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Bristol jazz this week – June 20

June 20, 2016

No time…   no time…

However, must note a great gig by John Law’s New Congregation at Future Inns last week. Would have been good to see a few more folks there: summer doldrums? Dunno.

And here’s the link for Tony Benjamin’s hand-crafted guide to the coming week’s jazz and related stuff. Vein were indeed very impressive (though never did figure out why they chose the name) at St George’s a while back, so good to see they are coming our way again next weekend.

Bristol jazz week, June 13 – and Summer dates

June 13, 2016

Here’s Mr B‘s run down of the musical delights on offer in Bristol this week. Plenty going on: I’d say that Phronesis, followed by Julian Arguelles Tetra (both of whom I managed to catch), followed by John Law (Future Inns this Thursday) in a week seems a pretty unbeatable sequence of gigs. Law, who lives in Somerset, is a bit of a local hero but also a jazz pianist and composer of international stature. If he recorded for ACT or ECM he’d be famous. As it is, we get to hear his marvellous work in small venues like this. He’s nearing the end of a long tour showcasing work from his latest double CD. The band made a call at the BeBop club earlier in the year that I missed, so really pleased there’s another chance to hear this quartet. There’s a good review of the recording here from fellow pianist Mike Collins.

As Tony Benjamin says, the BeBop club is quiet now for the Summer, but the music goes on. The next really big treat should be the peerless Ernest Ranglin‘ at Colston Hall on July 1 – a farewell tour, this, after sixty years on the road and as well as some long-time cohorts, the tour band also features Soweto Kinch which should bring a more contemporary flavour to the proceedings. Intriguing.

Meanwhile, The Fringe have decided to carry on all Summer, so there will be at least one weekly fix.  I think Future Inns will probably keep ’em coming, too, although they only have dates listed at the moment up to the end of this month. But for advance planners, here’s the very strong Fringe running order until end of August.

                  Dave Mowat – Trumpet
                  Julien Alenda – Saxophones
                  Anders Olinder – Keyboards
                  Pasquale Votino – Double Bass
                  Andy Tween – Drums

                John Pearce – Violin
                Dave Newton – Piano
                Will Harris – Double Bass
                Ian Matthews – Drums
                   Andy Sheppard – Saxophones
                   Dan Moore – Keyboards
                   Tony Orrell – Drums
                  Andy Sheppard – Saxophones
                  Craig Crofton – Saxophones
                  Dan Moore – Keyboards
                  Tony Orrell – Drums
13th July      ED JONES’ BAD ASH – £10
                   Ed Jones – Sax
                   Mark Lewandowski – Bass, Mark Sanders – Drums
                   + special guest Nick Malcolm – Trumpet
20th July  JAMES MORTON BAND  – £9
27th July  PERDATO – £9
                   Percy Pursglove – Trumpet & Double Bass
                   Dan Moore – Keyboards
                   Tony Orrell – Drums
                   Andy Sheppard – Saxophones
                   Percy Pursglove – Trumpet & Double Bass
10 Aug   ELLA JULIAN BAND – £9
              Ella Julian – Vocals
              Gary Alesbrook – Trumpet & Flugelhorn
              Anders Olinder – Keyboards
              Andy Tween – Drums
              John-Paul Gard – Hammond Organ
              Matt Hopkins – Guitar
              Toby Perrett – Drums

                 Nick Malcolm – Trumpet
                 Nick Dover – Tenor Sax
                 George Cooper – Piano

Will Harris – Double Bass

                 Matt Brown – Drums
31 Aug     SILVERADO – £10
A Tribute to Horace Silver

Andy Hague – Trumpet
Ben Waghorn – Tenor Sax
Kevin Figes – Alto Sax
Jim Blomfield – Piano
Greg Cordez – Double Bass

                Simon Gore – Drums

Bristol jazz week, June 6

June 6, 2016

Oops, late again – but here‘s Tony Benjamin‘s gig list for the coming week.

As he says, new compositions from Greg Cordez will be good to hear on Wednesday. He’s a thoughtful and varied composer, as my CD review here noted.

The Kenny Garrett set at the Bebop club sounds good as well, but note that you can also hear the amazing Phronesis, just by getting train over to Bradford-on-Avon. The Wiltshire Music Centre’s about 10 mins walk up the hill from the station, and that’s where I’ll be on Friday night. A chance to hear this remarkable trio live is not to be missed.

