died earlier this year – was dealing with dementia, but nevertheless managed to play piano with the band for the final two nights of their London residency. The film, follows their week in London, and the tender care and attention this special community afforded their co-founder (“he’s the soul of the ICP,” as they said), and the actual performance footage – playing piano, vocalising and whistling – are intensely moving. If you have had dementia in the family, it’s not an easy hour, but I’m glad to have seen it. There are some lovely moments, especially fragments of lucid conversation from Mengelberg (Item: “John Cage seemed a friendly boy, but I experienced his music as quite hostile”), and a scene where he addresses a piano with a metal walking stick, held up lengthwise, which somehow seems to engage the correct notes at each end.

You can find the whole thing on the net – I suspect the English subtitled version of the Dutch film we saw on Monday works best, but the Dutch version is here on Vimeo.

There’s also an English version on youtube with a rather annoying American voiceover, which seems to be 40 minutes longer – no idea why.

It would be strange to pair the film with a performance each night. Han Bennink, watching at the back of the room was red-eyed and almost lost for words at the end. He recalls in the film that he first played with Mengelberg in 1959. But the multi-media bill did give the evening a special quality. The live set that followed showed that the ICP show really does go on. We heard Misha arrangements of Ellington (Perdido), Monk (Round Midnight, Four in One), Greig (I think), and Herbie Nichols (2300 Skiddoo), a quirky number by cellist Tristan Honsinger and a wonderful Kwela-inspired piece by the late, great Sean Bergin. I’d have loved to hear more of that, with Han Bennink’s  cymbal beat rivalling Louis Moholo’s whiplash, but it was a great way to finish a fine evening. The Widcombe Social club in Bath, newly built, is a super venue, too, so worth looking out for Nod Knowles’ future promotions there.

A breather on Tuesday before an intense evening in the packed basement room of Cafe Kino in Stokes Croft. This was a double bill starting with a trio edition of trombonist Raph Clarkson’s Dissolute Society. They play spoken word pieces with jazz accompaniment, and the result is pretty effective, though the expanded ensemble on their recording puts Clarkson’s always heartfelt texts into a context that perhaps balances them better with the music.

Then a second live outing  (I think) for trumpeter Nick Malcolm’s new quartet Jade. This is an all star ensemble, with Jake McMurchie on sax, Ric Yarborough on drums and judiciously deployed electronic percussion, and Will Harris on bass. The three people Nick name-checked after the opening, a freebop blues played over churning rhythm, (Skip James, Miles Davis, Wadada Leo Smith) give the flavour of the proceedings, though I was hearing something of Kenny Wheeler in the trumpet playing, and writing, as well. These are strong players producing arresting music. Definitely a band to watch in 2018.

Finally, an evening to savour, as so often, at St George‘s, where Andy Sheppard‘s international quartet were showcasing his new ECM recording. It’s a familiar mix now, big on dreamy themes, achingly slow tempos, washes of processed guitar, (Eivind Aarset), sonorous bass (Michel Benita), delicate percussion (Seb Rochford). But these are four masters of their art, playing as a wonderfully integrated unit, and the result is always absorbing, often beautiful. All four command attention, but Sheppard’s matchless control of tone and dynamics on sax, especially the tenor, remains the key ingredient. Reservations? It is all very nice. Andy has become the Art Farmer of the tenor, always in search of a more beautiful sound to flatter a wisp of melody. A brief episode of effects-heavy thrash on guitar and free percussion feels almost like an aberration in the second set. Still, you might not want to stay in this sound world indefinitely, but it’s a gorgeous place to visit.