Sunday at Bristol Jazz & Blues: Electric Lady Big Band, Ivo Neame, Snowpoet

You’d a expect a transcendental moment (or two) at a gig whose set-list was basically the tracklisting from an iconic, 60s psychedelic album.  Electric Lady Big Band didn’t disappoint on Sunday evening.  Denny Illet‘s arrangement had the horns chanting a melodic hook mesmerically at the climax of Voodoo Chile, Slight Return as Ralph Salmin‘s raging drums and Denny’s throbbing guitar stoked the atmosphere.  It was a great moment before the classic riff re-appeared, from the trombone section.   The gig was the first time the charts had been played in anger and a remarkable band had assembled to do the honours. There seemed to be a requirement for a former Loose Tube in each section (Iain Ballamy in the saxes, Noel Langley in the trumpets and Ashley Slater in ‘bones).  Rising/ newly risen stars rubbed shoulders with established ones.  Nathaniel Facey was on alto, Laura Jurd and Jazz Ahmed in the trumpets. The most exciting moments were when they got to cut loose a bit. Jurd and Ahmed’s exchange of phrases on 1983, a merman I should turn to be instantly conjured a different vibe.  There was still plenty of life in the festival when this set burned to a conclusion, but it was another unique project conjured up the Bristol Jazz’s now distinctive programme.

The smaller Lantern stage played host to an eye-watering programme on Sunday.  Not enough to close with Lee Konitz, who followed a Pee Wee Ellis quartet, the afternoon had seen two bands that between them seemed like a definitive collection of ‘who to watch out for’ musicians on the current scene.  Snowpoet, built around the creative partnership of Lauren Kinsella and Chris Hyson, brought Josh Arcoleo, Dave Hamblett, Rob Luft and Matt Robinson with them to perform their atmospheric, layered pieces that blend rocky-folk textures, abstract chanting melodies, cycling anthemic sequences,  all of it framing, and buoyed up by Kinsella’s voice. She veers between conversational, confidential half spoken fragments, swooping lines and wordless vocal to crystalline melody and some deft electronica.  Some of the most affecting moments were duo moments between her and Matt Robison’s piano, his lovely touch the perfect foil for the emotional tug of the shapely vocal phrases.

Ivo Neame‘s quartet followed them in Lantern with music from mostly from Moksha, their current release on Edition Records. They delivered a set of intense, bubbling jazz.  Neame’s themes seem built around volleys of rhythm with mazy themes and  engaging hooks.   His is a distinctive and exciting voice at the piano. Solos trace dazzling, fragmentary patterns, often seeming to play the gaps in the music.   George Crowley on tenor and James Maddren  on drums were perfect partners. Conor Chaplin made the bass chair seem like a breeze, despite being a dep.

This may have only been a little slice through the Bristol Jazz and Blues festival, interspersed with a bit of hanging around in the foyer catching bits of the great free programme, but it was enough to remind me that there’s something for everyone at the festival.


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