And after that, there’s yet another choice booking, with Julian Arguelles’ Tetra at the Lantern at Colston Hall on Sunday night (12 June). That’s so enticing that Mr B has a separate preview here. This tour was the Guardian‘s jazz pick of the week, too. They really are one of the best quartets around, and bristling with talent – with Arguelles’ sax teamed with younger piano star Kit Downes, everyone’s favourite drummer James Maddren, and Sam Lasserson on bass. Their last Bristol appearance went down a treat at the Hen and Chicken, and they were even more impressive, if anything, at the Brecon Jazz festival, when I seem to remember comparing them to Keith Jarrett’s old “European” quartet. Not to imply that the music is the same, just trying to find a measure for how good they are.

This video captures them well.

Jazz week – May 30

May 31, 2016

Tony Benjamin‘s weekly gig  roundup is here, as usual.

And while there are plenty of good things in Bristol, I’m going to highlight a couple of out of town excursions that could be even better.

First is a chance to hear the sublime Quercus (June Tabor, Ian Ballamy, Huw Warren) at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff on Friday. Folk? Jazz? Who cares! Basically you get one of the world’s great voices alongside two of the UK’s finest musicians. There’s no-one quite like the sound of this trio, and they promise some new pieces for this date. It’s bound to be a rare and fine evening.

(Jean Toussaint appears at the same venue on Saturday, incidentally, but I can’t manage that one as well, sadly).

The week after, there’s another remarkable trio on offer when Phronesis appear at the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford on Avon on June 10th. They’ve had ten years of performing together now and their latest CD has had deservedly good reviews. They’re even better live, as I tried to capture here last year. With Julian Arguelles Tetra booked for Colston Hall a couple of days later there’s a pretty astonishing run of gigs coming up if you care to move around just a little.

Olie Brice quintet, Future Inns, May 29

May 30, 2016
The sun is streaming in past the empty restaurant tables up above, and down in Future Inns basement a starry five-piece band are getting nicely warmed up for some teatime jazz.
Yes, someone decided to book Olie Brice‘s quintet for a Sunday afternoon date, a departure from the venue’s regular Thursday night slot. On the day, it’s hard to to discover who or why, and it’s clear Bristol’s jazz lovers are mostly enjoying the Bank Holiday sunshine elsewhere. Still minimal conditions for jazz are fulfilled (audience is larger than the band) and they play two brief and rather beautiful sets.
Brice’s current quintet – touring before a recording scheduled for June – retain Alex Bonney‘s attractive cornet and master drummer Jeff Williams from his 2013 CD session Immune to Clockwork. They’re joined now by George Crowley on tenor and long-time associate Mike Fletcher on alto saxophone.
The band leans toward free blowing,  but anchored by Brice’s compositions. “In order to play free the way I wanted to, I needed more of a grounding in traditional jazz.” he said in a recent interview. That leads to a mix that always appeals, but is hard to bring off this well. There are strong themes, a la Ayler or Coleman, shifting trio configurations with each horn in succession, and fairly big helpings of free polyphony, like a New Orleans front line that has abandoned (nearly) all convention.
Olie Brice
I like it. It is music that asks a lot of the performers. Much of the soloing rests entirely on creating new motifs so if inspiration falters it’s immediately obvious. No problem with these players. All three horns are absorbing and inventive throughout – Bonney in particular etching some lovely lines above the bass. They also have the knack, essential when several of the pieces take a turn from slightly yearning opening melodies to turbulent, free-for-all in the middle, of not getting in each other’s way even when things get heated. That’s true in spades of Williams, a peerless “always soloing but hardly ever solos” drummer, who energises every moment from behind a minimal, carefully tuned kit. He has that feeling of looseness allied to easy precision that characterises so many of the great drummers, and reminds at different times of players as diverse as Paul Motian and Roy Haynes.
A master at work…
In the second set they’re joined by Nick Malcolm on trumpet, another player who works this territory to good effect. He’s a splendid addition, and an opening duet with Bonney immediately beguiles. The closer, as yet untitled, is perhaps the most stirring piece they play all afternoon, a strong, elegiac melody that persists all the way through some fervent, free testifying from all four horns at once. Brice’s theme is an emotional as well as musical anchor here, the overall effect powerful and strangely moving, notwithstanding the time of day and the unaccustomed brightness. If they reproduce that in the studio, this crew will lay down a recording that will be worth looking out for.
(Pics of the band courtesy of Marlène Rak – see her work at

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.


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