Back on the Blog Part 4: Going Live – All my favourite back rooms in Bristol and Bath: Fringe, BeBop & Vaults jazz.

Glorious as it is to stuff the ears with the best available recordings at will, there’s no substitute for live music. I’ve been tapping into the local circuit over the last few weeks and as ever, it’s been uniformly varied, satisfying and stimulating. This post is as much one of my semi-regular ‘shout outs’ to the regular gigs in the area, as it is a tip of the metaphorical hat to the performers.

Going back a couple of weeks, we popped into The Fringe in Bristol to catch Tony Orrell’s Big Top. Tony’s irrepressible, divergent creativity has been a feature of the local scene for over 30 years and his enthusiasm is undimmed. This line up featured a double drum attack with Matt Brown opposite Tony, Chris Jones depping for Riaan Vosloo on bass, Tony’s sparring partner from the Pushy Doctors Dan Moore on moog and tenor-man Jake McMurchie. With two drummers in the mix, rhythmic drive and percussive colour were always going to be a feature. This band has been slowly brewing its cocktail of tunes, some original some borrowed. Delicate melody over lilting grooves, shuffling crunchy back-beats propelling riffy hooks, knotty rocky squalls, or a mangled New Orleans 2nd line feel all popped up. It’s a great set and what made it fizz was the adventure and interplay as different combinations led the improvisation. Week by week quality is a mark of the Fringe gig, but so too is the space and active encouragement (by booking them!) it gives these musicians to try stuff out and form and re-form in different combinations. Want to know what’s coming next in Bristol’s adventurous jazz scene? The Fringe is a good place to keep and eye on.

Another favourite back room over the years has been the BeBop Club at the Bear in Hotwells and Andy Hague, as well as booking plenty of touring talent and established bands, always makes space for up-and-comers. A couple of Friday’s back it was the turn of Daniel Newberry. Still a student at The Royal Welsh College in Cardiff, he joined a house trio of Andy on drums, Riaan Vosloo on bass and John Paul Gard on keys.  A pick up gig it may have been, but it as more than enough to show case a new, developing talent. Shepherding the band through a mixture of standards, classics, and a few more niche, contemporary choices ( from the John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler ouevre), what stood out was Newberry’s sound and range of expression. His willingness to stretch and bend phrases across the harmony and pulse created plenty of excitement, but there was delicacy in quieter moments. He’s sure to back.

Another cellar, another saxophonist. This time the first gig in the new season at Bath’s Jazz At The Vaults session. I’ve waxed lyrical about this session on many occasions. The house band of Wade Edwards, Trevor Davies and Vyv Hope Scott were in great form and guest Derek Nash was putting them through their paces, having brought a pad of his charts, some originals and some pulled from deep in the jazz canon. Nash’s 30 year or so career has spanned mainstream, funk and blues, playing with his share of legends, and there were some of all those ingredients on display, but the sheer presence of his sound and visceral swing was irresistible and it summoned up great performances from the whole trio.

Fringe Jazz and the BeBop Club are weekly, Wednesday and Friday respectively, and Jazz at The Vaults fortnightly on Thursday. That these are organised with only the willing co-operation of a licensee, the door money from the gigs and the commitment and long-sightedness of a few individuals bears endless repetition and celebration. I was going to recommend just one gig from each in the coming weeks, but found the job too hard. Just check out their listings pages

Fringe Jazz

Bebop Club

Jazz At The Vaults

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