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Jade/Uphill Game – Crofter’s Rights, Jan 30

February 1, 2018

Down the road on Tuesday night for this generously accoutred double bill. The Crofter’s isn’t known for jazz (though I heard the likes of the Sun Ra Arkestra and Eugene Chadbourne there in its previous incarnation, so I keep an eye…) but they came up with the goods for this Independent Venues Week offering.

Nick Malcolm’s Jade, his new excellent quartet with sax (Jake McMurchie) and trumpet out front, new dad Will Harris on bass, and Rick Yarborough on drums, are developing something really special. The sound can be quite fierce, the system in this room delivering a wall of bass that made Harris sound like Charlie Haden channelling Bill Laswell. It fits the music, which combines modern grooves with fluid freebop, perfectly, and both horn players revel in the solo freedom this line-up affords. The compositional approach is more complex than the small motifs Get the Blessing (who sport the same instrumentation) tend to start with, the rhythmic treatment more open, the overall effect superb. A short set that left one wanting to hear more from this band – soon, I hope.

Then some reorganisation to fit Rian Vosloo’s Uphill Game – all eight of them – onto the stage. The bass player’s new outfit was an impressive South West showcase, with Sam Crockatt joining Jake McMurchie on tenors, Pete Judge on trumpet, Rebecca Nash on keys, Matt Brown on drums and Adrian Utley on guitar. The front line also had space for young alto saxist Sam Barnett, already tipped as a name to watch by several critics.

This was a groove-based, soloing-by-turns, affair, everyone riding comfortably on some slinky bass lines and Brown’s buoyant drumming. Something of a seventies spiritual jazz vibe wafted over the room at times, though they didn’t go the whole trance-inducing way.    Crofter’s is the kind of venue where you have to pull in the punters, who had all retreated to the bar, and this lot’s playing soon had them heading back into the music room. The band slipped unobtrusively from one number to the next, delivered great solos, and generally had a good time – and we enjoyed that agreeable thing where it all sounds a little bit ramshackle at first but is actually highly organised.

Jade, I hope, are a going concern. No idea whether Uphill Game’s set was a one-off or we’ll see them again sometime.  But as an ensemble for a small, celebratory gig, the line-up – ranging from a Portishead veteran to a teenage horn player – confirms that Bristol can muster a band of first rate players for absolutely any occasion.

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