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Bristol jazz week – 23 May

May 23, 2016

A little late this week with the diary – but here’s the link to Tony Benjamin‘s preview of Bristol’s jazz delights.

I’d add two dates for the brilliant bass player Olie Brice’s quintet. They’re on a tour that takes in Dempsey‘s in Cardiff on Wednesday and, more unusually, Future Inns in Bristol on Sunday.

That’s a welcome addition to the regular Thursday dates at Future Inn. Brice, also seen in Nick Malcolm‘s quartet, is an immensely thoughtful player at the melodic end of free music, and this band is stellar, with a three horn front line (Mike Fletcher, Alex Bonney, George Crowley) and the wonderful Jeff Williams – recently seen at the BeBop club – on drums. They’re playing new music on the way to being recorded, and this is the half-way point on the tour so they should be well into it by then. Brice explains some of his hopes for the music, and makes it sound exactly my kind of thing, in this fascinating blogpost.

There’s also a tour preview here and an interview with Brice here.

The Bristol gig, again unusually, is billed for 4.30 on Sunday. It’s a bank holiday weekend so maybe this will catch enough people at a loose end to encourage Future Inns to do it again!

Here are three of the quintet playing as a trio – so all you have to do is imagine them with an additional sax and a cornet in the front line… (wait, add one more – Nick Malcolm is guesting on the Bristol date, too).

Bristol jazz week – May 15

May 15, 2016

A couple of outstanding international visitors’ gigs to look forward to this week. Norwegian bass legend Arild Andersen is at St George’s on Thursday with a trio featuring Tommy Smith on sax and percussionist Paulo Vinaccia. Andersen’s trio makes beautiful recordings for ECM, and will enjoy the setting at St G’s – a venue where Tommy Smith appeared in his enjoyable duo with pianist Brian Kellock last year, and turned in a notably livelier performance than they lay down in the studio. Anderson is a star player, last seen in this country in a London Jazz Festival show recreating a famous Charles Mingus concert from 1965, and not suffering at all from the implied comparison with the great man (even if his band did, a little).

Then it’s all eyes on Bath where the International Music Festival brings Branford Marsalis to an even more atmospheric venue – Bath Abbey – on Saturday evening (May 21). He’s playing a solo set jumping off from his latest CD In My Solitude, and adapted to each space on the tour. He’s a versatile saxophone stylist, who played a storming quartet set at Bath’s cavernous Forum a few years back, so it’ll be fascinating to hear how he responds to the Abbey, and whether he rises to the standard memorably set by Jan Garbarek and the Hilliard ensemble there a couple of years back.

If you don’t fancy either of those, there are plenty of other interesting musical happenings in Bristol this week, all detailed as usual by Tony Benjamin over at Bristol247.

Bristol jazz diary, May 8-15

May 7, 2016

Posting this early as there’s a notable gig tomorrow (Sunday) that hasn’t appeared here – Asaf Sirkis et al at the Hen and Chicken. The band also features vocalist Sylwia Bialis and has the excellent Frank Harrison on keyboards. Details here.

Otherwise, the coming week is laid out for you by Tony Benjamin, as usual, here.

I’m about to get massively distracted by Mayfest – which always makes mid-May a hard time for music – but happy listening…

Jazz bargain of the year?

May 3, 2016

A little late this week, thanks to the splendid goings on in Cheltenham, but here’s the regular link to Tony Benjamin’s Bristol247 jazz preview.

As he says, the most notable date is probably Howard Alden’s unexpected appearance at Future Inns. He’s the “don’t try and follow my chord shapes this is a seven string guitar” wizard who wows anyone who has ever pushed a string down on a fret. And, I’d say, he’s a a great listen for everyone else, too. His last show in Bristol, to a rapt Lantern audience at the jazz festival – a couple of years ago, was it? – was pretty great. I’m sure this one will be, too, and the jazz club room at Future Inns promises to be a great place to see him.

As Future Inns are keeping their £5 (£3 for students) pricing on the door, it’s probably the jazz bargain of the year too – though they may emphasise their usual invite to make additional donations this time.

Here’s a suitably stunning sample from another recent UK set.


