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Bristol (and Brecon) jazz this week, and beyond…

August 2, 2015

Quiet round these parts for jazz just now. A good time to remind you that as well as offering a weekly preview here Tony Benjamin does a monthly roundup for Bristol 247.

His latest, for August, mentions the few notables this week, gives some Brecon Highlights, and – a bonus – gives a list of jazz dates in Bristol running through the Autumn. You can find all that here.

Always more to say about Brecon of course, which has that authentic festival problem of overlapping sessions that make it hard to choose. As well as the people Tony mentions you can hear Partisans, Phronesis, Huw Warren (several times), and many others. Looks like a fine weekend.

Bristol jazz gigs this week – July 27

July 25, 2015

A quick one below from Tony Benjamin, who is in a field in Wiltshire – hope the Sun shines for some of the rest of Womad!

I’m out of town next week, but if I wasn’t I’d be going down to Future Inns to catch Freight, who sounded really excellent there last time they played…

Full preview of Brecon Jazz Festival coming soon – great line up!


Jazz week July 27-August 2

Another slim week gives us time to look ahead to the Brecon Jazz programme (it starts on Friday August 5) and its many delights, including Dr John, Adriano Adewale and Norma Winstone. It looks like a good year over there. Closer to home, however, there’s the monthly free music evening at the Fringe (the one in Princess Victoria Street) on Monday 27, with the regulars Mark Langford, Paul Anstey and Bob Helson being joined by Phil Durrant in his ‘laptop electronics’ mode. It’s a well-bedded improvisational session and Phil has been a prominent UK player since the 80s. Meanwhile at the other Fringe (the one in the Mall) jazz-rock guitarist Carl Orr is playing on Wednesday 29 with local rhythm pairing Anders Olinder (keys) and Andy Tween (drums). Another player whose career stretches back to the 80s Orr can count playing with Billy Cobham, Randy Brecker and Mark Fletcher among his CV credits. Though well-established as a jazz-rocker his last recording Forbearance saw him explore a wider range of Americana and other acoustic styles.

That same evening, however, the Dave Perry Trio are at Canteen, with Dave’s distinctive post-bop compositions and free-flowing improvisational style on alto sax always a rewarding listen. Bigger blowing follows at Future Inn (Thursday 30) with FREIGHT, the excellent quartet of equals comprising Craig Crofton (saxes), Martin Jenkins (piano), Greg Cordez (bass) and Matt brown (drums). All four are established players and composers but they have coalesced the group identity around the ideas and harmonic stylings of Thelonious Monk, an influence of Jenkins’. The music has a classic ‘modern jazz’ feel, and Crofton’s soprano playing is an especial pleasure.

It isn’t often The Thunderbolt gets a mention here but on Friday 31 the small pub venue on the Bath Road welcomes Dave Formula & The Finks , a Jimmy Smith/Meters/Booker T style organ groove trio led by ex mod/punk Dave Tomlinson with a new name. The same evening sees Victoria Klewin & The True Tones bring soul-swing and classic vocal jazz to Plantation and that all-too rare thing: a young and enthusiastic trad band (Rhythm Pencils) at The Old Duke.

Bristol jazz week, July 20

July 18, 2015

There’s wall to wall music this weekend in Harbourfest, including the new jazz quarter down behind the M-Shed. After that, Tony Benjamin reports as follows…

Jazz week July 20-26

It’s a week to appreciate the local talent, with the only notable visitors being long-established Welsh tradders The Liberty Street Jazz Band who have the Sunday lunchtime session (26) at The Old Duke. Otherwise  jazz violinist John Pearce makes one of his regular (and popular) visits to the Fringe @ The Mall (Wednesday 22) with a quartet comprising George Cooper (piano) and Will Harris (bass) plus the energising drumming of Ian Matthews.

Saxophonist Damian Cook is a more recent ‘local’ – having moved down from London to Bradford on Avon and has appeared at the Bebop Club a couple of times. He also organises the Sunday evening session at The Old Fishmarket pub. A hard-bop player with clear influences from Cannonball Adderley he’s also capable of lyrical melodic playing that contrasts nicely with the more fiery material. He’s appearing at Future Inn (Thursday 23) with a great quintet including the equally fiery Graeme Taylor on piano and free-flowing bass player Ashley Long.

