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Congratulations, Dr Sheppard

February 25, 2019
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I’m not sure about honorary degrees sometimes, but I can definitely get behind this one. For the non-twitterati, who may have missed it, here are the well-judged few words, and an even better-judged portion of tenor sax, delivered by Andy Sheppard at Bristol University last week – when they bestowed on honorary doctorate on the city’s best-known jazz exponent. Congratulations, Dr Sheppard!


Bristol jazz week – 18 Feb

February 18, 2019

Here’s Tony Benjamin’s listing. As he notes, Andy Sheppard’s date on Thursday is already a sellout, unsurprisingly given the size of the venue.

Also sold out, I believe, is the gig Jacob Collier’s doing at Trinity Centre tomorrow (Tuesday). I’ve not really got into Collier yet – he seems to be simultaneously astoundingly talented and mildly irritating – but he’s obviously doing something right for lots of people, so enjoy if you’re going.

Meanwhile, off to that London this evening to hear Still Dreaming at the Barbican. Yay! We also appear to have a weekend booked in March when we’re going to hear Rhiannon Giddens in Belfast, followed by Anouar Brahem/Dave Holland/Django Bates in Dublin. This may be turning into a year of fewer, but larger gigs.

Still, the small ones aren’t to be missed either. Enjoyed both halves of the Ear Trumpet folk presentation at the Wardrobe Theatre last night – Kit Hawes and Aaron Catlow and support Jacob and Drinkwater were each, in their different ways, excellent. Especially liked the use of the bass in the latter’s duo. I was hoping all four might get together at the end, just to se how a two guitars, fiddle and bass quartet might sound, but think they were out of time… A very enjoyable evening all the same.

Bristol jazz week – Feb 11

February 11, 2019

Voila the usual preview on Bristol247. Comprehensive, as ever, though I didn’t spot any mention of Friday’s booking at the BeBop club, so here’s the relevant blurb if you need it.

The Hopkins-Hammond Trio

Matt Hopkins is a first-rate guitarist with a pleasingly original sound and approach to soloing. He has performed in groups as stylistically diverse as Andy Sheppard’s Hotel Bristol and Emily Wright & The Royals, and also takes the lead role in the “Music of Pat Metheny” project alongside pianist Dave Newton. In this new venture he is joined by Ruth Hammond on Hammond organ and Scott Hammond on drums. Multi-instrumentalist Ruth is often heard round town playing tenor sax with Brass Junkies, whilst husband Scott has for the past few years been touring internationally with Jethro Tull and performs less frequently in Bristol due to his hectic schedule. Expect tunes from the likes of John Scofield and Larry Goldings.

If you’re minded to travel, though, they’re competing for your attention with a fine trio appearing at the RWCMD in Cardiff the same evening (after the College’s regular student showcase in the early evening). Details of that one:

Ari Hoenig drums
Tom Ollendorff guitar
Conor Chaplin bass

Ari Hoenig is one of the jazz world’s most respected and innovative drummers. A prolific bandleader and sideman, he has appeared on over a hundred recordings and worked with a diverse array of artists including Wayne Krantz, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Joshua Redman and Chris Potter. This new trio features two young talents from the UK: Bassist Conor Chaplin (Dinosaur, Flying Machines) and making a welcome return to Cardiff, guitarist and RWCMD graduate Tom Ollendorff.

Dream on

February 7, 2019
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Some time in 1980, I guess it was, I was excited about a forthcoming gig. Old and New Dreams were booked to play the old Hammersmith Odeon: that is, four great Ornette Coleman alumni who got together to play some of the man’s tunes, and some of their own. In love with Coleman’s music, I’d had never heard him play in a setting like his original quartet (Prime Time a couple of years earlier at Bracknell had been interesting, but not so beguiling).

Now, a chance beckoned to hear Edward Blackwell, Charlie Haden, Don Cherry and Dewey Redman, each of them steeped in Coleman’s music and a toweringly creative player in their own right. As I recall saying to someone on the way in to the gig, I’d have been happy to hear any one of them. Together, they had something rare. A rapport which, true to the Coleman’s principles, allowed for a loose-yet-seemingly-telepathic ensemble that gave everyone room for individual beauties of expression. 

I heard all four multiple times in years after – even hearing Haden and Cherry with Coleman on different occasions – but don’t think any of them ever performed better. In truth, I recall little of the actual gig. But four decades on I still listen often to the four official recordings, one from the same tour, and treasure the several live bootlegs that are out there. And they still sound totally fresh and alive to me. Few bands have ever made music that felt so consistently right. Here’s one of their loveliest moments.


