… fringe activity, Friday 23rd March

St. George’s the old church turned concert venue in the middle of Bristol is just off Park Street, the steeply rising thoroughfare connecting the city centre to Clifton Triangle. This bit of topology means that if you approach from the front to get to the box office and cellar bar your feet, crunching the gravel on the path round the side of the building, are at one point level with the ceiling of the bar inside the building. As we approached on Friday evening just after 10 pm, an almost perfectly balanced for sound, slightly muted, gust of jazz blew across our feet. What better lure to get us down the steps into the bar? The grate near the ceiling ventilating the bar had given us neatly canned sample of Andy Hague’s Quintet going full throttle (I’ve managed to resist the temptation to title this post “Grate jazz at St’ George’s” or any permutation of those words). After catching a bit of the early evening jazz set at Colston Hall foyer on friends and family support of band duties and missing the  gig of the evening in the main hall at St. George’s (Andy Sheppard’s Trio Librero) , by all accounts a cracker, we’d decided to head for the post match free gig in the bar at St. George’s. The grand old church is after all the main focus of that under the radar, accidental stealth festival. And what a great vibe in the bar. Andy’s Quintet are reliably high energy and high class. That gust that blew across our feet was the band revving up on Andy’s own composition Hand’s Up; a modern New Orleans funky shuffle with a typical mazy theme on the horns (Andy on trumpet and the peerless Ben Waghorn on tenor) and some ferocious blowing thereafter. We had a very enjoyable hour soaking up more of the same as did a fair few lingering concert goers and newly arrived free-loaders like ourselves. Three cheers for this bit of programming. Apart from diary clashes, another reason for lurking on the fringes of all the high quality jazz on offer this month is the wallet pain of tickets for up to five, £15 to £20 gigs in ten days. Happily audiences seemed to be good for the ECM mini-strand (Tord Gustavsen on Thursday and Trio Librero Friday). I have secured a ticket for Ambrose Amkinmusire, so fingers crossed numbers hold up for that one. As we left to the final energetic strains of the Quintet we were able to confirm a suspicion that had developed as we sat in the bar; the balance of the sound was better filtered through that grate than any spot we could find inside where one or the other instrument had tended to dominate. Happily it still sounded grate wherever we stood.

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