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Bristol jazz week – 4 October

October 3, 2015

Below are Tony Benjamin’s notes on this week’s gigs in town. Plenty of variety. For me, though, it’s a piano-players’ week, starting with Kit Downes at Hen and Chicken tomorrow (Sunday), and then Aaron Parks at St George‘s on Thursday. The latter is my unmissable gig of the week, not least – as noted  – because the incomparable Billy Hart is on drums. If you want to sample Parks before booking, there’s a whole live trio set on his bandcamp page here. And very nice it is, too. (Snarky Puppy, for what it’s worth, seem a bit dull to me, but lots of people seem to like them…)

Over to TB:

After last weeks Beats & Pieces gig this weeks hipster magnet is sure to be Snarky Puppy (Monday 5) making the almost unprecedented move (for a jazz band) to the O2 Academy. It’s a well-deserved recognition that the energetic big band catches an enthusiastic young audience better suited to the O2 than St George’s. The latter venue makes a welcome return to the jazz diary, however, with the visit of New York’s Aaron Parks Trio led by sparky and smart pianist Parks and also boasting veteran drumming legend Billy Hart (who played on On The Corner, among many other credits).

There’s also a New York drumming connection to what should be another standout gig this week, however, with Colin Stranahan coming to the Hen & Chicken (Sunday 11) as part of the Michael Janisch Paradigm Shift. UK-based US bass player Janisch has just produced a brilliant double album of his own new compositions plus a few from the sextet, which also includes the stylish saxophone of Jason Yarde. The music is packed with ideas and action with great ensemble arrangements.

The Fringe @ The Mall session (Wednesday 7) welcomes one of the British scene’s greats – guitarist Jim Mullen, picking up local rhythm duo Anders Olinder and Andy Tween for an organ trio workout of his latest CD ‘Catch My Drift’. The next night (Thursday 8) Peggy Lee-influenced vocalist Catherine Sykes, who has also fronted the Glen Miller Orchestra, makes her debut at Future Inn. Sunday’s slot at the Alma Tavern will be featuring the increasingly adventurous post-rock jazz quintet Sefrial.

There’s a lot of new young jazz talent around Bristol, much of it graduating from Bristol University’s superbly lively Jazz Funk and Soul Society, and this week sees the Trad-enthused Rhythm Pencils (Friday 9, Old Duke), jazz-funk and hip-hop from Feelgood Experiment (Saturday 10, No 1 Harbourside) and assured jazz and Latin vocals from Ayesha Akkari (Wednesday 7, No 1 Harbourside).

However this week’s big gig, for the Bristol jazz fan, must be the celebration of a (slightly) older generation brought together by Andy Hague in his Big 5-0 Band (Friday 9, Cresswell Theatre, Bristol Cathedral School). Not only is it a great 16-strong line-up of our favourite local heroes (Bruce, Malcolm, Waghorn, McMurchie, Blomfield etc) playing a mix of Andy’s new big band compositions plus many old favourites but also it’s the Bebop club main-man’s 50th birthday and if anyone deserves celebrating for their role in keeping top quality jazz available in Bristol over the last 15 years Mr Hague must be one of those people.

Bristol Jazz Week – Sep

September 27, 2015

Here are Tony Benjamin’s recommendations for this (crowded!) week…

sept 28 – Oct 4

Well, despite stiff competition it’s all about The Enemy this week (Hen & Chicken, Sunday 4). An unfamiliar name for what is effectively a Kit Downes Trio, the wunderkind of contemporary jazz piano’s new threesome has longtime collaborator – and fellow wunderkind – James Maddren on drums and highly rated Swedish bass player Petter Eldh (ditto). It’s a fearsome set of improvising imaginations and a reliable fireworks display is promised.

