Entropi, BeBop Club, Friday 6th October

A gale force blast of sax and trumpet pinned my ears back as I poked my head round the door of the BeBop club last night.  I don’t think it was a comment on my late arrival; the band where in the middle of an unstructured collective workout. My tardiness aside, venturing out on an inhospitable Friday was richly rewarded.  Entropi, led by alto player Dee Byrne have just released their second album, Moment Frozen and had touched down at the BeBop in the middle of a tour.  They sounded like a band who’ve played together a lot and Dee Byrne’s writing  like it’s been refined, the gold dust extracted and then refined again.  There was variety,  with pieces as likely to take off into one of those free excursions as groove over a jagged riff.

Entropi’s is a formidable line-up with most of the band leading projects of their own.  Andre Canniere on trumpet was at the club earlier in the year.  Rebecca Nash on keys, a Bristol native is well know here but well established on the national scene. Regular bass player Ollie Brice, a former Bath resident, was unavailable but it was hard to imagine a better dep than Will Harris. Matt Fisher on drums was dazzling with the flow of ideas and articulation of grooves.

The hubbub that had greeted me soon subsided and they were on to the next piece Cold Light of Day. It was cued in by an Will Harris’ expansive  bass solo that condensed to a cycling tone poem, creating palpable tension and anticipation in the room.  The band took up the rolling pulse and Canniere built an intense solo, shading between dark flurries and long arcing, austerely lyrical lines before passing the baton to Byrne.  The band goaded her on with snappy riffs.  The collective imaginations unpacked a lot of ideas from the deceptively simple source material. It was the pattern for the evening. Stelliferous Era got an evocative and thoughtful intro from Rebecca Nash, making the most of the sparkling Fender sounds from the Nord before Fisher lit fires and stoked the energy from behind the kit under a series of fine solos.  It’s Time bustled along and Leap of Faith’s stabbing riffs grabbed the attention.  There was a slightly dark, angular turn to much of the music.

It was all delivered with confidence, commitment and authority. There’s something special about this band.  Well worth the trip down to Bristol’s longest running club, now well into its third decade.

 

 

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Jon Shenoy’s Draw By Four, BeBop Club, Friday 21st April

JonShenoy

Hammond organ, drums, guitar, tenor sax; a punter could be forgiven for thinking they knew what to expect with that line-up. Draw by Four, playing mostly original material by leader Jon Shenoy, gave the classic formula a distinctly contemporary twist with artfully crafted compositions, patiently developed ear tweaking melodic and rhythmic hooks and some expansive blowing and interplay from the band.

They revved up with a couple of looseners. A burner, with a title that sounded like Kinky D, had a clattering, even quavered groove from Chris Draper on drums and gave everyone a chance to stretch out, Shenoy and Sam Dunn on guitar locked in unison for an attention grabbing, rhythmic theme. The Beach Boys’ Don’t Talk followed,  Will Bartlett using the organ to provide textures and atmosphere and Shenoy’s warm, with just the right dose of tension tenor sound,  more than doing Brian Wilson’s classic justice. Then a suite of Shenoy originals conjured a different vibe. Lost Clouds had a dreamy melodic line, with contrasting rythmic hooks and a quietly snappy groove.  A trio of pieces inspired by paintings had more complex arrangements; variations in tempo and layering of rhythms, juxtaposing melodies and riffs, spaces for interplay between duos,  tempos and themes crafted to conjure images and emotions.  Colonsay Harbour was a standout moment of the whole gig (and the polar opposite of a stereotypical hammond organ vibe). A free-ish interplay between sax and guitar, with colour and texture provided by drums and organs, gave way to a sparse, meditative and fluting melody, Dunn’s guitar almost implying fills.  A time stood still moment.   They closed the set with Deluge and plenty of bustle and fire.  Hand in Hand  had a another attractive melody with more counter-posing riffs and appealing harmonic shifts. Bartlett let fly a lovely. fluid, lyrical, piano on the organ solo.  A ‘see we can do it’ rendition of Marriage is for Old Folks had all the bluesey swagger and groove expected of an organ quartet and closed a scintillating gig.

The writing and arranging for this band had a lightly worn sophistication, serving its purpose,  creating  light and shade and giving the band plenty to work on. There was also a very appealing simplicity and directness, about many of the melodic and harmonic building blocks, reflected in some of Shenoy’s soloing. For all the hustle, bustle and complexity, it put me in mind of Andy Sheppard’s penchant for simple melodies, particularly on the slower tunes.

