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Bristol jazz week – 22 Jan

January 22, 2018
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An early appearance this week for Tony Benjamin‘s weekly listing. Here’s the link on Bristol247. Good things happening at the Hen and Chicken and Future Inns, particularly, this week.

TB’s previews have been ranging far and wide over more adventurous jazz-related musics recently, you may have noticed – touching on venues this blog rarely visits and players I often haven’t come across either: there are only so many gigs one can fit in.

He’s rounded up a good deal of this in a feature in the latest (Feb) Jazzwise. It’s not available online, as far as I can see, but well worth a look if you want to pick up the magazine. (Also available at the central library if you’re down that way, I think.) It’s a good piece, and good to see the Jazzwise folks offering some proper regional coverage, now that interesting music is so widely distributed across the nation. Certainly brought home to me that there’s more going on in Bristol than I knew about.

More traditionally, and with Bristol Jazz and Blues fest not far away, here’s a nice bit of Pee Wee Ellis’s funk ensemble, with some sax back and forth with Josh Arcoleo, that Ronnie Scotts just put up on YouTube. The great man has enlivened almost every festival so far. His all-star gig on this year’s programme is already sold out, but it’ll be surprising if he doesn’t appear on the main stage, or jamming on the freestage, a few times over the weekend as well.


Andrew Bain and friends – Fringe bar, Jan 17th

January 18, 2018

This was billed as Bain’s quintet, but he quickly made it clear it’s basically a bunch of old mates. With the drummer (last heard in Bristol at the Hen and Chicken in 2016) now happily resident in Clifton, the Fringe is his local, and he took the opportunity to reconvene a line-up who used to appear regularly in Birmingham. All – Bain, Rebecca Nash on keys, Rian Vosloo on bass, and Sam Crockatt on tenor – are now based in or near (Crockatt) Bristol, save for Fringe regular Percy Pursglove, who came down once again from Brum.

If you had musical mates like this, you’d want to meet up. It was clear from the off that this was going to be special. For a couple of hours on Wednesday night it was impossible to think there was a better band playing anywhere in the country. Players at this level, who know one another well, have a kind of confidence that can’t be bought. Not the swaggering kind. The kind that means you can consort gleefully with the most standard of standards, knowing that they will sound good in spite of their utter familiarity.

Item: in the alternate universe where I grew up a competent musician, if someone called Body and Soul on the stand, I’d be frozen from knowing that 99 per cent of the thousands of previous excursions on that tune are probably better than anything I could come up with off the cuff. It’d just feel pointless. (You’ve probably heard shows where it was). These players lean into it eagerly – segueing from a strong treatment of Sam Rivers’ Beatrice as it happens –  sure that, together, they’ll find something worth doing with it yet again.

If they can do it for Body and Soul, it’ll work anywhere – and it does. Henderson’s Recordame, a Brubeck associated ballad whose title I forget, Skylark, and Strayhorn’s blues Take the Coltrane are all riveting in the first set. I’d just formed the thought that it would be great to hear them try some Monk when that set ended, and was rewarded with a no-nonsense Bright Mississippi as the opener for the second half, and Rhythm-a-ning at the end (‘cos you have to have at least one number with Rhythm changes in a show like this).

Every number sounded as good as the others. This is one way to keep jazz alive: dip into the common repertoire and play it like it is the most important thing you ever did. Everyone played out of their skin, egged on by Bain’s exhaustively detailed and hyper-responsive drumming, the kind that puts a smile on the faces of the entire band. There were lots of smiles between them all, but total seriousness when committing the seemingly inexhaustible stream of fine solos. Pursglove, sticking to flugelhorn all evening, seemed to gather intensity on every outing; Crockatt has a sax tone for every occasion, Nash comped beautifully and soloed passionately, Vosloo looked and sounded like a man in his element the entire evening. This was a richly satisfying evening of jazz at its most joyful, rounded off with an outrageously enjoyable tear up on Caravan. Another old chestnut: freshly roasted.


Bristol jazz this week – Jan 15

January 16, 2018

Here’s the regular listing of gigs from Bristol247. The Andrew Bain-led line-up at the Fringe tomorrow (Weds) is my gig of the week, I think. His Embodied Hope project (tour and recording) last year was superb and the quintet he’s presenting on this return visit to Bristol, with Sam Crockett on sax and Bain’s fellow Birmingham jazz luminary and regular at the Fringe Percy Pursglove on trumpet looks a superb prospect.

(photo by John Watson)

According to Fringe organiser Jon Taylor, Bain now lives in Bristol, so perhaps this will be the first appearance of a regular ensemble – though Bain’s own website indicates he has plenty of other stuff keeping him busy. That includes a repeat tour for the Embodied Hope band in April. They’re not coming to Bristol this time, alas, but I can recommend the CD, reviewed here.

