There seems to be consensus that 2015 earns a C-minus in human affairs. Personally, though, it was pretty good. I lead a fortunate life in ways too numerous to bore you with here. But being able to hear the music I want, when I want, is one of its larger privileges. So how do the jazz (and other interesting music) prospects in Bristol and round about look for 2016 after the festive lull?
So far, pretty good. January is a strong month for the always-ambitious-when-he-can-be Ian Storror, who is offering four gigs on successive Sundays at the Hen and Chicken. First up on Jan 10th are Moonlight Saving Time, with the Bristol launch of their first full-length CD. This local band, with Emily Wright‘s distinctive voice one of the two front-line instruments alongside the equally excellent Nick Malcolm’s trumpet, are getting deserved national critical attention. The superb Jason Yarde guests on sax on the recording and is coming to town for the gig, too.
The next weekend (Jan 17th) sees Andy Sheppard‘s popular Hotel Bristol, then the intriguing alto sax pairing of Gilad Atzmon and Alan Barnes and Tom Harrison‘s Ellington Project with the extraordinary and rarely heard Cleveland Watkiss on vocals follow in quick succession. Quite a month.
Ian already has eight more gigs listed on his website, running through to June, but reverts to one or two a month after this impressive sequence. By the end of Jan, though, other venues are gearing up. St George‘s on Brandon Hill has the unclassifiable wonder that is Three Cane Whale on Jan 21, and Dan Tepfer‘s take on Bach’s Goldberg Variations in February (14th). There’s an intriguing prospect in March when Christian McBride and Edgar Mayer bring two double basses to the hall’s matchless acoustic (20th) rounding off a month that will already have seen Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal (kora and cello – not jazz but quite wonderful) on the 2nd, master of all saxophones Colin Stetson performing as part of Filmic on the 8th and purveyor of wistful religiosity Tord Gustavsen delighting his faithful St George’s following on the 10th. Further on, May sees the magical Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen (12th) and bass legend Arild Andersen‘s supertrio with Tommy Smith and Paolo Vinaccio (19th).
Colston Hall came up with some real gems in the Lantern last year, and will have to stretch to match that in 2016. Still, notable dates announced so far include Vieux Farka Toure (22 Jan), and GoGo Penguin (recently signed to Blue Note though distinctly jazz-lite if you ask me. And already sold out!) – Feb 24. Baaba Maal in the main hall will be a blast on 21 Jan. And Gregory Porter, whose Rolls Royce vocals graced St George’s on his previous stop in Bristol, moves up to the larger hall at Colston on April 6 and, remarkably, is also posted on the website as sold out.
Before then there’s the Bristol International Jazz and Blues Fest, a couple of weeks later than usual, on 18-20 March. Aside from the date shift, it’s the mixture as before, the Festival having decided to stick with the successful formula. That means the line up is unadventurous, to put it kindly. For those, like me, who no longer turn out for Courtney Pine, only Melody Gardot of the main hall gigs really appeals. (A massed choir and big band celebration of Frank Sinatra’s centenary? Maybe not.) Still, they will have Partisans, Martin Taylor, Dennis Rollins and Soft Machine (the latter clashing with Christian McBride, alas) in the Lantern, so there is some nourishment on offer for the jazz hungry – and the foyer programme has yet to come.
There are festivals out of town, of course, but unclear at this point how they will go. Brecon has lost its promoter, so may not happen in 2016, though I’m sure the rather wondrous and intermittently jazzy fringe festival will go on somehow. On the other hand Bath, at the end of May, is building up jazz again with help from uber-promoters Serious, so the old custom of a jazz weekend may be revived properly this year. The one that is already guaranteed to have quality jazz you won’t hear elsewhere is Cheltenham, over May Day weekend. They’ve announced some impressive visitors from the US and also, enticingly for anyone who heard last year’s CD, a UK debut for the WDR Big Band and Django Bates playing Julian Arguelles‘ arrangements of South African exiles jazz from the 1960s-1980s. That already looks a good bet for one of the gigs of the year, but there will be more to come from the Cheltenham organisers I’m sure. .
That’s enough to be going on with. I’ll try and keep up with the regular weekly preview, with all the gigs at the Fringe, Future Inns and the BeBop club, but these are some of the ones you might want to put in the diary and/or book ahead.
Happy New Year listening to all.