Celebrating Bird, Django Bates Beloved Bird, Bath Festival, Little Theatre Cinema, Monday May 31st

This is a somewhat belated final post about Bath Festival happenings, but I’ve been letting this one sink in. Bank Holiday Monday afternoon was moderately sunny, so what better treat than to dive into the dark of the Little Theatre Cinema, Bath’s sole indie cinema,  for a film about Charlie Parker followed by Django Bates’ acoustic piano trio performing his take on the Beloved Bird’s heritage; the film plus contemporary band appreciating a ‘great’ is becoming an appealing festival regular. The film, Celebrating Bird is well worth seeing. Lots of footage and interviews to tell the story of the birth of the music. The challenge and vibrancy of bebop as it was born in the 40s shines through as well as the political context and struggle of the musicians to survive and work.  A quick stretch of the legs and then we settled down to listen to this extraordinary trio. I don’t when the last time Django Bates was spotted doing basically a classic acoustic jazz line-up (no zany sound effects or the pallete of a larger ensemble to play with) but this didn’t sound like a cozy classic acoustic jazz line up for a second. An opening segue of Moose the Mooche and Hot House hinted at their Parker origins but the treatment was all stop start time; clatter followed by sweetness; mazy dissonant runs and crashing chords. This was pure Django Bates. Not easy listening, but if you concentrate there’s a demented logic and a sublime creativity at work. The contrast between what Parker played and where Django’s fidelity to the spirit of the music has taken him seemed to be too much for a few folk. For me, it made me want to listen again and more – I’m loving the album. There were a few Django originals and a beautiful treatment of Iain Ballamy’s elegiac melody, This World. Petter Eldh on bass and Peter Bruun on drums were fully paid up members of the trio, not just following each twist and turn, but contributing ideas and leading melodies. Another extraordinary piano trio – three seemed to be the magic number for me in this year’s festival after Sunday night’s double bill and then this.

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