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Local heroes: Jim Blomfield Trio, BeBop Club, March 22

March 23, 2013

Bristol has a splendid jazz scene, as I’ve gone on about at length elsewhere – a scene in the sense that there is a pool of excellent players who combine and recombine in lots of different ensembles.

A jazz obsessive enthusiast gets used to some faces. You know that if Jim Blomfield is at the keyboard- in Andy Hague’s quintet, Kevin Figes’ Quartet, at one of the rare sightings of the Resonation Big Band, or a bunch of other bands – it’s in safe hands.

Too easy, maybe, to take that for granted. So it was a treat to hear him leading his own trio, and have a full evening’s reminder what a very good player he is.

Two sets at the BeBop club, with a well-rehearsed Mark Whitlam on drums and Roshan “Tosh” Wijetunge on bass, covered an impressive range. There was a Wayne Shorter tune, a Mingus piece, a Schumann arrangement, and a big helping of his own compositions. Like Brad Mehldau, he has a well-developed classical technique, but he also returns often to latin grooves, draws heavily on bop, and (on Pier Pressure) rock.

The Schumann intermezzo turned into a ballad, and there were some nice contemplative moments on another Blomfield composition, Now and Zen, “looking for a quiet place amid the chaos”, as he put it. The more typical Blomfield solo, though, has a nice, bustling urgency, a mood echoed by the drummer, with occasional pauses to savour a simpler figure or a couple of chords soon giving way to a renewed flow of notes. There’s  an appealing swagger about quite a few of his tunes (Return of the Easton Walk) and a touch of dry humour (it’s the walk you adopt in Easton to reduce the chance of getting mugged, apparently). It’s a good combination. And the closer, a bluesy swinger “dedicated to Saturday night” whose title I didn’t catch, put new heart into a decent BeBop club crowd who had come down on the most dismal Friday night of the year so far. First day of Spring – ha!

Music like this, happily, confers immunity to weather. Couldn’t take it home because the trio CD which features many of these tunes wasn’t quite ready – seem to have heard that before on these premises this year. It’ll be well worth getting hold of when it is available though.If  in Bristol, you’re in luck, because it will be easy to hear Jim playing again and pick up a copy. If not, I think it will bring this particular local treasure some national attention. It really should. (Samples here, for now. Do have a listen.)

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