The band broke up (Redman wanted to play more of his own music). And, in time, each of the four left us. I still listen out for bands with a similar approach, or who revisit their tunes, but, really, I was resigned to not hearing their like again.

Why tell all this? Because, gloriously, musicians do have descendents, artistically and, sometimes, biologically. And Joshua Redman, a fine saxophonist himself approached his late 40s feeling ready to deal with the music of my all-time favourite group. The quartet he formed to do that is a perfect foursome for the task. Joining Redman on tenor, also his father’s horn, are Ron Miles, who studied with Coleman and can sound more than a little like Cherry, bassist Scott Colley, who studied with Haden, and the ideal drummer, the prodigious Brian Blade, a Louisiana native like Blackwell.

The results are remarkable. Live, and on their CD from last year, they conjure all the qualities of the original quartet. The music is deeply jazz-rooted, but fresh, full of in-the-moment inspiration but grounded by beautiful tunes. And, although they began playing sets mainly given over to Old and New Dreams’ repertoire, they have now settled on a substantially new book. In short, they honour the originals as a jazz group ought, by making new music that, to my ear, is uncannily close to the feel and spirit of Dreams – the melodic appeal, the rhythmic virtuosity, the emotional heft, and delight in each other’s sound all dovetailing together. Musical miracles are easier to come by than the regular kind. But still, this is one.

Hence the bruises I can almost still feel from kicking myself for deciding not to travel to Manchester in 2017 for what was, by all accounts, one of the gigs of the year. Hence the high expectation of a night in a couple of weeks at the Barbican. It’s 2019, and I’m rather excited about a forthcoming gig*.

The difference this time is that I can feed my anticipation on youtube. Does that make a difference? Who cares? I’m just so delighted that my life has included both these groups, in whatever form I can experience them.


(NB –  you’re right, this post has nothing whatever to do with jazz in Bristol. Still, imagine hearing this lot, or their forebears, at St George’s. Just a dream…)

  • Added, 20 Feb. It was a great one, as these reviews record.

Arts Desk


And a couple more – Telegraph (5 stars)

FT – “joyous, enchanting” – and he’s right about people whistling on their way out the door, me included…

Bristol jazz week – Feb 4

February 4, 2019
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Tony Benjamin’s weekly preview here just goes on getting more comprehensive and enticing. Can’t think of a single thing to add, except what a great choice of music in the city and (my choice) yay for Huw Warren on Wednesday…

Bristol jazz week – 29 Jan

January 29, 2019

Here’s the usual rundown on Bristol247. Tony Benjamin covers all the essentials, as usual, including the week’s hot ticket with Iain Ballamy and Percy Pursglove at the Fringe. That’s sure to sell out, but there’s plenty of other stuff to choose from if you can’t get hold of a ticket. I’ve had a recommendation from a well-informed friend for the Wednesday date for Twospeak, starting their tour at the Canteen (they’re coming back for a session at the Gallimaufry in March).

If your view extends beyond Bristol, there’s also a rare opportunity to hear master drummer Jeff Ballard at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on Saturday night. His quartet is a jazz supergroup, including Lionel Loueke on guitar and saxophonist Chris Cheek. Great band, great concert hall…


jazz hands?

Bristol jazz words

January 28, 2019

A few recent bits of writing about jazz-related things round here worth noting. A couple, as you’d expect, are by Tony Benjamin. He had this nice review from the Fringe last week of the Euro-Korean ensemble Dave Mowatt has organised, up in the usual place. And there’s a fascinating feature of his in the latest Jazzwise about Keith Tippett and Matthew Bourne’s collaboration. That isn’t online, alas, but is worth getting hold of. It also reassures that Keith is now back in good health – and the piano duo with Bourne is one of the hot tickets for our jazz festival in March. And while you’re leafing through Jazzwise, don’t miss the excellent review of Nick Malcolm’s new CD.

Speaking of new CDs, BeBop club maestro Andy Hague has a new one out too

image.pngand there are excellent reviews from Ian Mann here  who says,

The writing this time around is both more personal and more wide ranging and the playing from all five musicians excellent.

and on LondonJazzNews from Mark McKergow here:

He’s particularly taken with the way the two horns interact –

One particularly attractive feature of many of the ten tracks is the way that Hague finds ways to blow alongside Waghorn, so that there is a collective improvisation

You can listen to it yourself here.

No wonder Andy looks pleased.


Actually the photo (courtesy of Evan Dawson) is from a dark-defying collection taken at last Friday’s BeBop club gig by the impressive youngsters in Wandering Monster. And you can find a review of that one (by me) here, and more pics on flicker here.