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More (jazz) than we deserve? – Oct 16 week.

October 16, 2016
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Here comes a comment masquerading as a preview*. There’s a good array of gigs in town this week. I wonder how many will get a decent audience?

I tell myself I’ve stopped worrying about the take-up for live jazz, after so many gigs, large and small, and so many years after I got into the habit of mentally adding up the numbers and the door price each week when I helped run a small gig in Manchester – a habit I found annoyingly hard to shake. But still, last week it felt like there might be more music than Bristol could cope with.

In particular, the superb Indigo Kid ended up playing to maybe a dozen appreciative listeners on Thursday night at Future Inns, surely the most comfortable of our weekly venues. Claire Teal at St George’s on the same night probably had something to do with that, and no doubt some folk went to check out John Parricelli at the Hen and Chicken as well. Still, it’s a bit dismal when people who really feel a bit too tired to stay for the late set (me) feel as if they are giving the band a kicking as they make for the door.

OK, just one example, and Future Inns does seem to get full(er), then empty again due to the working of forces that remain mysterious. But even the gigs that do boast an audience don’t get that great a turnout. Paul Dunmall and Keith Tippett had what looked like under 100 people in attendance at the Lantern the other week, in a venue that holds double that. Looking ahead, Tim Garland‘s superb quartet, which features Jason Rebello, Ant Law and Asif Sirkiss, will probably get a few more  down to St George‘s on Thursday, but the place holds nearly 600 and ticket sales at the moment don’t look that strong. Ian Ballamy at The Fringe the night before, with Percy Pursglove, will probably fill the room – as they should – but when the gig moved to a different, rather larger, space for a year or so the turnout didn’t justify it, and it reverted to a room where 30 people feels like a crush.

There are places that pull people in – I see scores spilling out the door onto the Prom when I pass the Gallimaufry‘s Thursday sessions with James Morton, which makes no charge for entry. But it looks like the regular pool of punters for gigs that ask for money for tickets, rather than passing the bucket – even if the charge is the mere fiver Future Inns usually take off you – is only a few hundred people altogether. And they (I) simply can’t support all the gigs we currently have to choose from at the level they deserve.

They’ll probably all carry on, as jazz musicians need to play, and to tour (Future Inns has some spectacular touring bands booked over the next couple of months) but, selfishly, the nights one hears would certainly often be more enjoyable if there were enough listeners to generate a bit more atmosphere. I don’t know how to make that happen – the blog hits here, usually fewer than 100 visitors a week, tend to confirm that the core jazz audience in this not so large city is hundreds, not thousands. But maybe we can all go to a few more gigs, while we have the luxury of choosing.

So if you don’t care for Tim Garland, do try Nigel Price‘s excellent organ trio at Future Inns on the same night, or the resourceful pianist Ray D’Inverno‘s quintet at the BeBop club on Friday. Let’s keep all our live music spaces going, Bristol!

*alternatively, you can read the ever-optimistic Tony Benjamin‘s more upbeat, and more wide-ranging, preview of this week’s notable gigs over at Bristol247, as usual.




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