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Bristol jazz week – 6 Nov

November 6, 2017

Yet another packed week, as detailed here by Tony Benjamin, whose preview for Bristol247 seems to get more comprehensive every week. The ICP Orchestra in Bath tonight (Monday) have already been mentioned hereas has Andy Sheppard at St George’s on Thursday. Also an eye-catching prospect is the previously unheralded double bill downstairs at Cafe Kino on Wednesday – a good chance to catch Nick Malcolm’s new quartet Jade, who sound like this.


With all these extras, it’s easy to forget the regular weekly venues, but there’s another double bill at Future Inns on Thursday if you don’t fancy trying to squeeze into St George’s or fancy something cheaper at this particularly good value venue.

Audiences do seem a bit sparse at some of local gigs at the moment – The Bebop club last Friday a case in point. The crowd was also a little thin last night (Sunday) for the brilliant Robert Mitchell at the Hen and Chicken. A particular shame to miss that one, as the trio were working at a very high level, energised by their first live set with new drummer Marco Quarantotto, who has something of Anton Eger’s intensity.

Have to admit I wasn’t so sure about Mitchell’s words – not the sentiments thereof, which are solid humanist propositions, but their not-always-sparkling expression. They were lightly deployed, though, and the music he built round them was superb throughout. A real treat, and bodes well for the launch of his new album and accompanying book in London in a few days at Kings Place – in a jazz in the round triple bill that includes a solo set from Andy Sheppard if you’re in town. Mitchell’s set there boasts a dancer and video installation, but this regular trio outing was a very satisfying warm-up. I’ll be elsewhere sampling other offerings from the feast that is the London Jazz Festival that night, but Kings Place looks like an excellent bet on Saturday.


Bristol jazz week – 30 Oct

October 30, 2017
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Looks like another bumper week – as detailed here by Tony Benjamin. I’m already wondering how to digest a clutch of local gigs: Robert Mitchell at the Hen and Chicken on Sunday 5th; Instant Composers Pool in Bath the following night (see previous post); Andy Sheppard at St George‘s next Thursday (Nov 9th) – which looks like selling out soon All before heading to London to sample the Jazz Festival. (Seem to be reviewing Pat Metheny on Friday 10th at the Barbican – yay.) By the way, there’s another neat jazz festival down in Teignmouth the following weekend, although as usual it clashes with the London festival’s finale when there’s a feast of Monk I have my eye on…

But meantime, there’s a big choice here in Bristol. All three of the regular weekly jazz venues have strong offerings this week, but there are plenty of extras too. All good: hard to choose between them. Enjoy!

Travellers in tradition

October 25, 2017

Here’s the usual weekly list on Bristol247, with goodies from Georgie Fame to Kevin Figes. It’s a bit late in the week for me to post the link, but not too late to write about a couple of other extraordinary upcoming gigs.

Every jazz player has to come to terms with tradition(s), and how far to play inside them, or outside.

True for ensembles, too. But a few endure so long, in evolving configurations, that they create their own traditions, and develop them over decades. Two of those are coming to us in the next couple of weeks.

First up are the Sun Ra Arkestra, appearing at the Fiddlers in Bedminster on Sunday (29th). One of the great large groups which survived the demise of their leader more or less unscathed, the Arkestra were always as much a community as a performance ensemble. I was amazed when they popped up in the back room of the Croft one night soon after I arrived in Bristol, and was still wondering what the music scene would offer here. Suddenly, a legendary band who I’d heard live just once were appearing five minutes from my front door! That night their octogenarian leader Marshall Allen was projecting an alto sax tone that could strip paint. Now aged 93, he’s still out front, nearly a decade later, when their constant travels bring them here again. It’s bound to be a memorable night in the rather larger venue they’ve favoured this time.