On Wednesday night No 1 Harbourside also features a couple of newer arrivals in Thomas Sefia (sax) and Henry Binning (piano), a duo emerging from the encouragingly lively Bristol University jazz scene and hopefully part of another new generation of players settling hereabouts. Better established quartet The Milli Meters  bring their evocation of that distinctive New Orleans jazz-funk groove to Canteen on the same evening.

Thursday (23) sees more new Orleans flavour, of the modern second line variety with the exuberant Brass Junkies at  The Old Duke while the Gallimaufry hosts their weekly Groove Den, albeit without James Morton who’s off on a tour at the moment.

Finally The Alma Tavern is having an all-day Summer Fayre on Sunday 26 with gypsy swingers Moscow Drug Club and the Latin-Caribbean fusion trio Grupo Ritmo among the musical delights on offer.


And… finally finally, there’s one of the occasional foyer gigs early on Friday evening down at Colston Hall featuring the redoubtable Dakhla Brass, recently seen to great effect launching their new CD down at Future Inns. It isn’t on the band’s website, but is on Colston Hall’s own, so we’ll assume they know what they’re talking about.

Then there’s WOMAD, but if you’re interested you’ve probably already scoped that one.

Bristol Jazz gigs this week – July 13

July 12, 2015

Amazing show from the massed ranks of the Westbrooks‘ big band last weekend. I reviewed it for ListomaniaBristol here, and Tony Benjamin was equally enthusiastic on Bristol247. Great to see 100+ people in the Hen and Chicken, too! Here are his notes on the coming week’s gigs, including a welcome addition to next weekend’s Harbourfest.

Jazz week July 13­-19

Well the reverberations of Mike Westbrook’s fantastic show at the Hen and Chicken will take a fair while to die down. The only shadow over the evening was the news that Pushy Doctors drummer Tony Orrell and London saxophonist Pete King have both recently suffered some pretty major health problems. Keep an eye on the Jazz @ the Albert website later in the summer for news of benefit events planned by promoter Ian Storrer.

It’s another quiet week across Bristol’s jazz scene as the seasonal lull kicks in, with most of the action bunched around Wednesday and Thursday. The first evening’s star attraction is undoubtedly Andy Sheppard & Friends at Fringe Jazz @ The Mall, with Andy still on the fine form that his recent ECM album evidenced. It’s a real local privilege that we can see this international talent in such intimate venues. By contrast there’s a grooving soul­jazz session at Canteen featuring The Triple As ­ Andrew Neil Hayes (sax), Anders Olinder (keys) and Andy Tween (drums). A few years back the latter pair of ‘As’ were one of the most ubiquitous rhythm sections around these parts, recognised for precision and versatility as well as flair, so it’s good to see them together again. The other A has been kicking up dust with his jazz­rap band Schoolboy’s Death Trio contributing both political vocals and scorching alto sax.

Thursday night sees vocalist Molly King at the Coronation Tap with her Molly & The Kings jazz and swing including pianist George Cooper, while contemporary jazz trumpeter Nick Malcolm brings a quartet to Future Inns. Inspired by the great Kenny Wheeler, among others, Nick combines a commitment to interesting and exploratory composition with a fearless improvisatory approach and has been featured on the BBC’s Jazz on 3 radio programme.

Then at the weekend it’s Harbour Festival time and Afrobeat supergroup No Go Stop (formerly Bristol Afrobeat Project) are headlining Friday’s opening party in Queen Square from 9pm. If you fancy a jazzy oasis from the dockside melée there will also be a jazz stage behind M Shed in the Wapping Wharf car park this year, showcasing some of the best local jazz and swing bands from 2-­6pm on Saturday and Sunday.


Andy Sheppard is of course always absolutely worth hearing, but gig of the week from that lot is probably Nick Malcolm‘s quartet on Thursday. It’s the fourth stop on a mini tour, and the company Nick keeps in this superb band – including the remarkable pianist Alex Hawkins on piano and Olie Brice on bass – should ensure an evening of music at the highest level of invention.

