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.

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CD Review: Bristol European Jazz Ensemble, Live at the Fringe

BEJEBristol’s music scene has been a creative hot house for decades now, albeit a pretty laid back one. In the last couple of years a number of fine musicians have settled here from different parts of Europe adding an additional zest to the gigging and jam session circuit.  Local trumpet stalwart Dave Mowat has taken the opportunity to re-kindle his band-leading and recording career and has assembled a band, playing his own lively and varied compositions.  With Frenchman Julian Alenda on alto, Italian Pasquale Votino on bass, long time Bristol resident Swede Anders Olinder on keyboards and Bristolian Marco Anderson on drums, the ‘Live at the Fringe’ (plus a few studio tracks) CD gives a taste of what to expect from the freshly minted Bristol European Jazz Ensemble.  Amongst the eight Mowat penned compositions, there’s a lively groove round every corner whether its the samba like lilt of Easter Rise, the township inflected Cagoulie or the calypos like All the Best.  In between there are more reflective moments with the rich harmonic textures of ballad The Rainbows Gift and  the modal jazz vibe of Equanimity.  The CD, produced as the band formed and started gigging,  made me want to go and see them live. The energy of the collective, the fluency of the players (if you don’t know them already) are all immediately evident and its hard not to grin at the irrepressible optimism of Dave Mowat’s writing and playing. The recording itself is a bit rough. The first live performance captured here has the inevitable frayed edges of a new venture and the studio tracks were recorded without bass (just the legendary Olinder left hand doing service).  There’s enough here to persuade though and make us hope the ensemble is going to stick around.  There are chances coming up to see them locally at Bristol’s Canteen in September and Bath’s Porter Jazz and Blues Bar in October.