Bristol jazz week – May 21

Off the jazz track, but a great evening from Martin Simpson at the Ear Trumpet folk club on Sunday – a wonderful guitar player with some fine songs. Looking ahead, there’s a clash of the jazz heavyweights on Thursday when Kamasi Washington and Steve Williamson play dates in Bristol.

Washington, the latest saviour of jazz according to some, will draw a crowd, but I’m going for Williamson – himself once hailed as a jazz saviour way back in the 1980s.

Jazz doesn’t need saving, but he’s had an interesting career since, managing the unusual combination of being influential but also somewhat elusive. There aren’t really any Youtube samples to point you toward and he hasn’t recorded any of his own stuff for quite a while, though a useful feature in JazzWise last month indicates that he might do so soon.

His initial inspiration was pretty clearly Steve Coleman – who remains a stunningly creative force in the music – but he has since woven in many other ingredients. He is also devoted to mentoring young players, as befits someone who came up with the Jazz Warriors, and his current tour features a talented young bass and drum pair and a string quartet who have brought glowing reports from earlier gigs in London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Mike Hobart’s four star review in the FT has some choice bits.

Williamson’s compositions, like his playing, fuse chunks of jazz history with a depth and detail that few match. Here they were brought confidently to life by a sparse double bass and drum rhythm section — both of college student age — and the equally youthful string quartet StringTing. Williamson was the featured soloist throughout, prowling the stage while warm angular lines, chromatic turns and the occasional blues-laced lick tumbled out of his tenor sax.

The opening feature for a trio drawn from the string players sounds pretty great, too:

They opened with Joe Henderson’s harmonically awkward “Inner Urge”, played Ornette Coleman’s plangent “Lonely Woman” in full, and a devious re-making of Thelonious Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” unpicked the original while leaving its essence intact.

Plenty of tickets left, and St George’s will be a good space for this ensemble.

If that’s gig of the week, there’s plenty of other music on other nights, as well as a packed programme for Stroud’s own jazz festival at the weekend – all detailed by Tony Benjamin here.

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