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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.

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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.

Bristol Jazz Week – 16 Aug

August 16, 2015

As predicted, a superb weekend’s music at Brecon – I reviewed the bits I managed to hear for Jazzwise and the instant response is up on their website, with some great pics from my friend Tim Dickeson. It was satisfying to hear Dave Holland – one of my favourite musicians for two thirds of my life – in superb form in duo with Kenny Barron. So pleased I’ve grabbed a pair of seats for his rare solo bass show at the Wigmore Hall in November.

Hence the absence of any dates previewed here last week. As already noted, they’re a bit thin on the ground in August anyhow. But we do have a welcome return (following a brace of memorable gigs last Summer and a standing-room only gig at the BeBop club a few weeks ago) for New Orleans hot shots The Session, tonight (Sunday) at the Hen and Chicken. Well worth checking out, though you’ll have to forego Denny Ilett and friends at The Alma, also tonight.

The Pushy Doctors – Andy Sheppard’s wide-ranging trio playing other people’s tunes – are at Future Inns on Thursday, when James Morton‘s regular session should also be on at The Gallimaufry on Gloucester Road, while Molly King sings with pianist George Cooper at No 1 Harbourside the night before.

And…  that’s pretty much it.

Roads not taken – 1970s jazz reinvented

August 6, 2015

Dublin, where I spent a satisfying few days last week, has a brilliant modern art museum. The exhibits, for me, weren’t as interesting as the space – the vast, repurposed, Royal Hospital.

The exception on this visit was a fascinating collection of work by Vancouver native Stan Douglas. I’d never heard of him before, and his work – mostly based on photography – is intriguing but hard to describe. He makes brilliantly clear digital prints of historical scenes, as he has re-imagined and recreated them. Models in costume stand frozen in actions that never took place quite as depicted, but could have. In one series, he concocts black and white prints taken by a fictional photo-journalist on period equipment. I’m not going to say more about the photos, except that the effect, a sort of heightened-realism in the service of a record of things-that-might-have-been sets the mind working after the images have faded. They are definitely worth seeing.

The point of this post, though, is a single piece – which blew me away. Two things are clear from the rest of the exhibition. Douglas has a cinematic imagination, and is fascinated by jazz. The two come together in the remarkable Luanda-Kinshasa, a film of an extended jam made in New York a couple of years ago.

Not just New York. Douglas recreated the legendary CBS studio on E 30th Street, as it looked in the 1970s, and set up a jam of the kind Miles Davis used to compile much of his most influential work. But this session, which the artist describes as a “speculative fiction” had ingredients Miles didn’t use – it is more African, mainly. It looks like a recording session of the time, with men in blue overalls splicing cable in the background, journalists and friends of the band hanging around and digging the music, which is funky as all get-out.

And it sounds like? Well, music that maybe could have been made then, but has undoubtedly been made now. The aesthetic of what might have been takes a different turn with music, which exists in its own space. You can only explore the music that might-have-been by making music, which now takes its own place in the history of recording.

Listening, the visuals, and to some extent the sounds – and the vintage electronic keyboards and earphones – evoke the ‘70s. But the musicians, who include Jason Moran, Abdul M’Boup and Liberty Ellman, are contemporary (albeit in 70s garb). And the sound they make is superb.

I don’t know if it might ever make it to the UK – it would suit the Arnolfini’s ethos well – but if you happen to be in Dublin, it is very well worth stopping by. It may take longer than you think. I heard about 20 minutes of the playing. The whole thing, spliced and recomposed in Milesian fashion, goes on for six hours.

Maybe more of it will surface on YouTube one day. Meanwhile, here’s a taste.

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Dublin, incidentally, has a small but active jazz scene. A posse of guitar players at JJ Smyth’s one evening were a highlight, especially the Italian-born, Berklee schooled Julien Colarossi and his duo partner, whose name eludes me. Sorry, Mr guitar player, but together you guys were superb…

Bristol (and Brecon) jazz this week, and beyond…

August 2, 2015

Quiet round these parts for jazz just now. A good time to remind you that as well as offering a weekly preview here Tony Benjamin does a monthly roundup for Bristol 247.

His latest, for August, mentions the few notables this week, gives some Brecon Highlights, and – a bonus – gives a list of jazz dates in Bristol running through the Autumn. You can find all that here.

Always more to say about Brecon of course, which has that authentic festival problem of overlapping sessions that make it hard to choose. As well as the people Tony mentions you can hear Partisans, Phronesis, Huw Warren (several times), and many others. Looks like a fine weekend.

Bristol jazz gigs this week – July 27

July 25, 2015

A quick one below from Tony Benjamin, who is in a field in Wiltshire – hope the Sun shines for some of the rest of Womad!

