Friday 13th December: In praise of Andy Christie, and El Rincon

I made a very satisfying early evening excursion south of Bristol’s River Avon last week, to the postage stamp sized tapas bar, El Rincon. My mission was to catch an all to rare appearance of pianist Andy Christie’s Quartet playing his distinctive and elegant compositions. First the music, and then a brief hymn to ‘Rinc’.

The title of the quartet’s album, Difference and Repetition hints at the formula for the music. Crisply articulated, flowing figures; jagged melodic fragments; off-kilter rhythmic motifs these are the building blocks. Christie would spell one out then Jon Short on bass and Greg White on drums locked in and wrapped around, building a propulsive momentum whilst Sarah Moody’s cello assayed singing lines or flurries of counterpoint. It was a compelling sound that wove a path between classical flavoured chamber jazz, sometimes skirling, folky dancing themes and burst of jazzy waltzs or quietly bustling swing, Christie producing lyrical and shimmering improvisations. It’s a distinctive conception ploughing a different furrow to much on the local scene. They deliver an absorbing and uplifting set.

The surroundings of El Rincon were a lovely place to hear the music, small as it is. It actually is the front (and back) room of terraced house (long ago converted), which accounts for the early hours (all over and no shouting, by 10) and sensitivity to neighbours. But it’s round the corner from Pete Judge’s house and for years (could it be a decade plus?) he has been booking a sublime programme of music, more often duos and trios than a quartet, and the roll call of past guests would cause a few double takes I’ll warrant. The rosta is an eclectic mix, embracing folk and some more experimental excursions as well as jazzy stuff that will squeeze into a corner. The spanish bar is another of Bristol’s treasures. Next Sunday the Christmas treat is Dave Newton with the virtuso violinist John Pearce.

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