CD Review: Bristol European Jazz Ensemble, Live at the Fringe

BEJEBristol’s music scene has been a creative hot house for decades now, albeit a pretty laid back one. In the last couple of years a number of fine musicians have settled here from different parts of Europe adding an additional zest to the gigging and jam session circuit.  Local trumpet stalwart Dave Mowat has taken the opportunity to re-kindle his band-leading and recording career and has assembled a band, playing his own lively and varied compositions.  With Frenchman Julian Alenda on alto, Italian Pasquale Votino on bass, long time Bristol resident Swede Anders Olinder on keyboards and Bristolian Marco Anderson on drums, the ‘Live at the Fringe’ (plus a few studio tracks) CD gives a taste of what to expect from the freshly minted Bristol European Jazz Ensemble.  Amongst the eight Mowat penned compositions, there’s a lively groove round every corner whether its the samba like lilt of Easter Rise, the township inflected Cagoulie or the calypos like All the Best.  In between there are more reflective moments with the rich harmonic textures of ballad The Rainbows Gift and  the modal jazz vibe of Equanimity.  The CD, produced as the band formed and started gigging,  made me want to go and see them live. The energy of the collective, the fluency of the players (if you don’t know them already) are all immediately evident and its hard not to grin at the irrepressible optimism of Dave Mowat’s writing and playing. The recording itself is a bit rough. The first live performance captured here has the inevitable frayed edges of a new venture and the studio tracks were recorded without bass (just the legendary Olinder left hand doing service).  There’s enough here to persuade though and make us hope the ensemble is going to stick around.  There are chances coming up to see them locally at Bristol’s Canteen in September and Bath’s Porter Jazz and Blues Bar in October.


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