As Tony Benjamin’s list notes, there’s plenty of other music on offer too, including the first date of 2018 at Future Inns on Thursday.  One to add, in case next week’s note appears too late, is the lunchtime session at St Stephens Church next Monday (Jan 22), when Kora player Moussa Kouyate is joined by Al Swainger (bass), Jon Clark (drums) and St Stephens’ organiser Dave Mowat on trumpet. You can buy lunch in the cafe adjoining, and the session is free, with a collection at the end.

Bristol jazz – looking ahead 2

January 8, 2018

As Tony Benjamin details here, all our favourite venues are now back in business after the break. His listing will tell you about the coming week, so I’m going to look a bit further ahead again in case you want to plan your diary without trawling the venue websites. See last post for listing of things at The Fringe and St George’s and a few notes about Colston Hall.

Elsewhere, there’s a nice list taking shape for the Hen and Chicken as Ian Storror firms up his bookings. After next Sunday’s opener with Andy Hague’s Double Standards, his current dates are:

Tom Barford‘s Asterope (no, me neither) on Jan 28th, featuring Kenny Wheeler prizewinning saxophonist, joined by Billy Marrows on guitar, Rupert Cox on piano, Flo Moore on bass and drummer Dave Storey.

Ivo Neame‘s excellent quartet on Feb 18th, with – well, not sure, but probably the same line-up who are appearing at the jazz festival a month later, which will be ace.

Andy Nowak Trio, 25 March – our local piano stylist promotes a new CD.

Ed Jones quartet, 1 April. A strong prospect this, one of our very best saxophonists touring his first new album for ages.

Vein, 29 April. Adventurous Swiss piano trio, known for collaborations with the likes of Dave Liebman and Andy Sheppard.

There are also some tasty things coming up at Future Inns, who get going next week (Jan 18th) with a new band featuring keyboard player George Cooper and drummer Joost Hendricks. (If you’re like me, you’ll be confused by their website, which puts the most distant gig at the top, the nearest at the bottom, but scroll down and you’ll find George).

Thereafter, they are offering:

Olly Chalk trio, featuring John O’Gallagher, January 25th. A Birmingham connection, with the outstanding US sax player O’ Gallagher currently resident there and developing a welcome habit of visiting Bristol (as previously noted he’s at the Fringe on Jan 31 with Paul Dunmall as well).

John Pearce, I February – Bristol’s gift to jazz violin.

Gary Alesbrook’s Duval Project, 8 February – celebrating a new CD.

Sound of Blue Note, 13th February.

and finally, for now, Tori Freestone and Alcyona Mick, 22 February. This’ll be a great duo between one of our best sax players and an equally resourceful pianist. They also have a new CD imminent, from Whirlwind, and doubtless you’ll be able to pick up a copy although it isn’t officially on sale until March.








Bristol jazz – looking ahead 1

January 1, 2018

A quiet week musically here, although the BeBop club resumes on Friday with George Cooper’s quintet. Plenty of enticing gigs in the calendar after that. I’ll list some below, by venue, for those who find it tedious to trawl then individual websites.

There’s a particularly strong opening to the year for the Fringe in Clifton. Their current list looks like this (I’ve struggled but can’t get the formatting quite right – bear with me):

10th Jan    THE THREE TENORS – £10

                  Ben Waghorn – Tenor Sax

                  Jake McMurchie – Tenor Sax

Nick Dover – Tenor Sax

                  Jim Blomfield – Piano
                  Riaan Vosloo – Double Bass
                  Mark Whitlam – Drums
17th Jan   ANDREW BAIN QUINTET – £12
                 Percy Pursglove – Trumpet
                 Sam Crockett – Sax
                 Rebecca Nash – Piano
                 Riaan Vosloo – Double Bass
                 Andrew Bain – Drums
                 Nick Dover – Tenor Sax
                 Matt Hopkins – Guitar
                 Dave Guy – Double Bass
                 Matt Brown – Drums
                 Paul Dunmall – Tenor Sax
                 John O’Gallagher – Alto Sax
                 John Edwards – Double Bass
                 Mark Sanders – Drums


                  Matt Hopkins – Guitar
                  John Pearce – Violin
                  Dave Newton – Piano
                  Will Harris – Bass
                  Mark Whitlam – Drums
                  with special guest Percy Pursglove
                  Andy Sheppard – Sax
                  Percy Pursglove – Trumpet & Double Bass
                  Dan Moore – Keyboards,

Tony Orrell – Drums

                    Will Harris – double bass
                    Matt Anderson – tenor sax
                    Alex Hitchcock – tenor sax
                    Jay Davis – drums
                    Will Barry – piano
28th Feb    JAKE McMURCHIE QUARTET – £10
                  Jake McMurchie – Tenor Sax
                  Dan Waldmann – Guitar
                  Riaan Vosloo – Double Bass
                  Matt Brown – Drums
7th March  MARTIN SPEAKE TRIO – £12
                   Martin Speake – Alto Sax
                   Mike Outram – Guitar
                   Jeff Williams – Drums
14th March  AL SWAINGER’S
                    Tribute to Chick Corea – £10
                    Joe Northwood – Sax
                    Tom Berge – Piano
                    Al Swainger – Bass
                    Jon Clarke – Drums
21st March  JOHN PEARCE BAND – £10
28th March  IAIN BALLAMY QUARTET – £12

The Andrew Bain and Dunmall/O’ Gallagher line-ups look especially interesting, and it’ll be good to hear master percussionist Jeff Williams back in this room with Martin Speake.

