These days the world may know Andy Sheppard principally through a series of collaborations on ECM, but in Bristol whilst due respect is paid to the international profile, there’s the regular local collaborations to delight, invariably showing us a different side. He’s to be seen at a near residency at Fringe Jazz with a rotating cast list, with the organ trio The Pushy Doctors playing just about anything with verve, passion and wry humour and now the delicious prospect of this quartet, Hotel Bristol. The full line-up is Andy, guitarist and Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival man Denny Ilet, uniquely (surely) bass and trumpet Percy Pursglove and drummer Dylan Howe. There have been relatively few appearances but the word has spread and Sunday night’s gig saw the room above the Hen and Chicken packed and a big grin on Ian Storrer’s face as his audience counter needed three digits. And what a treat this band served up.
A bluesy theme, delivered by guitar and tenor in unison, every bent note and dragged beat locked together whilst bass and drums dug into the beat. Not too many notes, just an ‘in the bones’ feel. Delicious Ham and Eggs. Then an even quavered vibe with lilting guitar chords and a quintessential Andy Sheppard melody, joyous, breathy upper register hoots and interval leaps to make the heart leap. Walk in the Park. It wasn’t all relaxed. A blistering boppish head gave way to incendiary soloing and Pursglove swapped bass for for flugelhorn horn. One of the exciting things about this band is that Sheppard has been writing for them and the carefully crafted themes with Sheppard’s well honed instinct for energy ramping stops and changes of pace provided a platform for some sizzling improvising all round. The second set started with an Illett composition All in Good time, with a flowing groove and a line that sounded like a carefully dissected and stretched out Blue Note theme, maximum value extracted from each phrase. Another joyous, grooving melody followed with hint of the Caribbean and had tenor and Pursglove’s flugelhorn blending again over the patter of Howe’s drums. Sighs, cheers and whoops all round. Someone should record this band! Everyone should have a little taste of this.