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Gigs of 2015

December 23, 2015
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A few of my highlights of the year are included in LondonJazzNews’ annual roundup of their writers’ top musicians and gigs. But it also amuses me each year to look back and think which were the standout concerts, if only as a reminder of the musical riches that were on offer in Bristol, or at least within reach. Every year I’m amazed how much good stuff there’s been, often in small venues but also in major concert halls.

As there have been so many gigs it was a privilege to hear this year, I’ve allowed this list (in no particular order) to run up to 20. Festive thanks, as ever to all the performers who  brightened my day. I find music is necessary for well-being, and as I’m not competent to make any very musical sounds myself, I rely on others who do it properly. These folk did it superlatively in 2015 …

Anthony Braxton, in the Lantern at Colston Hall. His only UK date, oddly. Hadn’t seen the great man for a dozen years. He was on great form.
The Impossible Gentlemen at Wiltshire Music Centre. Great venue. Lots of new music from four favourite musicians. Worth climbing up the hill from Bradford-on-Avon station for!
Marius Neset – in the Lantern again. A torrent of music.
Christy Moore at Colston Hall. Loved his work for decades. Never seen him perform. I’m glad I did. (Richard Thompson and Dr John at Colston Hall were in a similar category)
The Westbrook Blake in Bath. In a Church, As near to a religious experience as I’m ever likely to get.
The Westbrooks’ Uncommon Orchestra at the Hen and Chicken, playing the new extended suite A Bigger Show. A joyful evening from a man who is still creating strong new work.
Joe Lovano’s Village Rhythms band at Cheltenham. Some of the material was a bit thin, but Lovano’s playing had the majesty of Sonny Rollins in his pomp, and Liberty Ellman hugely impressive on guitar.
Phronesis, also at Cheltenham, doing their Walking Dark set with the lights extinguished. Extraordinary.
Dave Holland playing solo at Wigmore Hall. One of my favourite musicians for 40 years or so. Wonderful to hear him in a solo bass recital. Never has an hour and three quarters gone so quickly.
Elliot Galvin‘s trio in Colston Hall foyer. An hour or so in an uncongenial space, but they overcame that disadvantage with some clever playing and writing and lots of sightly whimsical good humour.
Tim Thornton quartet at Future Inns. A superb jazz club set from a new band. James Gardiner-Bateman on alto and Jason Rebello on piano showing just how good jazz a walk down the road from your house can be.
Dakhla‘s album launch at the same venue, because they are such fun and the new five-piece line up enriches their sound so well.
Sons of Kemet at Brecon Jazz – mesmerising and memorably powerful.
Pigfoot at Brecon – the most musical fun I’ve ever heard in a single set.
Andy Sheppard and John Parricelli at Fringe at the Mall. They’re on the move back to their old place, but I liked the new venue for the Fringe, and it was nice to hear Andy in duo with his old guitar partner again. The tunes they recorded a decade or more ago still sound very fine played live.
Dan Messore at Future Inns. Just an old-fashioned organ trio, on the face of it, but Messore on guitar, Dan Moore and Matt Brown on drums played lots of Messore’s splendid sompositions and produced a real treat for those who came down.
Laura Jurd’s Human Spirit. That Colston Hall foyer again, but the music kept us warm.
Joel Harrison’s Spirit House, BeBop club. Always a strong programme down at the Bear, but this was a remarkable line-up to see in a small local club. Keep on visiting, Joel.
Julian Arguelles Tetra in Brecon Cathedral. One of those sets at Brecon where all the real jazz fans suddenly converge because they know it will be unusually good. It was.
Daniel Herskedal at Kings Place. Listened a lot to his latest CD, Slow Eastbound Train. But hearing this tuba led ensemble live was even better.
Still wistful about a few things I missed. Locally, that includes Sun Ra Orchestra, Kamasi Washington, and more. Nationally, Maria Schneider in London and William Parker and Hamid Drake in Brighton. But still a pretty remarkable year’s music…



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