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Bristol jazz diary, March 14-20 – Festival time!

March 12, 2016

Time for our hometown festival again. I wrote a small preview of the freestage offerings for Londonjazznews here, but there are plenty of ticketed gigs to tickle your fancy, as Tony Benjamin highlights below. I hear Soft Machine are sold out, incidentally. My weekend starts and finishes with what should be a two real treats – Partisans, one of the most exciting live bands in the country on Friday, and Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer bringing lower register quality to St George’s on Sunday night. Feeling a little wistful to have missed Abdullah Ibrahim the other day after reading Tony’s review, so resolved now to hear as much as possible for the next little while. See you there!

By the way, there’s an unexpected extra gig the day before the festival. Fringe jazz have added a Thursday date for pianist Jason Rebello‘s quartet, featuring Ant Law, Daniel Casimir and Ben Brown to the regular weekly Wednesday session. It’s basically a warm up for a new band, before they keep an engagement at Ronnie Scott’s. The London show is already sold out, impressively, as are two nights at Ronnie’s for Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley with big band, so catch all these players in Bristol while you can.

Jazz week March 14-20

It’s hardly surprising that things start quietly on the jazz front this week, given the weekend’s arrival of the behemoth Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival 2016 (Friday 18-Sunday 20). But while there’s no Bebop Club session on Friday there’s still a few worthwhile gigs before the fest kicks off, not least the Jim Mullen Trio  (Bristol Fringe, Wednesday 16). Jim has been one of the finest jazz guitarists in the country for decades and still delivers the goods in classic hard-bopping style. More contemporary jazz sounds on the same night are from Nick Malcolm‘s new offering Sticky Wicket at Canteen with Nick’s trumpet augmented by Dan Moore (keys), Dan Waldman (guitar) and Ric Yarborough (drums). Thursday (17) sees the rhythmically exploratory piano-led Andy Nowak Trio  revisit the Future Inn to launch their new CD, and Friday night (18) has ex-Tomorrow’s Warriors crew Ezra Collective bring hip-hop flavoured grooves to Canteen’s late evening session.

But as for the rest it’s all about the Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival with some 50-plus gigs mostly at Colston Hall but also involving the Folk House and St George’s. If you haven’t already done so you’ll need to check the Festival website over a relaxed cuppa to scope the whole thing but there are still tickets left for many of the gigs. And, of course, there’s a whole free programme in the Colston Hall Foyer throughout the weekend including Get The Blessing (Saturday) and Senegalese pianist Ibou Tall, ambient trumpet/drum duo Eyebrow and post-rock modernists Sefrial (all on Sunday).

Here’s a few ticketed highlights to catch the eye for starters …

Friday is always Swing Night at BIJBF so expect big bands and vintage clothing all over the place. The excellent Partisans have a regrettably early slot (6pm) but it’s worth the effort to catch four brilliant post-fusion jazzers going full tilt but if your blood pressure needs a gentler warm-up the Princess of Smooth Jazz Melody Gardot is on slightly later.

Saturday has a long programme, so pace yourself! The extraordinary multi-instrumental genius of Gypsy musicians Tcha Limberger & Mozes Rosenberg are an early treat while jazz guitar fans will no doubt flock to catch virtuoso Martin Taylor a bit later. There’s a mega-scale Sinatra tribute – Perfectly Frank – which pits Clare Teal and Joe Stilgoe against a big band and 350-strong choir and an intriguing appearance from Lisa Simone, a singer/songwriter wrestling with the shadow of her late mother Nina. The evening’s big groove will undoubtedly be JBs legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker.

It’s another packed day on Sunday, too, with young sax ace Nathaniel Facey appearing as part of Gary Crosby’s Groundation at 12.45 and two more ex-JB legends Pee Wee Ellis & Fred Wesley with their Back to Jazz big band project. More funky trombone action can be expected from Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio classic organ-led sound while today’s treats for the guitar freaks include former Crusader Larry Carlton and the mighty John Etheridge in jazz rock mode for Soft Machine. Headline honours go to Courtney Pine, CBE, with a return to his classic electric jazz sound. Over at St George’s there’s the truly radical duo of Christian McBride & Edgar Meyer (8pm) – two ridiculously skilled double bass players bringing a surprising range and nimbleness to their instrument.

(Read Tony’s interview with Festival artistic director Denny Ilett here.)

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