This was an early gig on a very extensive tour and there are plans to record this material.  Catching them on the tour and checking out the subsequent recording are definitely to be recommended.  Details here

 

 

Sterland-Temmink, Be Bop Club, Friday 31st March

Dipping into the BeBop Club on Friday just as the quartet had kicked off, I caught a little  fizz of excitement as tenor man Greg Sterland dug into Blues for Philly Joe over a pulsating swinging groove.  Pasquale Votino on bass and Paolo Adamo have been ubiquitous IMG_2145around Bristol of late, a first call rhythm section and that moment captured why.  The energy and propulsive momentum was palpable.  Sterland is an adventurous and fluent improviser.  Even on the blues, familiar phrases were twisted and pulled into long lines, occasional gutteral cries and rasps adding colour.  And then a change of pace and a moody Kenny Kirkland piece brought a more smoky, brooding sound from Sterland and Daan Temmink his co-leader on keys, spun rhapsodic and lyrical flurries over Kirkland’s distinctive angular harmony.  All was set fair for an absorbing and exciting evening’s music.  Bird Food ramped the energy levels further still, Sterland pulling out another, twisting, volcanic solo. Paolo Adamo was all ears on drums seeming to anticipate and catch every rhythmic swerve. A lovely Temmink original followed, Song for Helen. If we didn’t already know that he plies his trade as a composer for film and TV, someone might have been tempted to commission him on the strength of that one.  Sterland’s Nothing Serious was a ghostly latin number, making the most of the simplest of motifs and breathy tenor, wheezing and fluttering. It inspired an incandescent solo from Temmink, all glittering runs and sinuous melodic lines.  A second set saw more originals, a wonky Coltrane tribute by Votino, Dear John. If Coltrane didn’t write in 5/4 maybe he should have done; another Temmink original, Dragonfly all dance and skitter then a gorgeous reading of Monk’s Reflections to finish, Sterland growling, rasping and fluttering again around the melody, in between the perfectly crafted swoops of the melody.

I’m not sure if this is a regular band, but the busy, collaborative, Bristol scene mean these players know each other well and it showed in this performance.   A evening that delivered all the promise of that first tune.

Not quite The Session but still cooking, BeBop Club, Bristol, Friday 12th June

The audience, packed into The Bear’s back room like sardines, appeared all to be holding their breath as James Partridge wove an impassioned, growling baritone sax  phrase through the changes of Duke Ellington’s Solitude. It was mid-way through the second set of a fizzing quintet gig. If the band wasn’t quite the one billed, the jazz was still top drawer.  Friday’s gig at the BeBop Club was another great example of airlines conspiring to disrupt a gig, only to be defeated by the magic of new musical alliances formed at a moment’s notice (it’s happened before in Bristol).  Hotly anticipated doesn’t quite cover the buzz around the return of the The Session. The New Orleans based band of young and already feted musicians wowed Bristol audiences last summer, including a hastily scheduled appearance at the BeBop Club in August.  Their heady brew of hard swinging jazz, visceral New Orleans grooves and bang-up-to-date harmonic sensibility set the jazz grapevine buzzing and they are back this summer with a sprinkling of gigs and a residency at  Musicfest Aberystwyth Big Band & Jazz Course

Friday was the inaugural gig, back at the BeBop,  and the audience created a New Orleans – like atmosphere in temperature and humidity in the tiny club room  with late arrivers disappointed and waiting their turn to cram in at the back.   But bad weather back in the Crescent City meant that flights were delayed, so that only bass player Jason Weaver, pianist Andrew McGowan and ex-pat Englishman, saxophonist James Partridge were there on Friday, with hot young drummer Charles Burchell and trumpeter Steve Lands stranded the other side of the pond. The three who made it were in safe hands however. It’s a fairly badly kept secret that BeBop Club maestro Andy Hague has assembled a collection of charts and arrangements of near library proportions over the years, mining the repertoire of classic Blue Note era writers onwards as well as artful arrangements of standards. He’s also a very fine trumpeter. A quick call to local drummer Mark Whitlam who’s fast acquiring a national reputation in a variety of ensembles and a cracking quintet was assembled, with a repertoire covering Ellis Marsalis grooving New Orleans standards, irresistibly swinging fare from the pens of Tad Dameron, Bob Brookmeyer, Wayne Shorter and a sprinkling of classics from Ellington and the standards book.  The magic emerged as the newly formed quintet explored the material together. The Session’s instinct for drama appeared as backing for solos sometimes dropped to minimal, giving them space to breath and build; Andy Hague reminded us (if we needed it) what a fine improviser he is, with solos on flugelhorn particularly, full of elegant phrases and warm toned flurries over Weaver’s driving, propulsive bass lines; Andrew McGowan’s angular and scattered phrases on piano accumulated to build exciting solos and a standout trio reading of the ballad I Want to Talk About You was greeted with roars of approval.  With Bristol forming more regular links with New Orleans, this is a collaboration it would be great to see again.  For Bristolians keen to see the The Session in full, they should be at the Hen and Chicken in early August.