Speake, who will turn 60 this year,  has been one of the most interesting UK players for decades (emerging with Itchy Fingers at around the same time Andy Sheppard made his name). He’s on the list at St George’s, too, in an intriguing collaboration with (now) former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. That’ll feel like a follow up to his notable collaboration with Paul Motian and Bobo Stenson, which was recorded for ECM many years ago.
The strong St George’s programme that follows their gala re-opening after completion of their massive building project has plenty of other things to look forward to this year.

Jazz and Blues events at St George’s Bristol

Interchange – Open Rehearsal

Thu 8 Mar 2018

Women in Jazz – Issie Barratt’s Interchange

Thu 8 Mar 2018

Tom Arthurs Trio

Sun 11 Mar 2018

Tommy Smith Quartet – Embodying The Light

Thu 15 Mar 2018

Gary Crosby – Kind of Blue

Thu 15 Mar 2018

‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ with The Pasadena Roof Orchestra

Sun 8 Apr 2018

Martin Speake Quartet Ft. Ethan Iverson

Thu 26 Apr 2018

Andy Sheppard & Eivind Aarset

Thu 3 May 2018

Eric Bibb

Fri 4 May 2018

Mammal Hands plus Eyebrow

Thu 24 May 2018


Sun 3 Jun 2018

The Tommy Smith/Gary Crosby double header on March will be a seriously good evening, but note that it’s the first night of Bristol Jazz Festival, so you’ll need to decide whether to do this or hear Get The Blessing special festival project at Colston Hall the same evening.
The rest of the the festival line-up is here, and deserves a fuller preview nearer the time.
Also at Colston, before then, is a date for Christine Tobin, who gets Arts Council support to tour her new album of Paul Muldoon songs with an amazing seven piece band (in The Lantern on 7 Feb. More on this anon, as well.

Looking back: 2017 highlights

December 31, 2017

Don’t seem to have done a post on best gigs last year, but 2017 has been such an odd one it feels important to set down that my favourite art form still provided some days of delight among the many when I was mainly feeling disgusted, or just mystified with what was happening.

In no particular order, I’m especially grateful to have heard:

At St GeorgesTrio Mediaeval with Arve Henriksen; Quercus; Ute Lemper (not to mention Kyung Wha Chung playing Bach and the Brodsky quartet, who don’t quite belong on this blog).

At the Fringe in Clifton – Mark Lewandowski’s Waller project; Art Themen and Dave Newton; John O’Gallagher with Percy Pursglove, Tony Orrell and Dan Moore.

At Cheltenham Jazz Festival – loads of things, but the ones that stand out looking back are Marius Neset’s ad hoc quartet and Chris Potter.

At the CubeMatana Roberts re-weaving Coin Coin chapter three.

At the BeBop clubJohn Law’s recreations, and Sam Crockatt’s trio.

At the CanteenLed Bib at their most wonderfully raucous for a characteristically noisy crowd.

At the Hen and ChickenTim Armacost trio.

At Widcombe Social Club (Bath) – The ICP Orchestra, with Han Bennink still stoking the fires.

At London Jazz FestivalOut of Land (Andreas Schaerer, Michael Wollny, Michel Parisien, Vincent Peirani; Fred Hersch; and Malija (also heard in Bristol).

At Bristol Jazz FestivalAndy Sheppard‘s splendid new score for Metropolis, and Jason Rebello playing solo.

Finally, I singled out the first Ambleside Days Festival in September as the best live experience of the year for LondonJazzNews‘s annual listing. It was the whole occasion that worked so well, but if I had to choose just one set – in the absence of the hoped for solo set from Dave Holland – it would be the trio encounter between Holland, Gwilym Simcock and Mike Walker. Magical stuff from a veteran who, for me, remains without peer, and two new associates.

Deep thanks, as always, to all the players, and the promoters who set all these gigs up. As well as giving me such pleasure, you give me hope.

Seasonal gig listing

December 19, 2017

Not one but three weeks’ gigs rounded up here by Tony Benjamin for Bristol 247. Lots to choose from at the end of this week, then a gap until New Year. But the seasonal breaks are short. The BeBop club returns on Jan 5th, Fringe Jazz the week after and Future Inns – well, who knows as their website is silent about 2018?  Their last date was on Dec 7th but I imagine they’ll be back in the New Year, as usual. See you in 2018…