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(very minor) August travels

August 17, 2009

Out of Bristol intermittently this month, managed to coincide with decent club dates in other cities.

In Prague, Reduta claims to be the oldest club in the city, which boasts several, and certainly has a neat design. Nice seating, thoughtfully arranged, good sightlines, a sound man in a booth, and the bar outside, so handy but no noise. A listening club in other words.

The 20 or so in the paying audience the night we went were certainly listening, and rewarded with two nice, short sets (too tired for the third) by a trio led by excellent bassist Vit Svec (with some diacritical marks in his name which I’m not going to go looking for now). Didn’t catch the names of his cohorts, but they included a reliably rhapsodic pianist and more than competent drummer. Nothing here which could not have come from a jazz trio any time in the last forty years, but they played all the tunes – some very standard standards plus a few nice originals – as if they really meant them. This was not tourist fodder, though much else on this club’s programme – and much of the city – seems like it is.

You could say the same for the Dominic Norcross quartet at Dempsey’s in Cardiff a week or so later. This is yer actual back room of a pub, a place for musicians to have a blow and the faithful few – just making double figures in August – to listen in. Norcross is a saxophonist of considerable power, again using very familiar material for the most part, but playing solos of real interest and invention. Slightly stereotyped routine (bass player always takes the third solo: drums to finish), but some impressive contributions from Johnny Davies on guitar and a few originals in the second set, too. No worlds being set alight here, but a jazz flame burning steadily, nonetheless.

Back in Bristol, and a shortish visit to the Golden Lion on Gloucester Road to check out (drummer) John Blakeley’s jazz session. This turned out to mean the excellent Jake McMurchie on saxes, including baritone, with bass and averagely nasty electric piano (the sound, not the player: Mike Willox). Standards again – Afro-Blue twice in a week – and as this is THE PUB WHERE EVERYBODY SHOUTS ALL THE TIME not all that easy to listen to. But we stuck it out for a set’s worth because the music was pretty good.

Here’s hoping the reputedly classy new club previewing this week (Thursday) at Future Inns hotel at Cabot Circus is more akin to Reduta, a place where one can listen without strain and enjoy a drink and music at the same time. A simple idea, but hard to realise it sometimes seems (sigh).

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