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Bristol jazz week – Oct 17

October 17, 2017

The week just past – with evenings of outstanding music from Entropi, Craig Handy and Thelonious – has been exceptional, as Mike Collins explains here. Among them all, I’d rate Jeff Williams’ drumming as the highlight. Simply marvellous to see and hear such a master at work, up close. Also great, incidentally, to catch some of Peter Edward’s Nu Civilization Orchestra roaring away in Colston Hall foyer on Friday evening, with Gary Crosby and Nathaniel Facey to the fore, after sets from schoolkids they’d all been working with whose enthusiasm lent their performances a special charge. I wonder which of them will take their jazz further and return to that stage as fully-formed musicians in a few years?

There’s another take on Craig Handy on Bristol 247, where you can also find the usual weekly preview from Mr Benjamin – here. The big attraction there for me has to be Malija: three favourite musicians in one drummerless trio. A deeply knowledgeable jazz fan remarked to me the other night that Liam Noble is his favourite UK pianist, and I can see why. He’s somehow always contrives to be thoughtful and adventurous at the same time. It’ll be interesting to hear how he copes with the somewhat elderly sounding piano that is on offer in the Hen and Chicken. Jasper Hoiby of Phronesis fame is definitely my favourite of the younger bass players. And Mark Lockheart’s sax playing, also heard in Hoiby’s other band Fellow Creatures who graced this year’s Bristol jazz festival, has been a stimulating presence ever since his days with Loose Tubes.

Malija are promoting their second recording, which Bandcamp’s in-house jazz reviewer describes very well:

Melodies from Malija feel like falling autumn leaves. They have an undeniable beauty, full of vibrant colors and sharp imagery. Their motion is light and free—and unpredictable. And yet, time and again on the trio’s sophomore release Instinct, the melody has an undercurrent of gravitas that, inevitably, guides it gracefully down to earth. This progression, devised by saxophonist Mark Lockheart, bassist Jasper Høiby, and pianist Liam Noble, gives the music an atmosphere of contemplation. The spryly-dancing melody of “TV Shoes” gets tangled in dissonance, while the hop-and-skip of “Mila” becomes lost in deep thought before snapping out of it and rejoining the dance. The back-to-back “Panda Feathers” and “Sanctuary” play off of one another like light and shadow. These dichotomies aren’t a new thing for the trio, they’re just a more cohesive representation of their sound. On their excellent 2015 release The Day I Had Everything, that interplay between light and shadow were drawn out to their extremes, which heightened their contrast. Here, they exist side by side.

You can listen to it here. This gig is firmly in the “eagerly awaited” category, along with the extraordinary Ute Lemper at St George’s on Thursday. But unlike the regal Lemper’s date (I’m going), it’s not sold out yet…


Bristol jazz week, 10 Oct

October 10, 2017

The regular Bristol247 listing Tony Benjamin puts together for us all has resumed – latest is here. (Really hard to find without the link if you’re on a tablet – I always have to use a laptop for some reason…). The Monk celebration at the Fringe is especially appealing, to me – Jeff Williams on drums, Calum Gourlay on bass and Hans Koller join Martin Speake in an outstanding quartet. You can hear a slightly different version, with the addition of guitar, playing some of the classic Monk repertoire on this week’s Jazz Now. A great way to mark the jazz giant’s centenary.

Bristol247 has also acquired a new jazz reviewer, who writes about last Sunday at the Hen and chicken here. It was good to see a decent crowd down there for this (excellent) gig, with reports of thin audiences recently at some other venues. The first rate Entropi at the Bebop club last Friday, with Will Harris dipping to very good effect on bass, were poorly supported, for sure. I do sometimes wonder how the three regular weekly gigs in Bristol can keep going – especially the effort at Future Inns, who don’t always seem on top of promotion. (One Thursday recently, the few of us actually present were invited to google the band booked for the following week to find out who they were and what their music was like).

But they’re still presenting interesting outfits. You can hear John Pearce down at Cabot Circus this week, although the website doesn’t disclose who he’ll be playing with…  Looks like a late booking, but Pearce always keeps good company. (Update: yes he does. The line-up is


Bristol jazz this week, Oct 2

October 2, 2017

Autumn gig calendar is getting overloaded – managed a couple last week (Brodsky quartet at St George’s were fab, but definitely not jazz). Dan Messore’s sets on Wednesday suffered from a big crowd of noisy folks paying no attention to the music, so a fairly standard evening for the Canteen. Careful choice of seat and a slight thinning of the throng for the second set allowed a few of us to hear what a fine player he really is, a late evening version of Sunny Side of the Street being especially pleasing.

And the beginning of Ian Storror’s “Octoberfest” with Christian Garrick on Sunday at the Hen and Chicken registered, as Ian said, high on the grinometer. There were a couple of tunes not connected with Stephane Grappelli, which seemed odd – a version of Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debbie, which worked OK, and an Abdullah Ibrahim tune, where the band’s switch from swing rhythm to township style didn’t really come off. The rest was pretty enjoyable, and Garrick’s own playing peerless. I’d have loved to hear more from the undemonstrative but dazzling accordion player Eddie Hession, though. I reckon he and Garrick would really satisfy as a duo.