Here they are on a recent visit to the Union Chapel


An equally welcome surprise is the visit to Bath of the wondrous Netherlands unit known as the Instant Composers Pool. The ICP Orchestra appear at Widcombe Social Club, a short walk up the hill from Bath Spa station, on Monday Nov 6th. The gig is possible because of a tie-up between the Dutch and the new UK Jazz Promoters Network, and this date comes courtesy of Nod Knowles, the musical guide for the jazzy bits of the Bath Festival in its glory days, who is trying to bring some quality tours back to the city.

It deserves your support for that reason alone, but also because the ICP Orchestra are tremendous creative fun. The evening also offers the chance (separately ticketed) to see a film about their late-lamented founder Misha Mengelberg. Then you can hear surviving long-time members including the legendary drummer Han Bennink and cellist Tristan Honsinger, and a bunch of more recent recruits continuing their own tradition of serio-comic genre-bending improvisation.

Like this

And here, for completeness, is Nod’s note on the evening.

The Instant Composers Pool (ICP) is a unique, internationally renowned collective of Dutch jazz composer-improviser-instrumentalists.

From ragtime to swing, bop to free jazz, classical to carnival, nothing else sounds quite like the ICP.  Every gig is a surprise – no two ICP programmes are the same.

Put simply, it is revolutionary band – a band full of inspired wit and musical imagination –  and the last of its kind.   For half a century, the ever-evolving orchestra has collaborated with giants of the jazz world. Their current line-up consists of ten of the most inspired musicians from the Netherlands and beyond.

Celebrating both 50 years of the group, and co-founder Han Bennink’s 75th birthday, in the accompanying documentary ‘Misha Enzovoort…’ ICP also celebrates the last days of musical genius Misha Mengelberg as he and the band came to terms with the inevitability of his Alzheimers Disease before he finally stopped playing in 2013.

“…The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, from Amsterdam ….are scholars and physical comedians, critics and joy-spreaders.”     New York Times

More on the film…..   For Misha Mengelberg, the forgetting has begun.  He is waiting for a taxi he didn’t call to go to a performance that won’t take place.

Composer/pianist and grand duke of jazz Misha Mengelberg (1935) has been submerged in the shadow of dementia, ending his life as a musician. At the London jazz club Vortex in 2013 he impressively says his goodbyes to the international stage. It’s also his last major performance with his band, the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra. The musicians find it hard to let him go, but Misha’s decline is constant, and he slowly fades away from their midst. A film about exceptional loyalty, dilemmas, respect and dedication. And about music, the music of Misha Mengelberg.

It’s an Alzheimer film within a musical setting; a music film overshadowed by illness; a film about finiteness; and especially a film about impressive togetherness, and, I’ll say it, love.’ – Walter van de Kooi, De Groene Amsterdammer

Ute Lemper, St George’s Bristol, 19 Oct

October 20, 2017

I go to hear singers I love live to feel the presence of the voice. My eyes may well be closed, or unfocussed much of the time. With June Tabor, say, Christine Tobin, or Gregory Porter, that’s not important. It’s all about the vibrations they make in the air.

With Ute Lemper, that would be a mistake. She inhabits a song, bodily, like no-one else. You can see the early training in dance and drama in a constant flow of studied gestures. Every arch of eyebrow, sidewise glance, tilt of head, jut of hip, and curve of finger seems perfectly calibrated. When she dons a hat, the angle of the brim is just so.

It’s a mesmerising spectacle. There’s a well-drilled trio accompanying – piano, bass and splendid bandoneon – each doing exactly the right thing at every turn. It’s hard to give them more than passing glance. This show is about the woman centre stage.

It’s also about her in rehearsing her own history, through songs she has chosen over the years. After 3 decades, her repertoire is vast, beginning with the Weimar-era pieces that first caught the ear of many, taking in chanson, Piazzolla, and her own settings of Neruda, Bukowski, Coelho…

Tonight is a mix of all of these, linked by evocative talk about times and places and, often, a rapid, deft, narration of the song in English before it is delivered in German, French, Spanish or (once) Yiddish.