Bristol jazz week – July 6

July 4, 2015

Tony Benjamin’s  takes advantage of the Summer lull to be even more comprehensive than usual in his appreciated-by-millions weekly gig roundup (below). That takes in a couple of venues new to me (the Steam Crane, anyone?), so do read to the end.

Before the new week gets under way, don’t forget that tomorrow (Sunday) you can hear the Westbrooks‘ latest big band project in the Hen and Chicken in Southville. It should be a memorable night

Jazz week July 6-12

There’s slim pickings on the Bristol jazz front this week (though we shouldn’t forget that in many other cities even our slack weeks would be impressive). So let’s give thanks for The Canteen, splendid survivor of the ‘gig every day’ culture, this week offering jazz on four nights out of the seven. Not everybody’s favourite venue, admittedly, as it can be hard to get a respectful audience attention but it can also have great atmosphere. Sunday afternoon (12) is a good opportunity – plenty of people lunching and a more hungover calm and this week it’s the excellent Eyebrow duo providing the soundtrack of Pete Judge’s ambient processed trumpet and Paul Wigens’ impeccable dance-referenced drums. Could be the gig of the week.

Other Canteen events start with the fortnightly Canteen Jazz Session (Monday 6), co-ordinated by Craig Crofton’s versatile Coltrane-inspired saxes and then there’s the saxophonist-led Julien Alenda 4tet (Wednesday 8) which also features the fine guitar of Dan Waldman and finally Andy Hague’s salsa-jazz octet Conjunto Gringo (Thursday 9).

There’s an all-star line-up at the Fringe @ The Mall (Wednesday 8) with Jonny Bruce’s Tribute to Trumpet Kings bringing Messrs Waghorn, Ilett and Cooper with Dave Guy (bass) and Matt Brown (drums), while the Future Inn session (Thursday 9) features popular jazz and swing violin hot-shot John Pearce ‘and friends’ (as they say). And if you take a leisurely stroll Cliftonwards after the Eyebrow gig you can catch the powerful swing/jive vocals of Kirris Riviera and The Damn Busters at Alma Tavern in the evening (Sunday 12). Vocalist Victoria Klewin brings her swing outfit The Truetones to the Old Duke (Wednesday 8).

Don’t forget the other weekly items – Thursday’s Groove Den at Gallimaufry, Sunday’s jazz trio gig at the Old Fishmarket – and the Steam Crane in Southville holds its monthly Jazz Band Night on Wednesday. Or, of course, you could head down to Swanage on Friday and spend the weekend at – always a pleasant experience by the seaside with Gilad Atzmon, funky Dennis Rollins, Tom Cawley’s radical trio (Curios) and Phil Robson’s organ trio among the many acts appearing.

Bristol jazz week – 29 June

June 27, 2015

I’m out of the country, but such is this blog’s dedication to it’s loyal reader(s?) what I’ll tell you what’s happening in Bristol anyway. Well, actually, I’ll let the all-seeing Tony Benjamin do it. Thanks TB.

Jazz week June 29-July 5

Two absolute crackers – albeit of a very different kind – are coming our way next weekend, with Soil & Pimp Sessions at The Lantern (Saturday 4) and Mike Westbrook & Company at the Hen and Chicken (Sunday 5). The dubious sounding S&PS are an anarchic-looking six-strong bundle of young Japanese modern jazz energy. They throw themselves into their music like it’s the last chance they’ll ever get to play it, yet there’s always a strong discipline at work holding things very much together. By contrast, Mike Westbrook puts all the energy into the scores he writes, trusting his 22-strong Uncommon Orchestra to release it. He’s been one of the country’s most influential and impressive jazz composers for fifty years, combining a contemporary classical approach with modern jazz themes and ideas, always playing with instrumental textures. The Bristol gig will be showcasing his fairground-themed ‘jazz/rock oratorio’ A Bigger Show.

Tenor sax player Gianni Denitto is another intriguing visitor: one of Italy’s top-rated players with a melody-driven hard-bopping style he’s also a great experimenter with sax-generated electronics and loop technology, creating layered ambient music. It’s not clear which mode will be presented in Gianni’s set at Future Inn (Thursday 2) but there’ll be no doubting the funk energy over at the Coronation Tap the same night when Jaws make their debut. Not to be confused with the Brummie Smiths-alikes outfit this local foursome features dubstep bass-player Will Cartwright and Anders Olinder on keyboards.

