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Bristol (and Bath) jazz this week – 29 April

April 29, 2019

There’s a mass of stuff on offer in Bristol this week, detailed as usual by Mr Benjamin on Bristol247. He’s also been reviewing great-sounding gigs I’ve missed, including Sun Ra orchestra and Gilad Atzmon.

He highlights a bunch of Cheltenham gigs, too (see my previous post). In Bristol, my own choice would be the Cloudmakers trio on Wednesday at the Fringe if I was free (I’m not). But as Tony mentions one gig in Bath, I’ll add another.

Tomorrow see’s the latest of Nod Knowles’ promotions at Widcombe Social Club, just up behind the station. It’s an excellent venue, and the Dutch trio Nordanians who perform this week look like they’re electic in a good way. There’s a new interview with them here on LondonJazz, suggesting they offer a “blend of raga-driven energy, adventurous funk and delicate chamber music” and details of the gig here. Tickets are now a tenner, in advance or on the door.

And here’s the promo video


Cheltenham selections…

April 27, 2019

I’ve had a few reminders already this year of how good live jazz can be – one of them last night at the good old BeBop club listening to the wonderful Henry Lowther on his 75th year tour (and his equally impressive new CD is playing as I type – what a shame he’s made so few as a leader in all these years: I have recordings of his from 1969 on my shelves!).

Last night was also notable for a first hearing of bassist Flo Moore – depping for another old favourite, Dave Green. She’s already been recognised as a rising star, and that was amply borne out.

And hoping for more excellent stuff, and some new discoveries at Cheltenham next weekend. It’s always a great line-up, though maybe a good job it only comes round once a year as the prices stack up fast if you go to more than a couple of sets. All but the most spendthrift will need to be selective, so here just a few personal recommendations for those looking for the best actual jazz.

Start with a pair of sets in the nice theatre at the Ladies College on Friday: the vocal phenomenon Andreas Schaerer is playing in a trio with Soweto Kinch. Then one of my favourite UK quartets, Partisans, make a rare appearance, fresh from recording a live album at the Vortex.

Saturday sees Joshua Redman’s trio in the Town Hall and Nikki Yeoh and Zoe Rahman’s two piano offering in the College. And Medeleine Peyroux should be fun on Sunday (though she’s in Bristol soon too, if you prefer.)

I’ll be reviewing all of these for LondonJazzNews, as one of a tag team of writers. But there are plenty of other good things which I’m tempted by, given time and energy. John Surman’s Brass project, the great Fred Hersch playing solo piano, and The Bad Plus  would all hit the spot. Vula Viel’s recent Bristol gig was a blast, and harpist Julie Carpiche looks intriguing.

And if you do want to book just one or two paid-for sets, there’s a free stage programme all weekend, and an expanded effort to put jazz on around the town – making the whole place feel festive. Details of all that here.

The festival is under canvas in some venues, but the modern kind with hefty frames so it’s pretty weatherproof. And in fair weather, the main festival site has good food, and good atmosphere, which all makes for a delightful MayDay weekend.

Bristol Jazz Week – 23 April

April 23, 2019

The big news is that you can hear the Sun Ra Orchestra in all its glory – tonight! But there’s other important stuff to note, especially the welcome return of promoter Ian Storror, with an initial (I hope) series of three gigs at the Old Vic, beginning Sunday next. Here’s a note on how that happened. It really is worth supporting this series if you’d like to see regular visits by quality out of town and international bands, in a decent venue that is neither too large nor too small. That’s the kind that, for all its wealth of kind hosts for music, seems hard to find in this city.

Other things on offer this week are detailed here by Tony Benjamin, as usual. And one of our vital small venues scores heavily with a visit on Friday from Henry Lowther, and an remarkable line-up of bandmates. I’ve booked for that one, as advised.

Other small venues continue to do amazing things too, of course. A case in point was Future Inns‘ offering last week, when Jonny Mansfield’s quartet put on a show that was, I reckoned, world class. A gem of a quartet, who are superb in every department, and project huge enjoyment. Will Barry at the piano, seen here a while back in Jasper Hoiby’s band, was especially impressive. A great two sets of well-chosen tunes, though played for a regrettably small audience. The Fringe and the BeBop club consistently present first rate bands, but the touring visitors Future Inns brings in are often extraordinarily good as well. Do check out their Thursday night programme.




Bristol Jazz Week – 15 April

April 15, 2019

Before we get into gigs, you should enjoy this video evidence that you can’t keep a good musician (2 musicians) down – a pair of Bristol’s finest overcoming current medical obstacles to play one trumpet. Get well soon, Johnny Bruce and Nick Malcolm



Actually, Tony Benjamin’s weekly listing – here – indicates that Bruce is already back in unassisted action, with at least two appearances noted.

Also pleased to see that the brilliant vibes player Jonny Mansfield is bringing his small group to Future Inns on Thursday. His larger ensemble was a big hit with quite a few folks at the jazz festival, but I didn’t catch them then, so pleased to have another opportunity to hear this great player so soon. Not quite clear from various links whether this will be a trio or a quartet (+piano), but should be good either way. There’s a competing attraction at the Canteen, as Tony points out, but you’ll be able to hear better at Future Inns, I reckon.