Greg Cordez Quintet, BeBop Club, Friday 27th march

Greg-Cordez-1Eight Minutes and Twenty Three Seconds is the time it takes light to travel from the sun to earth and the inspiration for a typical  Greg Cordez composition. In the hands of his formidable quintet,  it built steadily last night  from Jim Blomfield‘s simple, fragile, piano opening to a roaring, all hands on deck climax, before subsiding suddenly to a whisper.  The emotional punch was powerful, a pattern they’d followed most of the evening with bass player leader Cordez’s pieces developing an inexorable momentum over march-like, rocky pulses overlayed with themes that declared themselves steadily, given space to breath and take hold as first one soloist and then the next developed and expanded them.   This band debuted over two years ago at the BeBop and since then the repertoire has evolved into mainly originals with an album due for release soon on the New York based Ninety and Nine record label.  Tenor man Jake McMurchie‘s regular foil Nick Malcolm was absent from the line-up that recorded the album, with  Nick Dover stepping in forming a twin tenor frontline for the evening. The two horns blended beautifully, now stating another of Cordez’s compelling melodic fragments, now offering contrasting developments of the looping sequences, Jake’s throaty, warm sound swooping and crying, Nick offering an edgier sound and probing harmonic embellishments, no less emotionally laden.  The only tunes not from the leaders’ pen were by American bassist Todd Sickafoose.  Blood Orange’s hooky theme over a snappy groove set Jim Blomfield up for a blistering solo with a Rhodes sound, shimmering clouds of notes scattered between wild percussive episodes. The twin tenors came in with a shout chorus cum backing riff and suddenly everyone was blowing, Mark Whitlam‘s drumming goading theme on. It was thrilling stuff.   Later, after the Eight Minutes and Twenty Three seconds of ever brightening sunlight, another Blomfield workout, this time solo piano, segued the band into the sumptuous ballad Camilla Rose, before 1000 Paper Cranes traced another arc to end the gig, from simple chiming phrase on piano underpinned by a bass figure through swelling, building, melody and impassioned blowing back to that chiming phrase. On this showing the album, Paper Crane will be well worth catching. Meanwhile you can get some previews from Greg’s website.

A Feast of Jazz for Bristol and Bath coming your way

There’s a dazzling array of gigs coming up in the Bristol/ Bath area at the bigger concert venues in the next few months. That’s on top of the regular club nights that are hosting  really top quality programmes. So for your regular consumption, check the now moved to Wednesdays and a new location in Clifton Village, Fringe Jazz: always excellent with Partisans visiting in February. On Thursdays look out for weekly gigs at Future Inns, increasingly with interesting touring bands as well as the best of Bristol and alternate Thursdays in Bath the Jazz at the Vaults sessions (already launched with Iain Ballamy and some great guests lined up. Friday night is Bristol BeBop Club with a reliably first class mix of local and touring band but keep an eye on Burdall’s Yard in Bath for occasional gigs, Friday 16th sees the Tom Green Septet young, outrageously talented and  already critically acclaimed. A roughly monthly series at the Hen and Chicken in Bristol brings a fantastic line-up starting with Andy Sheppard’s intriguing Hotel Bristol Quartet on 25th January. That’s without mentioning the slightly lower key and regular sessions at pubs all over the area and the odd residency (James Morton‘s at the Gallimaufrey always reliably groovy for instance).

