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Bristol jazz diary – Feb 29-March6

February 28, 2016

Not getting to many gigs at the moment, which is a shame because – as Tony Benjamin remarks below – there’s plenty going on…    Big recommendation from me for the Sissoko/Segal date at St George’s on Wednesday. Their first recording together was exceptionally beautiful. It clashes with Art Themen, who remains one of my favourite saxophone players. Damn.

Not so sure about Abdullah Ibrahim these days, I’m afraid…  But still worth experiencing being in the presence if you don’t treasure his live work from the 1980s, as I do.

Here’s Tony’s run down on those, and all the rest.

Jazz week Feb 29 – Mar 6

The Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival may be coming over the horizon (March 18-20) but there’s plenty of action on the local scene this week, too, with intriguing classical, hip-hop and world music fusions alongside more orthodox jazz pleasures. The big names, however, must be Abdullah Ibrahim  and the Art Themen Quartet who come to the Lantern (Tuesday 1) and Fringe (Wednesday 2) respectively. South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim has been a major figure in jazz worldwide since leaving the apartheid world of his homeland in the 60s. Then called Dollar Brand he was part of a generation of South African musicians who introduced the rolling township rhythms and structures to late bebop. Playing solo his music flows effortlessly and eloquently through gospel, jazz and even Indian raga forms in a continuous stream of carefully constructed improvisations.

Art Themen’s career as a jazz saxophonist started to flourish about the same time as Ibrahim and, despite a parallel day job as a consultant surgeon, he became a big name as a classic bopping modernist of the UK scene, not least through his long association with Stan Tracey. His quartet for this gig includes the great Dave Newton on piano.

By contrast award-winning trombonist Andy Derrick made his name in the 90s, emerging from the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra and establishing himself in both big band and small group playing. The Andy Derrick Quartet at the Bebop (Friday 4) has him playing jazz he describes astoo modern for trad, too mainstream for modern” with local luminaries George Cooper, Dave Guy and Andy Hague on drums. Andy will hopefully not be too distracted by the nearness of his other gig this weekend when the Andy Hague Big 50 Band plays at The Hen & Chicken (Sunday 6). This is an exhilarating gathering of almost all the best names on the Bristol jazz scene, especially those of Andy’s generation, and the strength of their soloing combined with his arrangements and compositions ensures a really top quality evening. Given the crowded attendance at most of the Hen & Chicken gigs you’d be well advised to book in advance if you’re interested.

Saxophonist Kevin Figes plays baritone in the Big 50 Band and he will also be the featured guest at the Fringe Free Music session (The Fringe, Monday 29), while Jake McMurchie’s tenor will be blowing in both the big band and alongside Sophie Stockham’s alto in Sefrial (Canteen Wednesday 2). Thursday’s visitor to Future Inn is young Polish ‘pianist, scientist, composer’ Tomasz Bura who brings his trio with Philip van den Brandeler (bass) and Callum Green (drums). He makes clever contemporary jazz somewhat like Neil Cowley or even Portico Quartet.

And then there are those fusions I mentioned: the celebrated Senegalese Kora meets French cello duo Ballake Sissoko & Vincent Segal are at St George’s (Wednesday 2) following their Musique de Nuit recording from a Bamako rooftop, while Tomorrow’s Warriors offshoot Ezra Collective provide live backing for rapper Pharoahe Monch at The Fleece (Friday 4) and the sax/marimba/piano threesome NMSW Trio bring a mixed programme of contemporary classical and jazz pieces to Chapel Arts (Sunday 6).


And one more from me: Next Sunday (March 6) Alan Barnes – a recent visitor for a fine gig with Gilad Aztmon – returns to play with the Cass Casswell trio at the Brunswick Club on Brunswick Square. It’s an afternoon date (3-5.30) so you can still catch Andy Hague’s Big Band in the evening. Expect brilliant sax and clarinet playing and Mother’s Day jokes…

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