“.. I guess you’d call it jazz” wheezed Ginger Baker, referring to his forthcoming appearance at the Bristol Jazz and Blues festival during an interview on Radio 4’s Loose Ends the other day. Baker’s latest group Jazz Confusion headline the first night of the weekend all based in Bristol’s Colston Hall complex. Stories and anarchic legend swirl around Baker but a consistent thread has been the respect he’s commanded from other great drummers and his own interest in jazz and African music. With Pee Wee Ellis and Alec Dankworth in the band fireworks are assured. A detailed review of this line-up from last year is here giving a flavour – its sounds like fun to me! The Colston Hall complex will look a bit different to Chris Barber, also appearing on the first night with his Big Band, since he first played there in 1953. The revamp completed a couple of years ago now is an almost magical transformation making the prospect of weekend of music in the all the various spaces an exciting prospect. The programming on the first night gives a flavour of the variety on offer. The tradition and mainstream is well catered for. As well as Chris Barber, there’s Alan Shipton’s Buck Clayton Legacy Band and a Louis Armstrong tribute. The headliners also cater for a range of tastes. After Ginger Baker’s African/ Jazz/ Rock (c0n)fusion of the first night, guitar legend John Scofield brings his organ trio with Larry Goldings and Gregory Hutchinson on drums on Saturday. The last night sees Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. He’s widely feted as a world beating virtuoso playing mainly latin and bebop. Dizzy Gillespie was his inspiration, mentor and friend. These are artists known on the world stage. In between, there’s plenty more to choose from (Andy Sheppard’s Trio Libero, New Orleans gospel- soul ambassador Lillian Boutte) and on the smaller Hall2 stage (Get the Blessing, blues guitarist Matt Schofield) and a full free stage programme with a roster of mainly local bands that I’d happily shell out from week to week to see ranging from Nick Malcolm’s fine adventurous quartet, blues with Innes Sibun’s quartet, the causing a stir contemporary jazz of vocal led Moonlight Saving Time, not to be missed progrock tinged jazz of 4 sided triangle and the uncategorisable musical delights that Bristol seems to specialise in – Dakhla, Duval Project, Smith and Willox not to mention a fair smattering of cabaret meets gypsy jazz entertainment. The full programme is here
This is an ambitious, something for everyone festival and I for one will be taking in a few gigs, hoping plenty of other people do the same and adding the organisers to my personal new year’s honours list! I also suspect the programmers of a sneaky sense of humour. Knowing Ginger Baker’s love of African music and also somewhat chaotic addiction fuelled past, they’ve programmed first Dahkla and then Moscow drug Club on the free stage immediately before his gig.. or am I reading too much into it? See you there.