There’s two good doses of Fringe jazz this week, too, starting with the Fringe Free Music session at The Fringe itself (Monday 29) with the regular quartet of Gibbs, Langford, Anstey and Helson – all seasoned maker-uppers. Round the corner at The Mall (Wednesday 1) they’re hosting the Matt Hopkins Quartet with the super-fluent guitarist joined by the aforementioned Anders Olinder plus Duval Project trumpeter Gary Alesbrook and Andy Tween on drums for what promises to be a grooving evening.

Finally – apologies for missing out the Naturist Foundation Jazz and Real Ale Festival from last week’s listings: its Kentish location made it a bit off my radar. Would love to know about John Etheridge, Art Themen and other performers’ view of their audience. I found it mentioned in the extensive listings of the website which may well be an essential reference point in my future holiday planning strategies.


That Westbrook gig deserves a few more words, I think. Far from resting in retirement after relocating to Dawlish some years ago, the great man has gathered West country musicians and a few others together to form a completely new touring big band, for whom he and partner Kate continue to write new work. It looks like an amazing line-up, with some names that will be familiar to long-time aficianados of British jazz – Alan Wakeman, a key Westbrook soloist since the ’70s, Lou Gare, Dave Holdsworth – and a host of less familiar players. Can’t wait.

And another big band gig for those prepared to roam: Edward Leaker’s Swing Machine play Wedmore Arts Festival in Somerset with guest vocalist Clare Teal on July 2. Details here.


Bristol jazz week – 21 June

June 21, 2015

We’re getting into Summer lull now, but some good things still happening. They included Huw Warren at the Hen and Chicken last Sunday (my review for ListomaniaBristol here) and Dakhla‘s well-attended album launch at Future Inns (Tony Benjamin’s review for Bristol247 here.) And you really ought to be booking a seat to catch the Mike Westbrook big band show on Sunday July 5, again at the Hen and Chicken – a rare treat for Bristol, and a complete new Westbrooks’ show which is touring the West Country and recording soon.

Meantime, here’s what Tony has scouted out for the week coming. Not a bumper week, to be honest, but you’ll find something here worth catching I’m sure.

Jazz week June 22-28

Like Brigadoon the remarkable Bristol Composers Jazz Collective project will be surfacing at The Fringe in Clifton (Monday 22), though hopefully not to disappear for too long afterwards. Co-ordinated by Kevin Figes, this flexible assembly allows local jazz composers like Greg Cordez, Jake McMurchie, Jim Blomfield and others to think beyond the limitations of their usual bands and write more experimental music. The results are always intriguing and – as in the case of Kevin’s Octet, can be the seeds for something more ongoing.

The other Fringe session (the one at the Mall) features the ever-popular cabaret-swing sound of Moscow Drug Club (Wednesday 24), while Future Inns welcomes Dutch pianist and composer Dan Temmink (Thursday 25). Now relocated to Bristol Dan’s contemporary jazz trio includes Greg Cordez (bass) and Tony Randall Phillips (drums), and Greg’s own quartet with Loop Collective saxophonist Sam Crockatt will also be appearing in the Colston Hall Foyer early evening slot (Friday 26). Later that night John Paul Gard’s Hammond-led JP Trio will be boogalooing at the Bocabar.

Down South in Bedminster it’s worth keeping a jazz-minded eye on The Steam Crane at the beginning of North Street: on Monday (22) the pub will be hosting a Jazz Jam and on Friday (26) saxophonist Dino Christodoulou’s Greek-inspired modern jazz quartet Milon will be playing there.

The regular fortnightly Canteen Jazz Session will be at Hamilton House (Monday 22), and the Gallimaufry’s weekly hosting of  James Morton’s Groove Den  will be on Thursday (25), the same night as the opening of the four-day Upton Jazz Festival just up the Severn in Gloucestershire featuring Alan Barnes, Craig Milverton, Moscow Drug Club and a whole lot of trad and New Orleans act in a bucolic setting. Check the link for details of the Old Fish Market session down on Baldwin Street (Sunday 28)


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