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New jazz season at St George’s

August 23, 2014

Autumn at St George’s on Brandon Hill, recently celebrating funding success which will help start some ambitious improvements to the building but already a wonderful listening venue, has many fine things. Among them are four notable jazz dates.

Bill Laurence is the pianist with the popular Snarky Puppy, who have brought impressive audiences to their exuberant jazz rock sets (seen last year at Colston Hall). His new project features that band’s bassist and drummer, so the vibe should be intact, but this piano trio are joined by a string quartet. The Bristol gig, on October 4, is the first night of a short UK tour promoting Laurence’s first solo album, Flint – released back in May and a big seller on iTunes.

Expect a mix of jazz/funk/classical, and a big crowd. There are videos of most tracks on youtube, and you can listen to the whole thing here on bandcamp to whet your appetite.

The next date also has strings, but will have a very different flavour. Gilad Atzman, who can make his alto sound more like Charlie Parker than anyone you’ve ever heard, brings his Gilad with strings project on October 23. He has a good following in Bristol, with repeated appearances for Ian Storror, so it is nice to see him get a night in the grander venue. This date combines  his regular Orient House Ensemble with the Sigamos strings to perform some of the celebrated arrangements Parker recorded, along with new pieces of Gilad’s. He’s an electrifying performer, and tours indefatigably, and they’ve been doing this music since 2010 – as this comprehensive review from Ian Mann attests. They are going to play acoustically and I know I always say this but it should sound fantastic at St G’s.

The same applies to the sax/piano duo of Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock on November 20. Smith is more often seen leading the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra or in superstar trios with the likes of Arild Anderson, but this pairing with fellow Scot Kellock goes way back. They released their third album this year, and it is the kind that justifies exploring standards (think American song book) because the players are so good and have such rapport. Listening to them is a pure pleasure.

Then on December comes the one I personally look forward to most. This is an adventurous booking, featuring Swiss trio Vein, who you may  not have heard of, and the great saxophonist Dave Liebman. I didn’t know them either but sound samples sound excellent. Besides, if Liebman is crossing the Atlantic to tour with them that is recommendation enough – there’s a recording planned, too. Liebman is one of the great post-Coltrane sax players: it is customary to mention his lengthy stint with Miles Davis but he has done so much more since. He’s a formidably accomplished player, on tenor and soprano, composer, arranger, organiser, educator, and everything he does simply glows with musical intelligence.

There’s one more jazz date to note, which didn’t make it into St George’s seasonal brochure – JoKleBa, described as “the legendary supergroup of Norwegian jazz” appear on a Norway music day featuring the splendid FIona Talkington and an evening show from Ketil Bjornstad. They are playing in the afternoon of Sat Nov 22nd – details here.

And the reader(s) of this blog should also make a date with the unclassifiable and unfailingly appealing Three Cane Whale who play a “seasonal” show on Dec 12th. No telling what that will mean but it will surely be excellent. Review from their magical show last time out at St George’s is here.


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