I’m out of town next week, but if I wasn’t I’d be going down to Future Inns to catch Freight, who sounded really excellent there last time they played…

Full preview of Brecon Jazz Festival coming soon – great line up!

Meanwhile:

Jazz week July 27-August 2

Another slim week gives us time to look ahead to the Brecon Jazz programme (it starts on Friday August 5) and its many delights, including Dr John, Adriano Adewale and Norma Winstone. It looks like a good year over there. Closer to home, however, there’s the monthly free music evening at the Fringe (the one in Princess Victoria Street) on Monday 27, with the regulars Mark Langford, Paul Anstey and Bob Helson being joined by Phil Durrant in his ‘laptop electronics’ mode. It’s a well-bedded improvisational session and Phil has been a prominent UK player since the 80s. Meanwhile at the other Fringe (the one in the Mall) jazz-rock guitarist Carl Orr is playing on Wednesday 29 with local rhythm pairing Anders Olinder (keys) and Andy Tween (drums). Another player whose career stretches back to the 80s Orr can count playing with Billy Cobham, Randy Brecker and Mark Fletcher among his CV credits. Though well-established as a jazz-rocker his last recording Forbearance saw him explore a wider range of Americana and other acoustic styles.

That same evening, however, the Dave Perry Trio are at Canteen, with Dave’s distinctive post-bop compositions and free-flowing improvisational style on alto sax always a rewarding listen. Bigger blowing follows at Future Inn (Thursday 30) with FREIGHT, the excellent quartet of equals comprising Craig Crofton (saxes), Martin Jenkins (piano), Greg Cordez (bass) and Matt brown (drums). All four are established players and composers but they have coalesced the group identity around the ideas and harmonic stylings of Thelonious Monk, an influence of Jenkins’. The music has a classic ‘modern jazz’ feel, and Crofton’s soprano playing is an especial pleasure.

It isn’t often The Thunderbolt gets a mention here but on Friday 31 the small pub venue on the Bath Road welcomes Dave Formula & The Finks , a Jimmy Smith/Meters/Booker T style organ groove trio led by ex mod/punk Dave Tomlinson with a new name. The same evening sees Victoria Klewin & The True Tones bring soul-swing and classic vocal jazz to Plantation and that all-too rare thing: a young and enthusiastic trad band (Rhythm Pencils) at The Old Duke.

Bristol jazz week, July 20

July 18, 2015

There’s wall to wall music this weekend in Harbourfest, including the new jazz quarter down behind the M-Shed. After that, Tony Benjamin reports as follows…

Jazz week July 20-26

It’s a week to appreciate the local talent, with the only notable visitors being long-established Welsh tradders The Liberty Street Jazz Band who have the Sunday lunchtime session (26) at The Old Duke. Otherwise  jazz violinist John Pearce makes one of his regular (and popular) visits to the Fringe @ The Mall (Wednesday 22) with a quartet comprising George Cooper (piano) and Will Harris (bass) plus the energising drumming of Ian Matthews.

Saxophonist Damian Cook is a more recent ‘local’ – having moved down from London to Bradford on Avon and has appeared at the Bebop Club a couple of times. He also organises the Sunday evening session at The Old Fishmarket pub. A hard-bop player with clear influences from Cannonball Adderley he’s also capable of lyrical melodic playing that contrasts nicely with the more fiery material. He’s appearing at Future Inn (Thursday 23) with a great quintet including the equally fiery Graeme Taylor on piano and free-flowing bass player Ashley Long.

On Wednesday night No 1 Harbourside also features a couple of newer arrivals in Thomas Sefia (sax) and Henry Binning (piano), a duo emerging from the encouragingly lively Bristol University jazz scene and hopefully part of another new generation of players settling hereabouts. Better established quartet The Milli Meters  bring their evocation of that distinctive New Orleans jazz-funk groove to Canteen on the same evening.

Thursday (23) sees more new Orleans flavour, of the modern second line variety with the exuberant Brass Junkies at  The Old Duke while the Gallimaufry hosts their weekly Groove Den, albeit without James Morton who’s off on a tour at the moment.

Finally The Alma Tavern is having an all-day Summer Fayre on Sunday 26 with gypsy swingers Moscow Drug Club and the Latin-Caribbean fusion trio Grupo Ritmo among the musical delights on offer.

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And… finally finally, there’s one of the occasional foyer gigs early on Friday evening down at Colston Hall featuring the redoubtable Dakhla Brass, recently seen to great effect launching their new CD down at Future Inns. It isn’t on the band’s website, but is on Colston Hall’s own, so we’ll assume they know what they’re talking about.

Then there’s WOMAD, but if you’re interested you’ve probably already scoped that one.

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