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Slightly spoiled of Bristol

May 12, 2018
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Didn’t book on time to get a ticket for Art Themen at the Fringe this week – a shame, judging by the sample from that gig posted on youtube.

Still, there were good things to be heard at both of our other main weekly venues – courtesy of players who are perhaps less familiar. Caught the second set by Dom Franks “Strayhorn” quartet at Future Inns on Thursday. They made a rewarding CD last year (reviewed here) with a Cheltenham-related cover design from Banksy.


That featured the superbly creative pianist John Law’s current young hotshot rhythm section – James Agg on bass and Billy Weir on drums, with John guesting on a few tracks. Live we got him for the whole lot, so this was pretty powerful line-up for a week-night club gig. The leader writes nice pieces, and plays excellent tenor and soprano. Left me wishing I’d got there earlier.

Then a full evening of pianist Andy Novak at the BeBop club on Friday. His excellent trio – with Al Swainger on bass and Matt Fisher on drums – are a well-bedded in trio, with two recordings under their belt. Live they present a nicely judged mix of thoroughly satisfying originals and well-chosen standards. That gives a range including tributes to Novak influences from Oscar Peterson to Captain Beefheart (the latter, closing set one, a particular highlight), impressionistic compositions (Rain in Bristol) and just regular standards (Skylark). An impressive evening, and definitely worth making an effort to hear as they continue their tour for the next month or so.

So two first rate sessions, both with er, modest audiences, sadly. I’d ascribe that to post-Cheltenham jazz fatigue if Art hadn’t filled the Fringe so readily (still small, but a full house is a full house). Truth is, we in Bristol are a little bit spoiled at the moment for first rate local(ish) musicians. I guess that’s a good problem to have, for punters, if not for players or venues…

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