All of it works brilliantly. The show isn’t perfect. She tries to do too much, and some pf the Brecht/Weill songs lose power when reduced to a micro-medley. Her recent work with the poets is mentioned, but fills only a couple of minutes. But each individual piece done properly is nigh-on perfect. There is an artistic discipline here, and a level of excellence in performance, that you may come across only once or twice a year if you’re lucky.

And in the end, it is still all in the service of the song, and the lyric. She has said how much she hated being in Cats all those years ago – her first big break – because of the tedium of choroegraphed repetition. She didn’t care much for Chicago, either, because the part was “shallow”. Neither feature in this retrospective, where the fare is altogether meatier. There are songs of deep feeling, political anger, existential doubt, exultant defiance: Illusions and Falling in Love Again (a la Dietrich); Spolliansky and Schiffer’s It’s All A Swindle (misanthropy distilled); Philip Glass and Tara Hugo’s Streets of Berlin; Serge Gainsbourg’s Ces Petits Riens and Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas,  the two together more forlorn than you can imagine.

All this was more than enough – five of us in the fifth row of St George’s were transfixed for two sets – but there was a distinctly jazz flourish to some of the songs that came off better than when we last saw her (in Bath in 2011). That keeps things fresh. She is so meticulous you wouldn’t be surprised to find that the scat episodes are worked out in advance second-by-second, but the youtube evidence suggests they are genuinely spontaneous – they certainly sound it. The uproarious encore, Naughty Lola, was jazziest of all, with some vocal trumpet thrown in for good measure – not quite Andreas Schaerer but impressively accurate (of course). It swept up the whole hall in a sense that “now the work is about over, and I (and you) can really have some fun”. Quite a night.

Oh, and in a show of near constant movement, she doesn’t neglect the power of stillness. Like this:






Bristol jazz week – Oct 17

October 17, 2017

The week just past – with evenings of outstanding music from Entropi, Craig Handy and Thelonious – has been exceptional, as Mike Collins explains here. Among them all, I’d rate Jeff Williams’ drumming as the highlight. Simply marvellous to see and hear such a master at work, up close. Also great, incidentally, to catch some of Peter Edward’s Nu Civilization Orchestra roaring away in Colston Hall foyer on Friday evening, with Gary Crosby and Nathaniel Facey to the fore, after sets from schoolkids they’d all been working with whose enthusiasm lent their performances a special charge. I wonder which of them will take their jazz further and return to that stage as fully-formed musicians in a few years?

There’s another take on Craig Handy on Bristol 247, where you can also find the usual weekly preview from Mr Benjamin – here. The big attraction there for me has to be Malija: three favourite musicians in one drummerless trio. A deeply knowledgeable jazz fan remarked to me the other night that Liam Noble is his favourite UK pianist, and I can see why. He’s somehow always contrives to be thoughtful and adventurous at the same time. It’ll be interesting to hear how he copes with the somewhat elderly sounding piano that is on offer in the Hen and Chicken. Jasper Hoiby of Phronesis fame is definitely my favourite of the younger bass players. And Mark Lockheart’s sax playing, also heard in Hoiby’s other band Fellow Creatures who graced this year’s Bristol jazz festival, has been a stimulating presence ever since his days with Loose Tubes.

Malija are promoting their second recording, which Bandcamp’s in-house jazz reviewer describes very well:

Melodies from Malija feel like falling autumn leaves. They have an undeniable beauty, full of vibrant colors and sharp imagery. Their motion is light and free—and unpredictable. And yet, time and again on the trio’s sophomore release Instinct, the melody has an undercurrent of gravitas that, inevitably, guides it gracefully down to earth. This progression, devised by saxophonist Mark Lockheart, bassist Jasper Høiby, and pianist Liam Noble, gives the music an atmosphere of contemplation. The spryly-dancing melody of “TV Shoes” gets tangled in dissonance, while the hop-and-skip of “Mila” becomes lost in deep thought before snapping out of it and rejoining the dance. The back-to-back “Panda Feathers” and “Sanctuary” play off of one another like light and shadow. These dichotomies aren’t a new thing for the trio, they’re just a more cohesive representation of their sound. On their excellent 2015 release The Day I Had Everything, that interplay between light and shadow were drawn out to their extremes, which heightened their contrast. Here, they exist side by side.

