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.


Robert Mitchell, Partisans – Jazz Line-up at the Bath Festival, Saturday 29th May, Chapel Arts Centre

My first dip into the Festival waters this year was this double bill of two short sets, recorded for Jazz Line-up to be broadcast next week (Sunday 6th June). First up was a solo piano set by Robert Mitchell. The host, Julian Joseph introduced him (and the Partisans to follow) with a very Radio 3 analysis of Mitchell’s career and style, far more erudite than anything I can muster so I’ll just concentrate on my reactions. Cerebral, abstract, at times meditative are all adjectives that spring to mind of Mitchell’s set. This had the sound almost of 20th century classical piano as much as jazz (no debates here about .what is jazz… just trying to catch what it sounded like) There were bursts of more dynamic improvisation after those elegantly stated themes. Also striking was his technique and the fluency of his left hand culminating in a lovely piece played exclusively with the said hand – if you listen on the radio, you may have to wait for an announcement before you can tell which one it was! The Partisans then were a dramatic contrast – launching into there brand of guitar and sax led groovy, jazz meets rocky, swinging riffs. Julian Siegel on saxes manages the trick of sound thoughtful and melody driven whilst blazing away over the top a ferocious groove laid down by Thad Kelly on bass and the hyperactive, constantly surprising Gene Calderazo on drums. These two spent a fair proportion of the set grinning delightedly at each other. They do sensitive as well with the most delicate of tunes etched out by guitar and tenor (playing notes I didn’t know a tenor could do with that amount of control) on the tune Mirrors. We just knew that they would rock out to finish though, and we weren’t disappointed.  So thanks, Radio 3 for another visit and free gig – packed out, the late hour notwithstanding. Chapel Arts was looking and sounding great as well – I’ll say no more on that topic. Next up Kenny Wheeler/ John Taylor supported by Julain Loreau although there was a rumour last night that Kenny is ill. Time to find out

Chapel Arts – what’s going on?.. puzzled of Bath

Chapel Arts, the latest incarnation of a great little performance space in the middle of Bath has been going a year or so now and we’ve seen some cracking gigs there in that time. Recently, they’ve had some really quite big names (Empirical, Courtney Pine and last Friday Jacqui Dankworth) and I see Annie Whitehead, Claire Martin and Stacey Kent are all lined up between now and September; listings on their web site. What’s puzzling me is these gigs are eye wateringly expensive (all between £22 and £30 – you can get into Ronnie Scott’s for less) and there is so little promotion of them that its almost as if they are being held in secret. Puzzling – and a shame. Great little venue and I for one would like to be supporting jazz of this quality just round the corner. Ho hum.

Talks with a punter – Jonthan Gee Trio, November 21st, Chapel Arts Centre: Bath

Jonathan Gee played to small but enthusiastic crowd at Chapel Arts Centre last night. Sadly I was not there to boost sorely needed numbers (how long can they continue to put on gigs of this quality to tiny audiences? It’ll not be just Bath’s loss if it goes). I was attempting to entertain a somewhat larger but considerably less attentive audience nearby. Happily, I was able to discuss the gig with a pair of ears that were present so here’s what I’ve gleaned.

Sometimes words fail. We just hear music. The experience isn’t filtered through language and description. So the very first notes of the trio last night evoked a simple sigh of recognition for my spy. “Ah… that’s what it should sound like”. There were a few more ‘Ah…’ moments as lyrical, unaccompanied, piano intros morphed into a melody with the bass joining at the perfect moment. Joseph Laporte on bass appeared like Gee’s ‘third ear’, hearing what he was hearing and responding as if they were one. Many tunes built from these beginnings into driving post bop swing, surfing on the urgency of Nasheet Waits drumming. This was the pattern repeated perhaps once too often for the taste of my informant, but there were plenty of other moments. The first set closed with a beautiful Hermeto Pascoal ballad Santa Caterina and the second set contained a somewhat unexpected vocal number from Gee and a couple of roaring drum solos from Waits. This was an evening of world class piano trio music with the ceaseless flow of lyrical ideas fron Jonathan Gee at the piano to the fore.

Thanks then to R for the report. This is a first for me – remote reviews! I’d be happy to relay, post or link to comment and reviews if anyone else would like to chip in who comes across this little blog.

Rollins Week Part 1; Chapel Arts Centre, 12th November


What do you do on rainy Thursday evening in Bath if you are local resident Clare Teal say, or Pee Wee Ellis of nearby Frome? Why you chip along to Chapel Arts Centre in Bath to see Denis Rollins with his new organ trio – Velocity Trio. I’m glad they did,  bringing their singing voice and sax respectively; when they joined the trio later in the evening it tied a very large bow on the evening. Not that Denis and his two pals (Pedro Segundo on drums and Ross Stanley at the organ) were in need of assistance. It was already a special evening before the guests joined in. The trio seemed to be on fire from the outset. They P1010376launched into a Rollins original, Hot to Trot, with no ceremony. This is organ trio music. Infectious grooves, the beat more coiled spring than merely propulsive, fiery soloing and the fun they were having very evident; there was nothing accidental about this – every chart that Ross Stanley produced seemed to need two music stands to accommodate it and about seven pages! There were plenty of great moments, Stanley’s soloing offered several; Segundo’s drum solo link between two tunes was another,  running the range from whisper to shout and from abstract shimmers to impossibly groovy, percussion like tatoos on the rims of drums and cymbals. The judicious use of some electronics by Rollins added such depth to the sound that i wondered a few times why he  would ever need more than three in the band. The material was varied. The funky samba like Hot to Trot was followed by slightly more classic organ trio grooves but veered of into  out and out swing as well as dipping into the funk pile.

Clare Teal and Pee Wee joined for a rendition of Georgia. We just sat back and revelled in the moment. Everyone on stage was having such a good time it woudl have been churlish not join in.

We are excitedly anticipating Rollins Week part 2 with Sonny at the Barbican on saturday. John Fordham has done an interview with the great man. A little voice is telling me however that this evening’s unheralded moments will retain a warm glow as intense as anything we might experience at the weeked.

Marcin Wasilewsky Trio, Chapel Arts Bath, 20th March

p1010114This Polish trio are making a few waves on the European jazz pond these days. Slipping into this gig on Friday just as the band started, my ears were caressed by a few stroked left hand chords and melodic fragments from the pianists right hand that were echoed and complemented by bass/ drums skittering and rumbling. The meditative atmosphere developed and mutated into a groovy vamp with a theme traced out over it. After some fine improvising the theme reappeared and the band settled on a funky bluesy figure that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Keith Jarett gig. This is a really fine band, the glue of which seems to be a really strong empathy making the transitions seamless and a really distinctive sound which seems to distill all sorts of elements from European jazz, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock executed with a beautiful touch and feel. If you like that music, every phrase will seem familiar and just the right thing for that moment. Its not revolutionary but its top draw contemporary European jazz

The noodle – theme & groove – vamp sequence was repeated again to complete the first set. The second set was more varied with a Stanko piece, an arrangement of the theme from Cinema Paradiso and fininshing with a swinger (the first swung quavers of the evening) – a  Carla Bley piece on which the band really burned perhaps just to show us they could in case we doubted it.