A quick scan of what’s on over the next couple of months has persuaded me that pointing out a few mouth-watering prospects is more realistic than any attempt at an exhaustive overview. Before getting too far with that, you really should keep a close eye on the weekly gigs at Bristol’s Be Bop Club, Fringe Jazz and Future Inns and Bath’s St. James Wine Vaults. All are a mixture of touring and local bands, but the standard is uniformly high. Hard not to mention Guess the Bleating (featuring three-quarters of Get the Blessing with addition of keys-man Dan Moore and drum legend Tony Orrell) on 18th May at the Fringe and Andy Sheppard‘s Hotel Bristol on 20th April at the same venue and here’s hoping you made it the launch today at the Colston Hall of two (count ’em) albums by Kevin Figes, a quartet and and octet recording and promoting his label Pig Records, also home to fine recordings by Jim Blomfield, Cathy Jones and more to follow it seems. That assumes you weren’t lured by The Necks playing the organ in the main hall. See what I mean? You can’t have too much great music, but still…
Here then, are those highlights. There’s a Nordic Jazz theme to relish. Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson is in Bristol at Colston Hall’s Lantern with Martin Speake‘s Change of Heart Quartet. Stenson, not heavily recorded under his own name, but to sublime effect when he has been, with a series of trio records on ECM, has been a sideman to sax players from Jan Garbarek to Charles Lloyd and his collaboration with Speake dates from a Cheltenham Festival gig in the early 2000s as an International Quartet that included Paul Motian on drums and Mick Hutton on bass. That line- up played a gig in Bristol at the QEH theatre to an audience of under twenty people (that included me). They subsequently recorded for ECM and its music from that album they’ll be playing, with two of the the crop of exceptional young British jazz players, Conor Chaplin on bass and James Maddren on drums completing the quartet. In May, the Nordic action shifts to St. Georges with Norwegian trumpeter Arve Henriksen on the 12th. Accompanied by Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang and a visuals show to boot, expect plenty of electronics, sound-scapes and a unique experience. The following week on 19th May, legendary bass player Arild Anderson is there for an acoustic set with Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith and Italian percussionist Paolo Vinaccia. This line-up has recorded two beautifully melodic and vibrant albums for ECM and this gig is part of a very short tour with only a few gigs in UK.
There’s more. Tucked away at the top of London Road in Bath, Burdall’s Yard is Bath Spa’s performance space and on April 22nd hosts Sam Crockatt‘s Quartet. If you want to hear what the some of the most in demand players on the Bristol scened sound like, let loose on a a bunch of artful structured, original jazz tunes by the saxophonist leader get yourself along to this one; Kit Downes on piano, James Maddren on drums and Oli Hayhurst on bass. Downes and Maddren will be back in Bristol in early June at Colston Hall’s Lantern (ok, its not May but this will be a great gig) this time with Julian Arguelles‘ band Tetra. Arguelles is,for my money, one of the most distinctive composing and fluently lyrical improvising voices in British jazz over the last twenty years. Sam Lasserson is on bass for that one
Finally, that man Ian Storrer, promoter of jazz gigs in Bristol for a lot of years, has done it again. Friday May 13th sees New York come to the Hen and Chicken in Bedminster in the shape of the Jonathan Kriesberg Quartet. Kriesberg is one of the hottest guitarists on the New York scene and his pianist Dave Kikoski has an eye popping CV that includes Bob Berg and Michael Brecker. This is one not to miss.
A selection then, from a large box of treats over the next few weeks, that’s without mentioning the jazz festival over at Cheltenham at the end of April with a incredible line up and something for everyone.