As I hurried up Park Street, Bristol on Friday (mainly because I was a bit late rather than the sub – zero temperatures) I must confess to a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. Anticipation because TWO bands not one, packed with Bristol’s finest musicians as well as some from the ‘over the bridge’ in Dave Stapleton’s band were scheduled to play; apprehension because whilst know St George’s is an iconic and atmospheric venue, it is still basically a church – a big echoey space with lots of hard surfaces. I’ve been to quite a few gigs there where the awful sound has taken the edge off the experience.
I needn’t have worried. I snuck in the back during the first number and Andy Hague’s band were already fired up. And the sound was fine – it took me a minute to realise they were completely acoustic apart from the bass, and that was just a little amp on stage – no PA. The band were more than fine. A mixture of compostions from Andy from a Kenny Wheeler like number (complete with delightful flugel playing and Wheeler-esque squeaks from Andy) to ‘Hands Up’, a real barnstorming New Orleans groove number brought some great playing from everyone. Ben Waghorn was outstanding with some blistering solos and drummer Daisy Palmer kept the enrgy levels high, boiling away and really rocking out on Hands Up. Top notch and very jazzy.
Dave Stapleton’s band, on second, were a diiferent proposition. Dave’s compositions feature lots of rolling ostinato figures on the piano, which with bass and drums grooving, roll out a carpet over which the saxes, Ben Waghorn again joined by Kevin Figes, improvise and play elegant and often stately themes. There are frequent more spacious interludes before diving back into those more furious passages. This is a diiferent sort of jazz/ improvised music, but no less exciting and emotionally engaging. The Bebop club had a resounding 20th annivesay celebration, and there’s a great programme over the next few months. ( see http://www.thebebopclub.co.uk/WhatsOn.html ). It was great to see the large venue almost full. I did hear more than mutter of ‘.. hope to see a few of these at the regular gigs..” Ah, the fickleness of audiences.