Anyhow, Ian has a mouth-watering prospect for us next Sunday, Oct 8, when he presents US sax star Craig Handy’s Second Line project. All possible details on the Jazzata website – but here’s another long sample if you need it.

Looks unmissable. The mighty Malija are coming up soon, too, so the month Ian has programmed for us just gets better and better.

Meanwhile, the regular weeklies see James Morton at the Fringe on Wednesday, celebrating the fifth anniversary of Jon Taylor’s promotions in Clifton – (He’s also got a real cracker coming up next week: Hans Koller’s Monk centenary project, of which more anon). Sophie Stockham’s trio will be raising their collective voice over the noise in the Canteen the same evening.

Future Inns on Thursday has South Coast bassist Eddie Myer’s quintet – not a player I know, but their latest recording sounds pretty good on Bandcamp here.

And saxophonist Dee Byrne‘s Entropi should pack the BeBop club on Friday, with an excellent line-up including star trumpeter Andre Canniere, Bristol favourite Rebecca Nash on keys and the redoubtable Olie Brice on bass – great improvisers all. This is a tour to showcase a new album, launched in London last week at King’s Place – which seems to have gone well according to this review. 


Bristol jazz this week

September 25, 2017
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There are so many promising young musicians touring at the moment it’s hard to keep up with them. Following last week’s double bill at Future Inns – a venue that still rarely seems to draw the audiences its players deserve – there’s another outstanding-looking line-up there this Thursday. Mosaic features not one but two winners of the prestigious Kenny Wheeler Prize, leader and vibes player Ralph Wyld and bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado (also appearing last week with Tom Millar). Wyld has played Future Inns before (can’t remember who with) and you may have seen him with Yazz Ahmed at the Bristol jazz festival. His own band is an ambitious sextet featuring trumpet, clarinet and cello, and John Fordham’s review of their recent CD said it was “a cool but very joined-up genre-crossing venture for an unusual lineup”. Wyld has also collected the Dankworth prize for jazz composition, and is all set for a great career. You can listen to the CD here. Fordham’s review attracted the comment that they were great to hear live as well.

Then on Friday at the BeBop club pianist Mark Pringle presents his new quartet, bringing us musicians he’s been playing with in Berlin, where he’s currently based. I’ve really enjoyed the two recordings of his I’ve heard – a duo with his former teacher John Law and a suite for an 11-piece ensemble, inspired by time spent in Paris, which I reviewed here. The quartet will be different, bringing together Tobias Andersson from Sweden on guitar,  James Banner on Double Bass and Spaniard João Lopes Pereira on drums. In interview, Pringle says the group offers “simple melodies overlaying undercurrents of driving swing, with a harmonic palette that draws on Scandinavian folk music, Paul Motian and Béla Bartók (to name just a few)”. Really wish I could catch this first night of a short UK tour, but I have a prior engagement with the Brodsky Quartet at St Georges… So I’ll have to settle for this for now.


Before these two, Bristol trumpeter Nick Malcolm showcases his Jade quartet at the Fringe on Wednesday, with Jake McMurchie on sax, Will Harris, bass and Ric Yarborough, drums, while the brilliant guitarist Dan Messore pops into Bristol for a welcome visit to the Canteen the same evening.

And one of our very few convincing jazz violinists, Christian Garrick, continues an impressive series of Sunday gigs at the Hen and Chicken, where Jez Cook (guitar), Andy Crowdy (bass), Eddie Hession (accordion) and Tom Hooper (drums) will help him conjure the Spirit of Stephanenamed for Stephane Grappelli, one of the most extraordinary natural musicians of the last century. Garrick, son of the late pianist and composer Michael, is a more schooled player than the Frenchman, but just as much of a virtuoso, and has Grappelli’s ability to reel off swinging melodic lines that you don’t want to stop.


Bristol jazz this week – Sep 18

September 18, 2017

The regular weekly preview on Bristol247 has turned into a 3-week selection today (here). Understandably, that means it’s not as complete as usual (there’s a lot going on). So I’ll do a smaller one-week list, as best I can, until normal service there is – I hope – restored.

So in the next 7 days we’ve got the intriguing prospect of Dave Newton‘s piano and vibes trio at the Fringe on Wednesday. The last time I heard him was in the same room, as part of Art Themen’s quartet, and he played as well as I’ve ever heard him, which is very well indeed.

After last week’s last-minute gig for John Martin, Future Inns spring another surprise this Thursday with a double bill of piano trios. Gabriel Latchin is visiting to promote his debut CD, which he launches at the Pizza Express in London on Monday 18th. The recording shows great promise, with a nice mix or originals and standards (Lover Man, Lush Life, Stomping’ at the Savoy), so expect the same mix in his live set. As well as name-checking all the piano greats on the CD, one of the self-penned tunes, Blues for Billy, is dedicated to peerless drummer Billy Higgins, so you know his heart’s in the right place.

