Need to make sure this goes up today as there’s a notable early gig this week – namely Led Bib at the Canteen tomorrow (Tuesday). The rocking, raucous outfit are back with a new CD after a three year break from recording, and touring all over – congrats to the Canteen for booking them in.
Other things of note this week include ace bass and trumpet player Percy Purseglove‘s Perdato (think the Pushy Doctors with Percy substituting for Andy Sheppard) at the Fringe on Wednesday, Denny Ilett’s quartet at the BeBop club Friday. (I’m still cross to have missed John Law last week through illness – must see him again soon).
Finally, Alex Monk’s Flying Machines should be a memorable night at Future Inn on Thursday. I don’t know the band, but they have a very promising personnel, including the ace rhythm team of Conor Caplin on bass and Dave Hamblett on drums.Haven’t made it down to Future Inn yet this year, either, but their programme still looks as if it is going strong.
A late posting this week, following Bristol247 – who have now provided Tony Benjamin’s essential guide to this week’s jazz offerings. Which is good, as there’s more going on than I thought.
Looking forward to catching John Law at the Bebop club on Friday, after missing his Bristol visit (with a different band) last week. Was a good week, though, with a fine evening from Quercus at St George’s and, possibly even better, a memorably high-level set from Tim Armacost’s trio at the Hen and Chicken. As ever, the latter reminded that Ian Storror puts on an extraordinarily high quality programme, often featuring visitors who we wouldn’t get the chance to hear in Bristol otherwise. If in doubt, if Ian booked them, they’re definitely worth hearing. This one didn’t have the largest audience, but those there were richly rewarded. Someone said they thought the slightly smaller crowd than usual might have been because some are wary of saxophone trios. But that’s just crazy talk.
Following a blip last week (unless I missed something), Bristol247 has the usual knowledgeable weekly jazz selection from Tony Benjamin back on offer here.
Includes a great chance to hear John Law‘s new quartet with Sam Crockett – leader on one of 2016’s best UK CD releases – at Future Inns on Thursday, if you don’t have tickets for Quercus at St Georges (I do..). And a very promising trio at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday, with Tim Armacost from the US on sax and regular visitor and label boss Michael Janisch on bass. OK, the associated CD features Armacost with the matchless pair of Tain Watts on drums and Robert Hurst on bass, but that was a line-up feasible for a studio date, not a European tour.
There’s a special pleasure in hearing live jazz in small spaces. This blog hasn’t offered many reviews lately. But the last two gigs I’ve caught will probably go unnoticed elswehere, and both struck me as exemplars of this often-found delight.
First was Julien Alenda‘s trio at the BeBop club last week. Tenor sax, bass and drums, so already signing an important territory for the jazz aficianado. And if I tell you the first set (as I recall) featured a Joshua Redman blues, Take the ‘A’ Train, Body and Soul, and St Thomas, you’ll know what kind of gig it was. An evening of standards, explored by that exposed, tenor-with-rhythm-section formation that sounds classic steered by a Sonny Rollins or, indeed, a Joshua Redman. It calls for strong resources and a combination of empathy and fast reflexes if it isn’t to suffer by comparison when other people do it, though. This trio didn’t. The fact that it featured three young Italians who have all fetched up in Bristol somehow added to its charm. They didn’t do anything unexpected. It was simply three players devoted to a particular strand in the jazz tradition who have studied it deeply enough to make it their own. Much more enjoyable to hear the music unfurl in real time than to play recordings. And up close and personal in the back room of the Bear, with a decent audience, the sound (no amplification), the atmosphere, and the music, were just right. I’ve said uncomplimentary things about that room now and then. But, credit where it’s due, for this kind of thing it works really well. I even got a glass of wine that was drinkable. Wasn’t expecting that.
Then a venue with a little more formality – Lights! Stage! Sound system! But still The Fringe in Clifton feels tightly packed if more than 40 punters show. That’s enough to create another of those delightful bubbles where people with a shared interest in this art really concentrate on musicians doing it, right there, in front of them. And concentrate we did on Wednesday 1st, when the superb US alto player John O’Gallagher played with Percy Pursglove – whose bass and trumpet seem to be heard regularly in Bristol these days – along with Dan Moore on keys and the wonderfully flexible drumming of Tony Orrell. I missed the chunk of the opening set, but if I tell you that the second featured Parker’s Invitation, Coleman’s Blues Connotation, a Tom Harrell tune and one by the Beach boys – announced at the start, then all played segue – you’ll know what kind of gig it was. Standards with a twist, shall we say, and a general outlook shaped by allegiance to some later models of jazz than Alenda and co. But recognisably a slice through the braids of the same tradition, picking out different threads.
O’Gallagher can do pretty much anything he likes with an alto saxophone, and was visibly enjoying the interaction with players who don’t normally figure in a New York hot shot’s diary. He had an especially impressive instant rapport with Orrell that seemed to grow stronger through the evening. And if Rollins-inflected sax trios are risky, so is soloing in Ornette Coleman’s style on one of his own most hummable tunes. But O’Gallagher managed to bring that off in a manner so close to the master he might have been in the room – the same motivic invention, even some of the same abrupt swoops and blares that somehow turn into new melody. A rare thing. And all enjoyed in a packed small room that makes it all feel more intense, more real, somehow.
Of course I wish all jazz musicians bigger gigs, and larger audiences, but until the great day dawns it’s great to see music being made with such love and skill at such close quarters. And thanks to the folks who work hard to keep the places that happens open in Bristol.
P.S Some people need loftier spaces, too. There are a handful of tickets left for June Tabor and Quercus at St George‘s next week. Grab one if you can. She sounds incredible in there.
The usual weekly listing on Bristol247 doesn’t seem to be up yet this week… No time to do one of my own, but do note that the very interesting New York also player John O’Gallagher is coming to the Fringe in Clifton tonight (Weds), along with bass/trumpet player Percy Pursglove and the local A-team of Dan Moore, keys, and Tony Orrell, drums. O’Gallagher has been seen in the UK with drummer Jeff Williams US quartet, and has lots of other high-level associations. See this Guardian review (and sound clip) just last week for one recent effort, where J. Fordham describes him as “a formidably advanced virtuoso”. It should be a fascinating encounter.
Here’s the weekly link to Tony Benjamin‘s Jazz preview on Bristol247. I can confirm that Andy Hague‘s big band (Hen and Chicken on Sunday) are a fine ensemble and will sound spectacular in the upstairs room in Southville.
Also, while I’m sure the trio appearing at the Be-Bop club will be great, too, you might consider a trip to Cardiff on Friday to catch a really stellar sextet, Solstice. They include Tori Freestone and Jez Franks (sax and guitar stalwarts of Compassionate Dictatorship), fine pianist John Turville, and brilliant vocalist Brigitte Beraha along with Dave Manington on bass and George Hart, drums. Details here. The gig starts at 7.30 so no worries getting back to Bristol by train for the carless (me). As Dempsey‘s is apparently destined for a sale/makeover, the jazz on offer in Cardiff may get sparser for a while, so lets hope the music school continues these after workshop gigs with bands of like quality.
They sound like this