Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival 2019: Reflections and moments

A couple of weeks on from Bristol Jazz and Blues, there are a few round-ups and reviews published including mine at All About Jazz, a Jon Turney and Peter Slavid double act at London Jazz News and the inimitable Tony Benjamin’s piece at Bristol 24/7.

Reading back, we all had a great time and I won’t repeat any of it here. There are always plenty of moments that don’t find their way into reviews however; they’re too individual or tangential to the moment. So out of pure indulgence, this is a blog after all, here’s a sprinkling from St. George’s.

‘What are you doing there, how did you do that?’ There are two concert grand Steinways on the stage at St. George’s. Matthew Bourne has just casually stuck his hands inside one of them and produced a deep, pitch-bending wowing sound. It has Kit Downes scurrying round the stage for an impromtu moment of ‘trade secret’ swapping. It’s a grin inducing moment of boyish enthusiasm on Downes’ part at the end of a set that has been one long impromptu exchange of musical ideas between the two pianists, making full use of fists, elbows and supple fluency; a festival highlight for me.

A moment of confession. As quite a young chap (maybe 7 or 8) I developed a distinct liking for organ music. My grandfather used to play records of it I think. When Richard Galliano, taking a break on Friday night, from swirling jazzy French Musette, let rip showing us just what an accordian can do, I got a double prickle of pleasure when he dropped in a bit of a Bach Tocatto and Fugue. Showy yes, but great fun.

Sublime moment of the weekend must go to Sunday morning courtesy of shafts of sunlight bathing the rear stalls as Mark Williams declaimed Dylan Thomas’ poetry, wrapped around by Huw Warren‘s varied and musically poetic suite Do Not Go Gentle. A quartet comprising Warren, Iain Ballamy‘s ineffable sound and a rhythm section of Steve Watts and Martin France needs no more words; just the recollection of bathing in the sound and the sunlight, except perhaps to say, ‘Please record it Huw’.

And for a few reflections on the weekend and the forced re-location of the hub to the University Student Union’s Anson Rooms and Winston Theatre;

A packed programme between those two spaces and St. George’s down the road, plus and enviably highly quality free stage programme (not to mention a couple O2 Academy high profile gigs), meant it would be hard not to weave a richly satisfying path through the weekend whatever your taste. Bravo to the festival team (again). Fingers are crossed here that ticket sales work their magic on the books. Like so many things that make life richer, it’s an operation that runs with precious little funding on narrow margins, so it’s not to be taken for granted.


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