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Jazz Festival Time March 6-8

February 22, 2015

If you’re reading this, the 3rd Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival is probably in the diary (isn’t it?). It seems an established part of the city calendar already, and now has a few “fringe” gigs – which are dates off the main site which would probably happen anyway but now get a boost, we may hope, from the good vibes generated by the big fest.

The main offer is much like the first two years – some big name headliners who are bankable (Dr John, providing the finale on Sunday night, ought to be sell-out), other ticketed gigs which are mostly fairly risk averse, shall we say, and a strong schedule of free sets in the Colston Hall foyer from local bands showing what they can do. Good music throughout, and the full details are on the website and in a brochure probably now awaiting pick-up in a bar or cafe near you.

It is worth coming by Colston Hall in 2 weekends’ time (March 6-8) just to enjoy the atmosphere and see what catches your ear – it is genuinely festive. But here are a few of the more interesting jazz happenings that people looking for the more surprising or rewarding moments may want to note ahead of time.

First up is the photo exhibition which actually begins before the Festival. Last year there was a matchless display of David Redfern‘s music pics on show – a last offering, I think, from the great man, who died last Autumn. This year there will be a fine selection from the work of the only other photographer given regular access to Ronnie Scott’s club, a show culled from 25 years of work by David Sinclair. It launches on Feb 25 at 6.00, with a short solo performance from Andy Sheppard, who has been a big supporter of SInclair as he and his son, Malcolm, organise his rather fine archive. Check out their new website, which displays many more photos, as well.

And so to the music. Things I want to hear include the Paradox Ensemble early on Friday evening. An 8-piece, they include leader Nick Walters on trumpet, also heard in Manchester’s renowned Beats n’ Pieces, and Rebecca Nash on keyboards. They sound genuinely orchestral, and brilliantly arranged, aided by an instrumentation that runs to sousaphone and accordion as well as electronics – sample them here.

Other sets that look like good bets for seekers of fresh sounds include Alice Zawadzki on Saturday, and Andy Sheppard, often seen in this city of course but not with his international quartet, and not previewing a new and notable ECM CD release.

Then there’s Slowly Rolling Camera, the fascinating new project of Edition Record’s boss Dave Stapleton on Sunday afternoon. Their blend of jazz, trip-hop, soul and cinematic textures has attracted lots of interest but they haven’t played Bristol before so it’ll be good to hear them live.

Those are all ticketed gigs. In the foyer, there’s tons of good stuff throughout, but look out  especially for Greg Cordez Quintet (Friday 20.45), Moonlight Saving Time (Saturday, 13.45), the exuberant Dakhla (Saturday 17.30) and Andy Sheppard again, with the inimitable Pushy Doctors, on Sunday 16.15.

So a packed weekend – but yes, I will be hanging around for Dr John on Sunday night, too. Who can resist?

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