But there’s plenty more happening, and Wednesday night offers the tricky choice between Ben Cottrell’s vibrant young big band Beats & Pieces (Lantern) and the more mature and reflective music of Andy Sheppard & John Paricelli (Fringe @ The Mall). The latter duo formed hastily to plug a gap at The Albert back in the day and revealed a spellbinding empathy of melodic improvisation between the saxophonist and guitarist that continues to unfold. Thursday’s Future Inn session continues to develop the venue’s relationship with ace pianist Dave Newton, this time as accompanist to the mighty bopping of saxophonist  Simon Spillett, feted inheritor of the legendary Tubby Hayes. That should be another fascinating duo pairing, as will be Friday’s Bebop’s saxophone duel between Ben Waghorn & Damian Cook – both big noises on the local scene since Damian relocated this way from London a couple of years ago. With Jim Blomfield (piano), Dave Guy (bass) and Andy Hague (drums) it’s a classic Bebop night.

Canteen has two African themed bands, with Thursday’s gig from London-based hip-hop jazzers  Fur  and Friday’s return of Tezeta, ex-Mandible pianist Dan Inzani’s reclamation of that wonky Ethiopiques jazz-funk sound. Other interesting gigs include Pushy Doctors’ keyboard maestro Dan Moore (Canteen, Wed 30) in an organ trio with Greb Cordez (bass) and Matt Brown (drums) and Afro-influenced Canadian saxophonist Len Arullah (No 1 Harbourside, Thur 1).


Looking a bit further ahead, Mike Collins has written excellent previews of the dates coming up at the Hen and Chicken and the Fringe for JazzWise. Here and here.

Bristol jazz week, Sep 21

September 20, 2015

 Tony Benjamin’s highlights for the coming week. But before them don’t  forget there’s a top notch Anglo-US trio tonight (Sunday) at the Hen and Chicken. Pianist Barry Green is joined by two New York stars – Chris Cheeck on sax, Gerald Cleaver on drums – with whom he’s recently recorded. Should be a superb night, leaving me really wishing I wasn’t unavoidably out of town… Enjoy if you can make it!

jazz Week, Sept 21-27

An eclectic week seems to beckon from Wednesday night (23) onwards when The Old Duke hosts the long-established Budapest Ragtime Band an 8-piece outfit dedicated to the classic styling of early jazz as well as the anarchic musical parody of Spike Jones. It’s an unfortunate clash with the Ben Waghorn Quartet up at the Fringe @ The Mall, as Ben’s eloquent hard-bop saxophone is always a treat and the band also includes Jim Blomfield (piano), Thad Kelly (bass) and Andy Hague (trumpet). The evening’s third option is down at Canteen where Dakhla’s ace baritone sax-player Charlotte Ostafew is playing in Gypsy swing trio Bartoune. There’s similar disparity on Thursday night (24) when the the Anglo-French Orchestra Pirouette appears at Canteen and The Steele Brothers & Dave Newton appear at the Future Inn session. The Pirouettes are a splendidly shambling collective formed to play for the Giffords Circus and have that Gallic anarchy thing, combining good fun and good music in equal measure, and they will be livelying up No 1 Harbourside on Friday 25, too. While Dave Newton’s excellence as a pianist needs no introduction the London-based Steele Brothers (Nat and Luke) are less known hereabouts. Nat’s steely vibraphone has the percussive deliberateness of Milt Jackson, an acknowledgedinfluence, and a great ear for improvisation, while Luke’s bass has accompanied the likes of Jim Mullen and Don Weller. And Friday gives another choice, with French saxophonist Julien Alenda’s Empyreal 4tet featuring down at the Bebop Club and bringing accomplished young pianist Tom Berge over from Bath. It’s a great band also featuring Pasquale Votino (bass) and Paolo Adomo (drums) that has really settled into its groove over the last year. The competition tonight is Barb Jungr, cabaret chanteuse par excellence, performing the songs of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen at St George’s, probably not really jazz but definitely informed by some great jazz vocalists of the past. And don’t forget the regular sessions at Gallimaufry (Groove Den, Thursday), Old Fish Market (Sunday) and the original Bristol Fringe (Sunday).

One more to note from me: mainstream fans will want to catch Digby Fairweather playing for Speakeasy Jazz in Portishead on Friday 25th. Watch out for a new monthly session from the same promoter in Bristol, starting in a couple of weeks.

Bristol jazz week, Sep 13th

September 12, 2015

After a well-deserved August break, Tony Benjamin (look out for his reviews on Bristol247) resumes rounding up the jazz that’s on the way. Here’s his pick of the coming week’s gigs.

