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Festival highlights

March 5, 2017

Less than a fortnight to go: It’s time to start getting excited about Bristol’s own festival. I’ve already previewed it for my friends at LondonJazzNews, but here’s another helping – with comments on some personal highlights. I’m concentrating here on the sets outside the main concert hall, although there’s plenty of good stuff there, too (Bobby Shew, Macy Grey, London Community Gospel Choir, and more).

First thing to say is that the contemporary side of the programme is excellent this year. I had a mental note of two newish bands I was really hoping to catch live in 2017. One was Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur, the other Jasper Hoiby’s Fellow Creatures. And what do you know, they’re both performing in the Lantern for the festival.

Dinosaur is in fact the latest version of trumpeter Jurd’s band, which has featured these players in various combinations for some time, but seems like a fuller expression of her musical vision. The young trumpet-player has an ear for electric Miles as well as Kenny Wheeler, and can do them both justice, with an apparently endless fund of striking melodic lines in her soloing. The combination with Eliott Galvin on piano, Conor Chaplin on bass and Corrie Dick on drums – each of them leading young exponents of their instrument – is superb.

Hoiby is well-known as the bass virtuoso who has been the front man for the wonderful trio Phronesis for a decade now. Last year saw the debut of this new formation that showcases different facets of his playing and composing.  Fellow Creatures features Mark Lockheart, whose sax has featured in bands from Loose Tubes to Polar Bear, Laura Jurd again – thus uniting two of the most interesting horn voices from older and new UK generations – along with Corrie Dick and Will Barry on piano. Their first CD was one of last year’s best new recordings and it’ll be a treat to hear how the music develops on stage with such a formidable line-up of improvisers.

That would normally make a strong weekend, but there’s lots more. Jason Rebello plays a rare solo piano set on Saturday afternoon, Dakhla have a double bill in the Lantern with guitarist Remi Harris the previous evening, and the same venue also sees sets from the popular combination of Gilad Atzmon and Alan Barnes, trumpeter Yaz Ahmed and bass player Alec Dankworth’s charming Spanish Accents ensemble.

Bristol favourite (though, alas, no longer resident) Andy Sheppard has a date in the big hall on Thursday evening, when he presents a new score for Metropolis. For a 90 year old film, it’s a pretty amazing piece, with images of cities, machines, robots and mad scientists that have hardly been bettered since. It’ll be great to see how Andy and his musicians respond to them.

There’s a generously programmed sequence of free sets in the Colston Hall foyer, as usual, running all four days of this year’s festival. If you’re sampling the ticketed gigs, and you should, which free ones you can enjoy depends on where you’re headed next. But try and make time to catch Jim Blomfield’s trio (Saturday at 17.00), who are reportedly on especially good form at the moment, Andy Nowak’s trio, and Katya Gorrie’s Tom Waits project (both Sunday), or just make a point of pausing to see what catches the ear if you’re in the building. That serendipity is one of the things that makes this festival so enjoyable.

Full programme here – and some shows are selling out so bookings recommended soon.

Rotwang says: Enjoy!




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