He’s joined on Thursday by Tom Millar, who launches his CD at Pizza Express on Wednesday. In fact, he’s around half way through a more extensive tour with a quartet that includes prodigiously talented bassist Misha Mullov-Abbado (yet another recent CD debutant), Alex Monk on guitar and Jon Scott on drums. This looks like gig of the week, if only because if you don’t care for one band you’ll probably like the other. They even have a decent piano at Future Inns, so do try and make it if you can.

The night after Andy Hague‘s own quintet of local first-division players graces the BeBop club on Friday. There was a good crowd there for John Law’s band last week, and Andy’s crew deserves no less, with the long understanding between all involved – Jim Blomfield on piano, Rian Vosloo on bass and Mark Whitlam on drums your guarantee of a first rate evening’s music.

Finally, saxophonist Josephine Davis‘ trio Satori plays the Hen and Chicken on Sunday 24th, with the ace rhythm team of Dave Whitford on bass and the brilliant Paul Clarvis on drums. All details here. They sound like this.

Other people’s music

September 16, 2017

Two contrasting sets of people playing others’ music this week – different selections, for different reasons, but excellent results in both cases.

Thursday at Future Inns solved a late-gap-in-the-programme problem by booking saxophonist John Martin. He now lives near Bath, and joined three Bristol stalwarts – Rian Vosloo on bass, Matt Brown on drums, and Anders Olinder on keys for the evening. “This is billed as my quartet, but really we only just met”, said Martin, disarmingly, and confirmed this by getting Matt’s christian name wrong on first try.

So what to play? Well, the obvious answer for a crew like this: a selection from the large repertoire of modern jazz standards. So we had Sam Rivers’ beautiful Beatrice to open – a tune that always puts me in mind of Joe Henderson’s titanic State of the Tenor session and that is somehow the prolific Rivers only contribution to the common songbook. Then a Chick Corea piece, Benny Golson’s swinger Along Came Betty, and Shorter’s Ju-Ju, with Martin switching to soprano. Four tunes with solos for all made a decent set. These are jazz tunes from jazz composers, and suited all four to a T. By the end of the first one, they sounded like a band – and were up for Martin’s penchant for suddenly pushing into more adventurous areas just as everyone expects the piece to end.

The same was true in the briefer second set, opening less promisingly with All Blues, so often played it’s hard not to make it sound cliched, then Steve Swallow’s lovely Falling Grace, popularised by Gary Burton and Mike Gibbs, and Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance.  It was enough to gratify the modest crowd, with some sparkling piano from Olinder and Martin making good use of the multiphonics he has studied extensively to add drama. He’s a really excellent player with the talent to develop real story-telling solos, and it’ll be worth looking out for future visits.

Like Martin, our near local (Frome) piano luminary John Law has plenty of music of his own. But he’s chosen to explore others’ tunes in his latest quartet, for which he’s recruited neighbour Sam Crockatt on sax and the new rhythm team of James Agg on bass and Billy Weir on drums. They’ve already made a terrific CD and played a few gigs and are a superb working unit playing anything they fancy. They do some of the same modern standards. I’ve heard Law play a set much like the one above at Future Inns. Indeed, Falling Grace opens the CD and on Friday at the BeBop club, there were a couple of Monk tunes – Straight, No Chaser to open and an outrageously funked up Well, You Needn‘t in the second set. But the bulk of the set is devoted to having fun with pop tunes with great hooks – like Pink Floyd’s Money, Stevie Wonder’s I Can’t Help It. It’s the kind of thing that has worked so well for Andy Sheppard in the Pushy Doctors, but Law’s arrangements are trickier. The fun of the thing was epitomised by a version of Summertime re-worked to sound, at first, like Bach. It would have segued into a rocking treatment of Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime but this band were having such a good time they’d lost track of time and BeBop club emcee Andy Hague had to call a halt for the sake of the neighbours. Never mind, you can hear a live recording here.

Here’s hoping this band gets the attention they deserve and lots more gigs. Law in “everything’s an anthem if I say so” mode is superb, Crockatt’s contributions are consistently compelling and the young rhythm section were energetically inspired. They’d be a good festival bet, I reckon, for people booking the likes of Michael Wollny. Meantime, look out for more local outings, and get hold of the CD. It’s great.

Bristol jazz week, Sep 12

September 12, 2017
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Weekly pointer to Mr Benjamin’s comprehensive jazz previews on Bristol 247, which I link to so blog followers don’t have to go looking for it. This week’s is here.

As he says, the date for John Law at the Bear is an enticing prospect. Sam Crockatt’s recent appearances in Bristol have shown us a superb player, and hearing him in one of Law’s quartet’s will be great. They’ve already made a lovely CD, which is sampled below. Here, they’re delving into Brad Mehldau territory with a reading of Nick Drake’s River Man. There are a couple of other tracks on youtube, which are also worth your time, as well as a more recent, live performance of this tune.

Looks like it’s going to be an evening of favourite songs played by favourite musicians.