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Gig of the week – Kevin Figes and Co

April 7, 2016

Now a weekly preview is once again available elsewhere, I have time to think about a gig of the week – and looking around after a few days away in Lisbon (highly recommended), I notice one you may have missed…

Kevin Figes is a stalwart of the Bristol scene who is now coming into his own as an organiser as well as a player (mainly alto sax, though you’ll hear him on baritone sax and flutes too). His various projects include a quartet that expands to an octet – their joint appearance was one of the highlights of the freestage at the Bristol jazz festival the other week. That group features Figes with messrs Harris, Whitlam and Blomfield, so the first call Bristol rhythm section. For the festival they added Nick Dover for a two sax sound, the ever excellent Nick Malcolm on trumpet and two singers, Emily Wright and Cathy Jones. The “official” octet line up is slightly different, featuring bassist Jeff Spencer – who along with Figes was one of the instigators of the excellent Resonation big band – and a second drummer, Lloyd Haines. That’s what we’ll hear on Sunday, while Nick Malcolm will guest with the quartet. The octet music is very varied, but here’s one version of their sound mix:

As the leader describes it,

It has always been an ambition of mine to lead a medium sized group such as an Octet. Thinking of the line-up I was inspired firstly by Kenny Wheeler to use wordless vocals, and treat the vocals as horns to play with and in counterpoint to the two saxes. The use of two drummers has also been an ambition, something exciting and a challenge to them both to work with each other. The music was written very much with the line up and individuals in mind, and drew not only upon jazz influences (Kenny Wheeler, David Binney) but also very much from the progressive jazz/rock scene of the seventies (Soft Machine, Ian Carr) and just plain progressive rock (Gentle Giant). This lead to some pieces having more distinct sections, use of electric bass and more keyboard sounds, and each piece representing a little musical journey.

So basically you get the cream of local musicians playing some ambitious and interesting new music – as the sample in March showed.

Both groups are set to play at a double album launch in Colston Hall’s Lantern on Sunday night (April 10th), when his own label Pig Records release two CDs, one for the smaller group, one for the octet. As a bonus there will be sets from the Jim Blomfield trio, which means we get to hear Jim on a decent piano, Cathy Jones’ Brazilian flavoured group Balanca, and Afro jazz from Simon Presto.

Also on offer are projections, badges and cupcakes. It promises to be a notable celebration of Bristol’s ever-fertile jazz scene.


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