Live jazz music is alive and well on our patch of the south west of England. There are of course a few caveats to that; venues and gigs come and go, audiences evaporate, musicians struggle to make a living. But still week in week out there are dozens of live gigs both big and small, big bands are rehearsing, jam sessions, workshops and short courses are attended. In slightly sentimental moments, I think about how much this adds to our collective life. There’s the direct enjoyment (mostly!) of either playing or listening, but lets acknowledge the simple connections between people that are formed or reinforced by these happenings (friendships, shared experiences and more) that I think enriches our lives.
Almost without exception this is all very local and happens because an individual or a small group make it happen, usually without any particular financial reward beyond covered costs. So here goes with my New Year’s Honours that reflect my own slightly idiosyncratic, crooked path through the jazz scene on the Bristol, Bath and environs patch and salutes ‘those that make it happen’.
Gigs in Bath: All hail Wade Edwards for jazz at the Vaults and now 5 years of a regular club at the Wine Vaults (and to Neil the landlord for supporting it). Also in Bath don’t forget the Sunday sessions at the Ring-o-Bells booked by Joe Spibey and supported by the pub. Other restaurant gigs, long time ‘putters on’ of jazz when they don’t have to – Green Park Brasserie and Gascoyne Place. (Up and comers: look out for gigs at Market supported enthusiastically by manager Ashley)
Gigs in Bristol: So much going on here, I’m bound not to mention stuff but the criterion is what I know of so, thinking of people, a loud whoop for the Be Bop Club and Andy Hague (now entering its 22nd year?), but also now firmly established on the local scene The Coronation Tap and the The Greenbank as venues including jazz in their vaied programmes due to the commitment of managers. A new gig this year at the Rose of Denmark, a distinctive programme booked by Pete Judge. Sadly this year Future Inns stopped supporting Ian Storrer’s series of Jazz gigs, but never a man to put off by a mere lack of a venue Ian has continued to bring world class music to the city – its looking promising for 2012 with more scheduled at the Colston Hall2. Venues seem a slightly different category, but it would seem odd not mention St. Georges Bristol and a hugely varied programme booked by Phil Johnson on their behalf. Similarly the Wiltshire Music Centre at Bradford on Avon through Artistic Director Keith Nimmo.
Miscellaneous music making:
Jam Sessions – still weekly, alternating between the Canteen and harbourside on a Monday night (how long has this thing been going on) and I’m not sure who the energizers are but I suspect a combination of Greg Cordez, John Blakely and regular drum host Trevor Davies (and of course the forebearance of the management). At the Greenbank monthly still under the banner of East Bristol Jazz Club and lovingly sustained by Simon Greening, Walter Dirks and Nick Langston.
And the workshops, oh the workshops! So many, interspersed with weekends and and termly performances/ parties. Surely the most public friendly and rocking ‘end of term gig’ is the Blow out Sax School’s termly Blow Out ( Mark Archer and Craig Crofton are the animateaurs), but the Bristol Jazz Workshops (that man Hague again), and Bradford on Avon’s Jazz Factory (MD Mike Daniels, but an impressive cast list of tutors and voluntary committee ) and the spin off Play Jazz weekend (organized and run by Rachel Kerry) are no less well supported and impressive.
Big Bands could probably take up a blog on their own: so many of them of them faithfully supported and voluntarily run. Here’s a few I’ve come across this year in the area – GBH. two DS Big Bands one in Bristol one in Trowbridge, Big R Big Band, and of course the unique Bristol Reggae Orchestra (MD Norma Daykin).
I know I’ve missed people and am blissfully unaware of other great gigs and happenings, but just the ones of which I’m aware make we want to salute all this energy and music making: happy new year folks.