February (mainly Bristol) Jazz Diary

My round of up of gigs caught in February turns out to look something like a roster of the mainstays of the Bristol area scene and a glowing advert for some gems also touring the country, or planning to do so.

Yetii were back at the Greenbank on the first Thursday of the month, this time with Iain Ballamy guesting, a gig originally scheduled for September (I wrote about the gig that did happen that evening here ). Alex Veitch, Alex Goodyear and Ashley John Long were on form and Ballamy’s singular sound and musicality blended beautifully with the Yetii approach. Highlights turned out to be Yetii exploring material Ballamy brought, a John Taylor piece in particular and Yetii, with fidelity to their vibe finishing the set with a perfectly wrought ballad, Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.

The following Sunday at the Bristol Beacon, Saxophonist and composer Kevin Figes’ latest project You Are Here took the stage playing music associated with Keith Tippett. The pieces were a mixture of mainly Tippett and Elton Dean compositions. Figes’ arrangements, the playing of the band he’d assembled (Pete Judge on trumpet, Rafe Clarkson on trombone, Riaan Vosloo on bass, Tony Orrell on drums, Jim Blomfield on piano) captured the spirit of the the music, veering between scripted passages and free blowing. Jim Blomfield was riveting as he unleashed fusillades of notes and percussive episodes on Dean’s Sweet FA. Rafe Clarkson took what could have been a regular sleazy bluesy piece and pulled and stretched it all directions really setting the things alight. The finale of Dudu Pukwana’s Mra was an uplifting ending to an absorbing evening.

The week was a challenging one for choosing live music to get to. The ones that got away were Bley School at Bristol Music Club, another guaranteed wild ride;bona fide legend Jerry Bergonzi at Strange Brew (a year to the day since he last visited Bristol with the same incredible band –review of last year-), The muted, beautiful music of the duo Invisible Apples at St Georges, and Run Logan Run‘s album launch again at Strange Brew.

Fringe Jazz at Bristol Music Club were a handy substitute for Ronnie Scotts the following week. On the night Kenny Garrett was appearing at the feted club in London, the Dave Jones Quintet were performing and promoting their live recording of the music of Kenny Garrett.. Welshman Jones has been working with Andy Hague for a few years now. For this project Hague was on trumpet and MD duties, with Bristol based Ben Waghorn on tenor, and Jones’ fellow Wales based team of Ashley John Long on bass and Ryan Thrupp on drums. The selections showcased the range of Garrett’s writing from the pretty, rocky ballad of Native Time, funky grooves and plenty of burning post-bop workouts, always with an ear tweaking bass riff or surprising ryhymic shifts. Jones’ was was typically fluent as he dug into the burners, matching Waghorn and Hague. Ashley John Long pulled out a few of his routinely jaw slackening virtuoso displays to keep the pot boiling.

Arriving late to the following week’s gig at the Fringe Jazz series, the sound of the trio comprising Huw Warren, Mark Lockheart, Yuri Goloubev were creating a warm glow that seem perceptible from the street. Warren and Lockheart’s association goes back to at least the Perfect Houseplants who first flowered in the early 90s, and both have collaborated with Goloubev in various ensembles over years. The y flowed easily around each other whether it was playing a standard, Everything I Love, exploring old originals, EE and Perfect Houseplants Tune, Goloubev’s attractive bossa like tune Overheard or a more angsty Lockhear tune Sunday Soon. The roast to finish was Warren’s favourite Hermeto Pascal tune, a furious swirling dancing piece that finished the gig on a high. This gig was a highlight of any month.

A trip into London meant an opportunity to catch the Mark Wade Trio at Pizza Express. Wade is a New York based bass player and composer whose been appearing in Downbeat polls regularly in the last few years. Teaming up with London based Italian expatriate Marco Marconi on piano and the up and coming Joel Barford on drums. Marconi’s revels in blistering tempos and glittering boppish excursions. Bernie’s Tune got the treatment and the second set closer was a tumultuous Caravan with a door frame rattling work out from Barford. In between they explored Marconi and Wade originals. The New Yorker’s fluency, clarity and sound were a treat. The most affecting moments came with some of the slower tempos. Marconi’s elegaic, romantic homage to his homeland, Nostalgia had Wade’s bowed bass sculpting and exploring a lovely melody. Wade’s fealty to Wayne Shorter was on display with some of his originals, a take on All The Things You Are with a unusual meter conjured different moods before they dug in to finish the night with a burner.

I can’t leave a February round-up without recalling dropping into the jam at The Stag and Hounds, the friendly high quality session that guitarist Adam Stokes has kept going for years, springing back to life after the lock downs with an impressive rotation of guests. It was delight to stick our heads through the door a couple of Sundays ago to hear Len Aruliah leading the week’s high class house band of Adam, Chris Jones (bass) and Mattia Collu (drums) through Kenny Wheeler’s Kind Folks. Elsewhere the BeBop Club’s high quality weekly sessions were ones that got away including a visit by John Law and a rare outing for Jake McMurchie‘s Michelson Morley.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s