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Fabulous Fringe

May 7, 2017

An enjoyable, mostly off the cuff, evening last Wednesday at the Fringe in Clifton, when Guess the Bleating – a bunch of old Bristol acquaintances with a shared jazz history – had one of their rare get togethers. That history turned out to be one part “my heart belongs to Blue Note”, one part Ornette Coleman. We had tunes by Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard – Jake McMurchie on sax turning in an especially gripping solo on Red Clay – and several more by pianist John Baggott, who writes originals that sound as if they come from some lost Blue Note album. And Ornette’s greatest hits: Turnaround; Ramblin’; Lonely Woman.

Ramblin’ probably came off best of the three – all you need do with Lonely Woman is play the theme, really, and that’s pretty much what they did, in a segue from the bluesier title. The very first recording of Ramblin, unusually for OC, had a piano (Paul Bley), so it sounds more authentic from a quintet somehow – though it’s a tune you can do lots of things with: check out Mike Gibbs’ arrangement on recent CDs with his own small band and the NDR big band. This time we had Tony Orrell digging in on drums and a fine solo from Jim Barr on string bass. Add Pete Judge on trumpet, and you have an unbeatable line-up for a casual jazz club date.

Unbeatable line-ups are something Fringe promoter Jon Taylor brings off increasingly often, and it’s worth noting that his four May gigs are a sequence he’ll find hard to better. This all-star Bristol line-up are followed next week by a return visit for the brilliant alto sax player John O’Gallagher, with Percy Pursglove also coming down again from Birmingham to join him, Tony Orrell and Dan Moore. Their last date at the same venue prompted this post about the pleasures of music in small rooms.

Then get ready for some high-energy music from Partisans, Julian Siegel and Phil Robson’s long-running quartet. This is a rare sighting now guitarist Robson is mainly based in the US, and a real coup to book them into such an intimate venue. Should be an intense evening.

This remarkable four-week run of brilliance then concludes with a new trio, led by bassist Mark Lewandowski, and featuring Liam Noble on keys and Paul Clarvis on drums and percussion. Clarvis and Noble work together superbly – in duo and in the raucously enjoyable Pigfoot. This trio are airing a different project, a CD devoted to Fats Waller tunes. I picked up a copy in Cheltenham the other week and am enjoying it enormously. So is John Fordham.

You can savour a great video of Noble and Clarvis here, if you’ve 20 mins to spare.


Now imagine that with an excellent bass player added, and you’ll be in the right neighbourhood. Definitely looking forward to hearing the trio live.

I won’t make all these dates, but I wish I could. The Fringe is contributing mightily to the range of music we can hear in what really isn’t a large city. Jon moved to a larger room for a bit, but didn’t get quite enough support to keep it on. Let’s make sure we keep filling the current venue, so we can enjoy months like this.

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