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Coming up – Kit Downes’ quintet

February 7, 2014

Sunday evening offers a chance to hear one of the very best ensembles British jazz has to offer just now, led by the immensely talented Kit Downes. He first came to prominence with his lovely piano trio, with the suitably telepathic rhythm section of Calum Gourlay on bass and James Maddren on drums. His other main gig has been with the electric (keyboards and guitar) trio Troyka, now occasionally expanded to Troykestra. But my favourite setting for his unfailingly brilliant playing is the augmented trio he brings here this week. Lucy Railton’s cello and James Allsop’s sax and bass clarinet add sonorities that blend wonderfully well with Downes’ slightly sweet-sour piano voicings.

That’s because Downes is a superb composer and arranger, with a knack for creating delicious, frequently bluesy tunes, and a well-educated modern jazz player’s wide range of reference – everything from Skip James to Paul Bley. Their quintet CD last year, Light from Old Stars was deeply enjoyable. It had universally warm reviews, like this one from MOJO

“Jazz Album of the Month …perhaps the most admired and creative musician of his generation ….Lucy Railton’s Cello and James Allsopp’s reeds bring unfeasible depth to this magnificent ensemble. ~ 4 stars”

Less impressively, it was one of my albums of the year, too. The pieces only grow with repeated listening. Live, they sound even better.

Try this soundcloud track, which like several of his best pieces is a marvellous study in a slow build.

They played a great short set last year at Colston Hall, under less than ideal circumstances, so hearing them do a full evening at the Hen and Chicken is a prospect to relish. They are heading here for the last of four gigs on successive nights, so ought to be on top ensemble form – although with musicians this good that can probably be taken as read.

Oh, and a word for those who enjoy Bristol’s frequent offerings of jazz at free-entry venues (there must have been 100 people down at Future Inns the other week). This gig will cost money. Trust me: It’s not dear for a world class quintet from out of town. If you are going to splash out on a jazz gig this month, this is the one.

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