Jazz week September 14­

It’s a busy old week down at the Canteen ­ not necessarily the greatest place to see jazz,

but the hipster buzz around Matthew Halsall’s latest protégées Mammal Hands (Thursday

17) might make it worth a visit. They are a young trio from Norwich and their music has an

evolving minimal quality that manages to retain your interest through very subtle changes

and bursts of smart improvisation. The day before that Canteen offers Sefrial guitarist Joe

Wilkins’ Blue Funk Trio, which is a classy act, and the newly formed Gypsy swing

collaboration The Gin Bowlers will fit the mood of the bar’s laid­back Sunday afternoon


Elsewhere the biggest thing will be the Big Swing & Little Swing at Colston Hall on

Saturday 19. These two fundraisers for the 2016 Bristol Jazz Festival will feature the star-
studded Bruce/Ilett Big Band, a Buzztet from the Big Buzzard Band and singer/dancer

Lucy Moon’s Paper Moon Band running a special dance session for young swingers of

any age. Bandleader Denny Ilett also figures with groovy Hammond trio

Ilett/Moore/Matthews at his monthly residency at the Alma Tavern on Sunday 20.

No Wednesday Fringe session at The Mall this week ­ though The Fringe itself has the

weekly Jazz Rendezvous led by French saxophonist Julian Alenda on Sunday 20.

Thursday’s Future Inn session has popular faces John Pearce & Gary Alesbrook playing

a special set of arrangements of film and TV music with a quintet also featuring George

Cooper (piano), James Agg (bass) and Ian Matthews (drums). George Cooper also

appears at the Bebop Club on Friday 18 as part of the Nick Dover Quartet with Dave Guy

(bass) and Mark Whitlam (drums). Saxophonist Nick has become a quietly impressive

addition to the Bristol scene, his playing clearly informed by a thorough understanding of

modern jazz heritage.

Bristol jazz week – 7 Sep

September 7, 2015
tags: ,

A late entry as I’ve been in Norway for Punkt Festival (of which more elsewhere).

Bristol jazz begins to pick up after the Summer lull this week. Fringe at the Mall don’t resume for a couple of weeks, but the Be-Bop club are back this Friday, with what looks like a mainly local programme on offer so far. Andy Hague explains:

“the club has no funding for this season so we are having to run as a door-take venue with no guaranteed fees for the artists. Every audience attendance makes a difference, please support the club or it will fold”.

However, he adds: “undeterred we still have a fantastic programme coming up, including some big name tours which will be added to the website shortly”, so fingers crossed for some decent turnouts down at the Bear. The season opener this week is Andy himself, with a very promising organ quartet completed by Anders Olinder (keys), Denny Ilett (guitar) and Andy Tween (drums).

There’s an early evening free entry foyer session at Colston Hall on Friday for the touring trio of startling young pianist Elliot Galvin, who is one of the talents who emerged from South London’s Chaos Collective over the last few years. (They are playing Dempsey‘s in Cardiff on Tuesday, for those on the other side of the mudflats  estuary). Galvin talks about their tour here in a piece for LondonJazz. Colston is also the venue for the hot-ticket launch of Get the Blessing’s fifth album on Sunday night in the Lantern.

Thursday at Future Inns sees a trio of new faces in organ trio Three Step Manoeuvre, and the great blues singer Maggie Bell is at the Folk House on Saturday. Kevin Figes Octet – a fascinating line-up of Bristol’s finest playing new music play for Ian Storror at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday 13th.

Future Inns Jazz on a roll…

August 29, 2015

Future Inns jazz promoter Steve has not just kept going through the Summer lull that has seen other venues take a break, but put on a superb sequence of gigs.

After the Pushy Doctors, mentioned here last week, we went down last Thursday a little after 9 in the evening to catch bassist Tim Thornton‘s quartet, and had trouble finding a seat in the Inn’s excellent downstairs club room. Not a total surprise, as the combination of the always sparkling Jason Rebello on piano and local boy (but usually on the road elsewhere these days) James Gardiner-Bateman on alto was sure to create a buzz.

