It’s March – it must be time for the Jazz and Blues Festival in Bristol. It may only be the fourth edition, 2103 saw the inaugural festival, but it’s established itself fast as a fixture in the calendar. So the weekend before Easter found me pretty much living at the Colston Hall together with a big chunk of the area’s jazz folk. There are a few people I confess I’ve seen just four times in the last four years… yup, in more or less the same spot in the Colston Hall foyer.
There are now plenty of reviews and round-ups around. Mine for Jazzwise (with more to come in the magazine) , Jon Turney for London Jazznews and Charley Dunlapp for Listomania. There were many great moments with highlights in all those reviews but, as I’ve been saying to anyone who’ll listen, you could have a fantastic jazz festival just sitting in the foyer, surrounded by a steady throng of thousands and lapping up the phenomenal programme on the free stage, punctuated by DJ Tony Clark’s well chosen atmosphere building selections.
Get The Blessing predictably ensured there was no room to move on Saturday tea-time with an energetic set for the home town crowd. GTB’s Jake McMurchie was possibly the busiest of the the quartet over the weekend with performances in at least two or three other bands including the big band that played behind Pee Ellis and Fred Wesley re-visiting their jazz roots on Sunday afternoon. Have we mentioned Ruth Hammond’s Bari solo on a bouncing groover in that gig? It had Pee Wee grinning as well as the crowd whooping. Exiting that gig we were captured by another free-stage moment with Pete Judge and Paul Wigens ambient electronica and groove duo transfixing the packed foyer. Saturday had seen Kevin Figes quartet whetting the the appetite for his double release of a quartet album and an octet album on his own Pig Records later in April. Another electrifying moment was provided by expanding his line-up to included two vocalists (Cathy Jones and Emily Wright) tenor and trumpet and delivering an impressionistic closely scripted interpretation of birdsong. The festival , through its headliners, was also catering to a broad church with the bluesey half of the Jazz and Blues festival well catered for.
This has evolved into a wrap around celebration of music and coming together of people of all ages and musical predilections. Three cheers (or more) for the team that work year round to make it happen.