You can listen to it here. This gig is firmly in the “eagerly awaited” category, along with the extraordinary Ute Lemper at St George’s on Thursday. But unlike the regal Lemper’s date (I’m going), it’s not sold out yet…

Bristol jazz week, 10 Oct

October 10, 2017

The regular Bristol247 listing Tony Benjamin puts together for us all has resumed – latest is here. (Really hard to find without the link if you’re on a tablet – I always have to use a laptop for some reason…). The Monk celebration at the Fringe is especially appealing, to me – Jeff Williams on drums, Calum Gourlay on bass and Hans Koller join Martin Speake in an outstanding quartet. You can hear a slightly different version, with the addition of guitar, playing some of the classic Monk repertoire on this week’s Jazz Now. A great way to mark the jazz giant’s centenary.

Bristol247 has also acquired a new jazz reviewer, who writes about last Sunday at the Hen and chicken here. It was good to see a decent crowd down there for this (excellent) gig, with reports of thin audiences recently at some other venues. The first rate Entropi at the Bebop club last Friday, with Will Harris dipping to very good effect on bass, were poorly supported, for sure. I do sometimes wonder how the three regular weekly gigs in Bristol can keep going – especially the effort at Future Inns, who don’t always seem on top of promotion. (One Thursday recently, the few of us actually present were invited to google the band booked for the following week to find out who they were and what their music was like).

But they’re still presenting interesting outfits. You can hear John Pearce down at Cabot Circus this week, although the website doesn’t disclose who he’ll be playing with…  Looks like a late booking, but Pearce always keeps good company. (Update: yes he does. The line-up is


Bristol jazz this week, Oct 2

October 2, 2017

Autumn gig calendar is getting overloaded – managed a couple last week (Brodsky quartet at St George’s were fab, but definitely not jazz). Dan Messore’s sets on Wednesday suffered from a big crowd of noisy folks paying no attention to the music, so a fairly standard evening for the Canteen. Careful choice of seat and a slight thinning of the throng for the second set allowed a few of us to hear what a fine player he really is, a late evening version of Sunny Side of the Street being especially pleasing.

And the beginning of Ian Storror’s “Octoberfest” with Christian Garrick on Sunday at the Hen and Chicken registered, as Ian said, high on the grinometer. There were a couple of tunes not connected with Stephane Grappelli, which seemed odd – a version of Bill Evans’ Waltz for Debbie, which worked OK, and an Abdullah Ibrahim tune, where the band’s switch from swing rhythm to township style didn’t really come off. The rest was pretty enjoyable, and Garrick’s own playing peerless. I’d have loved to hear more from the undemonstrative but dazzling accordion player Eddie Hession, though. I reckon he and Garrick would really satisfy as a duo.

Anyhow, Ian has a mouth-watering prospect for us next Sunday, Oct 8, when he presents US sax star Craig Handy’s Second Line project. All possible details on the Jazzata website – but here’s another long sample if you need it.

Looks unmissable. The mighty Malija are coming up soon, too, so the month Ian has programmed for us just gets better and better.

Meanwhile, the regular weeklies see James Morton at the Fringe on Wednesday, celebrating the fifth anniversary of Jon Taylor’s promotions in Clifton – (He’s also got a real cracker coming up next week: Hans Koller’s Monk centenary project, of which more anon). Sophie Stockham’s trio will be raising their collective voice over the noise in the Canteen the same evening.

Future Inns on Thursday has South Coast bassist Eddie Myer’s quintet – not a player I know, but their latest recording sounds pretty good on Bandcamp here.

And saxophonist Dee Byrne‘s Entropi should pack the BeBop club on Friday, with an excellent line-up including star trumpeter Andre Canniere, Bristol favourite Rebecca Nash on keys and the redoubtable Olie Brice on bass – great improvisers all. This is a tour to showcase a new album, launched in London last week at King’s Place – which seems to have gone well according to this review.