But even without the Bristol International jazz and Blues Festival over the weekend of March 5th-8th, you could be forgiven for thinking that there was some sort of co-ordinated festival of international jazz in the area over the next three months. Colston Hall are leading the way in January. First on the 20th Anthony Braxton – NEA Jazz Master, bona fide legend and adventurer in music with his first gig in UK in over a decade and only UK date on a short European tour. The following night, genuine cream of the New York scene Larry Goldings‘ Organ Trio.  If that wasn’t enough, Saturday 24th sees The Impossible Gentleman at Wiltshire Music Centre, a UK/ US Quartet that’s taken the jazz world by storm over the last few years. Later in February, St. George’s, Bristol gets in on the act on 26th February with Tim Garland, UK based and another genuine international name who numbers Chick Corea amongst his collaborators. His quartet includes rising guitar star Ant Law who is at the Hen and Chicken with his own quartet on the 15th February.  The feast continues after the Bristol Festival with Sun Ra Arkestra at the Colston Hall and then Polar Bear in April, Nat Birchall at St. George’s and a duo of Courtney Pine and Zoe Rahman also at St. George’s in April.  Jason Rebello concludes his Artist in Residence spell at Wiltshire Music Centre again in April with a two piano gig with Gwilym Simcock.

Anyone taking in even half of these gigs will have sampled some of the best and wide ranging jazz anywhere. What a feast.

Bristol, Bath and nearby – Preview of an Autumn feast of jazz

There’s a simple message for lovers of live music  in the Bristol/ Bath area this Autumn (be it jazz tinged or the howling, red in tooth and claw variety you seek).  Whether you  habitually attend or catch an occasional, spur of the moment burst, there will something on very close by, whenever you seek it out. It will always be top quality, often world class and not infrequently in very intimate surroundings. Here’s a few places to keep an eye on. The regular club nights have eye -poppingly great programmes. Every Thursday you’ll need to decide how to split yourself. In Bristol, Jazz at Future Inns continues weekly with a  very classy programme of mainly  local players, including that man Dave Newton at least monthly, an on outing for Moonlight Saving Time in November and some interesting visitors. Look out for Dominic Marshall, young piano fiend now resident in Holland. Fringe Jazz is moving round the corner in Clifton to  The Mall and hosting Andy Sheppard in various line-ups at lease three time between October and mid November, with Ian Ballamy in between and rising stars, Dan Messore’s  Indigo Kid in November. In Bath fortnightly on Thursdays, Jazz at the Vaults continues, again with reliably excellent locals and stellar visitors (saxmen Tony Kofi in November and Simon Spillett in December for instance).  Sunday nights in Bath there’s a weekly programme at Gascoyne Place (catch the peerless John Paul Gard at least monthly here) and the Ring 0 Bells in Widcombe (multiple award winning pianist Dave Newton will be there 0n 26th October – intimate surroundings probably overstates the space for the band). More sporadic, Ian Storrer has programmed some mouth watering Sunday gigs at The Hen and Chicken in Bristol starting with the Jim Hart on vibes led Cloudmaker Trio on 28th September with more to follow before Christmas including Tim Richards Heptet and the experimental Lund Quartet. Every Friday The BeBop Club in Bristol continues to showcase the best of the local talent and visiting bands.  The rapturously received Tom Green Septet are back there in November and the critically lauded Laura Jurd Quartet are there in December and don’t miss Dakhla in early November if you can help it.  In Bath, keep an eye on Burdalls Yard, Bath Spa’s performance space. They’ve received a grant from Jazz Services/ PRS to support a jazz programme and have the impressive collection of tutors on the Uni’s jazz programme performing as BiggSound in October and the Philip Clouts Quartet in November.  Gigs at Bath’s Chapel Arts seem to pass under the radar sometime but here’s one not to miss: John Etheridge, bona fide legend who has performed with everyone including Dizyy Gillespie, Pat Metheny and Stefan Grapelli appears solo and in duo with singer Kit Holmes on 26th October.  The more formal concert spaces have plenty on too.  Former Sting and Jeff Beck sideman who started his career touring with the legendary Wayne Shorter, pianist Jason Rebello begins a year long artist in residence stint at The Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradord on Avon by teaming up with Empirical, the now firmly up and come group of still young stars who were last seen in Bath supporting Branford Marsalis in the festival a couple of years ago. That’s on the 27th September.   The Autumn programme at St. George’s Bristol has a handful of fantastic gigs through the Autumn (programmer Phil Johnson waxes lyrical about it here) It kicks off with an intriguing spin off from international wave making Snarky Puppy, The Bill Laurence Project on 3rd October, includes Gilad Atzmon‘s Charlie Parker with strings re-working and Scots Tommy Smith and Brian Kellock in duo and culminates with the adventuorous Swiss Vein Trio with former Miles Davis sideman another genuine legend, saxophonist Dave Liebman.  Taking in even a fraction of what’s on will be a feast for the ears and of course this little round-up as ever by no means covers everything.  It promises to be another fine season.