It’s a superb group, completed by Chris Draper on drums, and the second number we heard – an ultra slow blues – quickly established this was going to be a rather special evening. Gardiner-Bateman’s Art Pepper-meets-Cannonball alto sound just gets better and better, and he reeled off a succession of thoughtfully inventive solos, revelling in the chance to stretch out with such a fine group, it felt like. Rebello was his excellent self – always a man who seems to enjoy his work, he was as effective when sparing with his notes as when letting rip with his full technique later in the second set. The bassist, who I’d not heard before, has beautiful tone and time, and is a fine composer. He didn’t have enough CDs to sell, but I’ll be tracking his new one down. We had visitors that night, who came down to the gig. They seemed pretty impressed by the quality of music on offer in Bristol on a Thursday night…

This coming week, there’s yet another date at the venue likely to be memorably good. I can’t be there, alas, but on the strength of Karen Street and Steetworks’ latest CD, it will be a shame to miss it. I reviewed it for LondonJazzNews, so easiest way to explain why is to paste the review below:

CD REVIEW: Streetworks –Unfurled

Streetworks – Unfurled.
(ATKS1501. CD review by Jon Turney)

The accordion, leader Karen Street’s instrument here, can be a domineering presence: that garrulous wheeze, the endless sustain, can leave other players with too little breathing space. Have no fear, she is far too good a musician and composer for that to ever happen. She is interested in colouring the soundscape and subtle orchestration and, although she can throw off a rapid fire solo with the best of them, there is relatively little of that here. She states some themes, embroiders others, comments and cajoles. But the bulk of the solo duties, and many of the lead lines, are shared by the pure-toned saxophone of Andy Tweed and Mike Outram’s superbly inventive guitar.

All three players stay mainly in a mellow mid-register, which with the immaculate support of Will Harris’s bass in this drummerless quartet gives the band a gently beguiling overall sound. There are no sonic extremes, save for a brief and – to my mind – not completely convincing burst of sax histrionics that underline the title of Tantrum. Otherwise, the more calculated approach of each arrangement allows the tunes to shine through. All are by Street, save for Tweed’s upbeat Beluga in the Bierkeller and No 255, a limpid reworking of a hymn tune by Basil Harwood. Street has said (in her interview here with LondonJazzNews) that this a contemplative, mid-life offering. It also seems a very good-humoured set, though, 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.

There, as elsewhere, the four sustain the mood brilliantly, with perfectly pitched contributions from all the players. Outram’s guitar lines, especially, always draw the ear, but this attractively unusual CD is really about the band sound, and a lovely one it is. The accordion, almost in spite of itself, is constantly hinting at other musics, from folk tunes to tango, but its use here is individual, distinctively jazzy, and wholly effective. It is a nice lesson in how a mature, relaxed and undemonstrative player can, nevertheless, be the essential, central voice.

Haven’t had time to check out what else is on round town this week, but I think this is the one to make for if you can.

Bristol jazz – Aug 24

August 23, 2015

Another quiet week coming up. Like the one just gone, the main gig interest is at Future Inns on Thursday – thanks to them for keeping going through the Summer. Last week’s sets from Andy Sheppard and the Pushy Doctors trio were superb. Mark Whitlam, taking the place of Tony Orrell on drums had a daunting job, with the older man’s constantly surprising contributions an essential part of the Doctors’ gigs we’ve been treated to over the last few years. Understandably he was feeling his way at first, but by the end of the evening this revised edition of the Doctors sounded as good as the original, as Tony Benjamin’s review makes clear.

This week’s offering down in the basement room at Future Inns is equally promising. Jason Rebello on piano will be enough to persuade most people. Add James Gardiner-Batemen on alto, and bassist Tim Thornton, who leads, and it is a fine prospect – with the price back to the venue’s regular fiver after an increase last week for our local superstar.

The night before, Nick Dover’s quartet Fault Line play the Canteen, and James Morton and friends will enliven the evening at the Gallimaufry on Gloucester Rd’s prom on Thursday as usual. Then there’s the ever popular Old Duke Jazz Festival over the holiday weekend, though as last year it looks a smaller affair than in the past, and I’m not sure if the mainly trad line-up will play indoors or out. Hope the weather is good for them either way.


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