Meanwhile, for the record, reviews of half a dozen sets from Cheltenham, where the festival seemed bigger and better than ever this year, here, here and here – thanks to LondonJazzNews for including me in their (four strong!)  review team, and to John Watson for the photos.

Bristol jazz (the rest of) this week

April 27, 2016

Weekly link to Tony Benjamin’s jazz preview on Bristol 247. A little late this week but still time to consider going to (most of) these is you can’t make it to Cheltenham. I’d missed Julia Biel at the Lantern on Sunday in all the Cheltenham excitement, for instance, which adds yet another excellent date to Colston Hall’s recent welcome run of good jazz…

Gig of the week – Bobo Stenson and Martin Speake

April 25, 2016

A late note about a gig that anyone interested in international jazz collaborations of the highest standard should try and get along to. British altoist Martin Speake has done a few tours with the superb Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson – I heard them in Blackheath with the late, lamented Paul Motian a decade or more ago, a formation that recorded for ECM. It’s a splendidly compatible and creative pairing. Speake is one of my favourite British alto players, with a sound all his own and an improvisational approach that builds beautifully on Parker, Konitz and Coleman (Ornette not Steve). Stenson has played with jazz royalty – from Garbarek to Charles Lloyd – for decades, and doesn’t visit the UK that often, though I recall a lovely solo set at Bath festival some years back.

Speak and Stenson have also toured with another great  US drummer Jeff Williams (coincidentally also popping up in Bristol this week, at the BeBop club, en route for Cheltenham, which’ll be quite a sight), but tomorrow’s (Tuesday) gig at the Lantern features everyone’s favourite drummer from the recent British crop, James Maddren, with the quarter rounded out by Conor Chaplin on bass. It’s sure to add to the small Colston venue’s recent rep for presenting some of the best jazz you can hear, anywhere, in one of Bristol’s nicest spaces.

Here’s a full length video of the Williams’ edition quartet, with lots of Stenson to enjoy.

A few Cheltenham jazz fest standouts

April 24, 2016

The Cheltenham Jazz Festival is almost here, and has plenty of goodies to choose from. (Others’ selections are here and here). I know we have our own jazz festival now, but with the (temporary?) loss of the main programme at Brecon and the shrinking of the Bath Festival jazz weekend to a single eye-catching gig Cheltenham is the most significant out-of-town jazz event in easy reach for Bristolians this year. Fortunately, the festival goes from strength to strength, recent expansion having been consolidated on the back of some shrewdly chosen commercial acts, leaving plenty of scope for adventurous stuff in the several venues they have at their disposal.

It looks like a proper festival, too…


Just a few sets I’m particularly looking forward to. Soweto Kinch on Friday night, who was on torrentially Rollins-like form last time I caught him (at Brecon, as it happens), in a trio with the top drawer US drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Then on Saturday we have Tim Berne‘s quintet, another independent-minded saxist who now records for ECM after years of creative work on his own label.

Two rare offerings I’m most excited about, though, are on Sunday. First up is Julian Arguelles with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Their album of South African jazz classics – which like the gig features Julian’s brother Steve on drums and Django Bates on keys – was on lots of best of year lists in 2015, including mine. I tried to explain why in a review. It’s hard to see this project making too many live appearances, so this may be the only chance to savour the marvellous tunes left to us by Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani, Dudu Pukwana, Miriam Makeba, and more, in some spectacular new big band arrangements.

Also eagerly awaited is the trio Rom Schaerer Eberle. I don’t know the other two (guitarist and trumpeter respectively) but Andreas Schaerer is a remarkably creative and versatile improvising vocalist, judging from recent recordings (one of which I describe here). By all accounts he is extraordinary to hear live.

There’s a pile of other big name stuff (Taj Mahal!, David Sanborn!), a free stage, and an expanded fringe programme around the town this year that is well worth checking out. Already wondering if I can manage more than the half dozen sets I have tickets for, or whether to try and pop up to Cheltenham for more than Fri, Sat, Sun, which is the current plan. If it just gets a little warmer, it’s be a near ideal holiday weekend. Reviews from me on LondonJazzNews as soon as I can tear myself way from the music to write them:)


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