Speaking of hearing well, it was good to drop in to the Old Fish Market’s Sunday evening session for the first time yesterday – really nice pub. And a pint on the way home from the station after a 4-hour train ride was greatly enhanced by hearing Sam Crockatt in tenor-sax trio mode, bringing to mind Rollins, Henderson, and a host of others who have enjoyed this exposed format. The pub does this every week, with personnel announced on their Facebook page here (though not usually in time for me to tell you).


Bristol jazz week – 9 April, and bit beyond

April 9, 2019

Quick note to say that Tony Benjamin’s weekly preview is even more wide ranging (musically, and in terms of venues) this time, if that’s possible. All the stuff you need to know is here.

Also worth noting a gig in Bristol next Monday (15th) for Get the Blessing, one of a short run of UK dates before they resume their more regular European itinerary – it’s at The Exchange, keenly priced, and a chance to celebrate the band’s 20th year. Here’s to many more!

And if you want to catch Woodstock veteran (really! – although a tiny episode in an astonishing career) Henry Lowther’s UK jazz supergroup, on an extremely rare tour, at the BeBop club at the end of the month, you’ll need to book ahead – as detailed here.

Then it’ll be Cheltenham Festival time, which calls for a preview when I’ve got a bit deeper into the programme

John Martyn Project, Jam Jar, 6 April

April 7, 2019

I’m mostly here for the jazz:the sound of surprise and all that. But sometimes it’s good just to hear songs: the same words in the same order, and the alchemy of words and music without all that clever elaboration.

That was something John Martyn went with, and struggled against (that, and other things) most of his performing career. I liked him in both modes, though the only live gig I caught (in 1975 I think!) was when he was being a bit jazzy. That was a trio affair with Danny Thompson and John Stevens, quite the best drummer he worked with (yes, I know he was mates with Phil Collins). It probably featured overblown but adventurous electrified guitar jams like this, recorded live the same year.

But it’s the songs he’s remembered for, with a bit more remembering going on just now as he died ten years ago, having somehow made it to 60 in spite of his best efforts. So it was fine to hear them treated by the Bristol-rooted John Martyn project on Saturday night.

They are a six piece – the excellent Kit Hawes for the necessary guitar chops, and a trio of performers I’d not come across, Blythe Pepino, a superb singer, along with singer/instrumentalists Pete Josef and Sam Brookes, and bass and drums (John Blakeley for the latter). This was their third gig, and they offered a shorter first set of songs from around the time Martyn came to notice (Nick Drake, including the compulsory River Man, an old folk tune or two, Joni Mitchell and Richard Thompson’s Vincent Black Lightning delivered solo with some gusto by Hawes.)

All very pleasant. But the reason we were there, in a bleak but adequate venue in East Bristol, was the second round. The Martyn set leaned heavily toward the earlier songs that we tend to remember – especially the track list from Solid Air. Quite right too – it’s a gem from beginning to end. A shame he never surpassed it in all the years after, but some careers go that way.

So we had Martyn the folkie who threw off stone cold classic songs, which were reworked for two, sometimes three guitars, and even harmony singing. It worked beautifully. Here’s a taste.

The sound wasn’t as pristine on Saturday, but we had the live joy of Solid Air, May You Never (of course), Don’t want to know, Over the Hill, I’d rather be the devil and more. Curious to be hearing them revisited by a band most of whom weren’t born when one first heard these pieces (this isn’t an unfamiliar sensation these days), but they did them proud. There were plenty of others in the audience who heard them first time round, but a fair few who must have come to Martyn much later, too, and everyone seemed to enjoy their new life equally.

I sang along with pleasure. (Tunelessly. Quietly.) And went home to dig out the old recordings, as you do. But I’ll be there if they do this again live. They should. Ideally in a seated venue. Some of us John Martyn fans are getting on a bit now, you know.




Bristol jazz week – 2 April

April 2, 2019

As usual, relying on Tony Benjamin for all the info – here. He quite rightly highlights the piano trio Vein’s appearance at St George’s on Thursday with guest Andy Sheppard. Unlike most of Andy’s gigs when he returns to Bristol there are still tickets available for this one. He’s been performing with then intermittently since a recording that featured pieces by Ravel a couple of years ago – here’s a review of that set to encourage you to check them out live.

The first gig on TB’s list last week turned out splendidly – as he described insightfully here. A great gig to follow the jazz festival marathon the previous weekend because it was so different from any of the offerings there. That said, Jim Hart‘s accompaniment of Bex Burch’s Gyil (xylophone-like percussion instrument) reminded us all what a great drummer he is – he’s more commonly seen these days playing equally brilliant vibes with Marius Neset or the Cloudmakers trio. His tilt toward African patters, and use of the cowbell, nodded toward Edward Blackwell at times, and the whole set brought to mind Blackwell’s collaborations with another great vibes player, Karl Berger, though maybe that’s just me.

or maybe not…

Here’s Vula Viel

compare the first sections, especially, of this…


Always interesting when people take different routes to similar destinations, no?

Looking ahead again, Soweto Kinch – who impressed so much at the jazz festival, is in town again on Saturday. He’s on a panel at the BristolTransformed festival of political talk and discussion – which is at various venues around Stokes Croft and St Pauls, but they’ve persuaded him to play at the after party as well! Details here.

Finally, Huw Warren (another jazzfest star) has been doing good things at Cardiff University lately, and directs the University Jazz Ensemble in a free concert on Saturday night, featuring some of the Brazilian music he often explores. Sounds worth a trip to me.