Fringe Jazz, the weekly gig in Clifton’s Fringe Bar that never seems to rest, is celebrating 5 years this Autumn. They’ve moved out to the pub round the corner and back again in that time and Jon Taylor has put together the usual mouth watering programme to celebrate. I’ve also detected an (admittedly tenuous) New York connection.
On a recent, all to brief, flit through New York, I sought out a CD store in a fairly shabby corner of lower Manhattan. The spray painted shutters and steps down to the the cellar did look a little un-promising. The Downtown Music Gallery does have a reputation however, both stocking a huge selection of the free-er, scronkier end of improvised music and even hosting occasional gigs. Descending, I turned out to be the only customer at that time and got a quick guided tour of the stacks. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when my eyes fell on some very familiar names in the first pile I looked at. Right there in the middle, a Paul Dunmall trio album with Bristol lads Tony Orrell and Jim Barr. Meanwhile, back at the fringe this very week (September 13), Paul Dunmall is in trio with Tony Orrell. It’s the mighty Percy Pursglove on bass this time. Now there’s a New York connection. That’s pretty representative of the quality of the Fringe’s programme (check out the full listings here). There’s a couple more I’ll flag.
On the 11th October, Martin Speake, Hans Koller, Calum Gourlay and Jeff Williams bring their Monk project to the bijou back room. This is a longstanding collaboration formed to play as many of Monk’s collaborations as possible and has been seen regularly at London’s Vortex club. London Jazz interviewed Gourlay about it. Speake is a creative veteran of the UK scene, last seen in Bristol with the legendary Bobo Stenson. Koller also has a formidable CV and Brooklyn-ite Jeff Williams provides another New York connection, dividing his time between there and UK and has a long history and huge reputation both sides of the pond. 15th November sees ECM recording artist Iain Ballamy return, this time with his unique duo with Norwegian button accordionist Stian Cartensen. A Nordic rather than a New York connection, but a rare opportunity to catch this extraordinary collaboration.
Too many words are required to summarise the whole programme, but there are plenty more gems there with the best of our local scene well represented. Let’s keep supporting the Fringe – and here’s to five more years!
There is so much exciting music happening over the next two or three months, that a comprehensive overview of the Bristol/ Bath corner of the jazz planet would be a little overwhelming and occupy too much space. Instead, let’s dwell on a few fantastic programmes that local promoters have put together. First up, here’s why you should really be paying a few visits to the Hen and Chicken in Bristol on Sundays over the next couple of months. Ian Storrer’s series of promotions starts with Kevin Figes Octet on Sunday 13th September. Figes has been releasing a steady stream of original music for various ensembles over the last few years and this Octet, featuring two singers and two drummers as well as the leader’s saxophones spreads his pallette further. The following week, September 20th, a bit of a coup for Bristol, British pianist Barry Green brings a trio he recorded in New York 18 months ago with Americans, saxophonist Chris Cheek and drummer Gerald Cleaver. It’s a short tour also taking in Barcelona and London’s Ronnie Scotts and The Vortex. The Americans’ combined CVs include Paul Motian, Charlie Haden, Craig Taborn, Roscoe Mitchell, Bill Frisell, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel and this is a meeting of musical hearts and minds not to missed. Jumping forward to October 4th, there’s a more conventional line-up for celebrated pianist Kit Downes‘ new trio, but nothing conventional about the music. The new collaboration with Swedish bass player Peter Eldh and drummer James Maddren, is called The Enemy and these are perhaps three of Europe’s finest young (ish) improvising musicans. This will be another exciting ride. Whirlwind Records boss and bass payer Michael Janisch brings a another transatlantic collaboration on the 11th, his formidable sextet Paradigm Shift that includes Jason Yarde and Paul Booth on saxes as well as live electronic wizardry. The range and quality of this sequence of gigs is slightly boggling and it continues through to December. If you go to all those, you’ll have had a hard choice on Sunday 13th as Get the Blessing are launching their new album at the Colston Hall. But that’s just on Sundays. The weekly Fringe Jazz gig at The Mall in Clifton on Wednesdays would be a good focus of your mid-week attention. Jonathan Taylor has worked hard to establish this as a weekly gig and the roster is reliably top drawer and frequently world class. They kick off with local sax man Ben Waghorn‘s quartet on September 23rd, If you don’t see him very much locally, its because he’s in such demand elsewhere. Expect blistering post-bop jazz. Then a guitar theme kicks in (when its not more world beating saxophonists). Andy Sheppard‘s collaboration with guitarist John Paricelli was a highlight amongst many fantastic collaborations and the pair are at the Mall on the 30th. The following week another guitar legend, Jim Mullen appears with an organ trio. Then ECM recording artist Iain Ballamy appears, another unique British sax voice with an international reputation. Fringe Jazz regulars Dave Newton and John Pearce, Celestine and James Morton and Moscow Drug Club all put in an appearance then London based guitarist Maciek Pysz visits with the dazzling rhythm section of Yuri Gloubov and Asaf Sirkis followed by saxophonist Theo Travis’ quartet with the fantastic Mike Outram on guitar. This another wildly varied programme of incredible quality given a final twist on 25th November by the improvising trio of saxophonist Paul Dunmall, John Edwards and Mark Sanders.
These are not the only regular or top quality gigs over the next few months. Of course you should check out Bath’s St. James Wine Vaults (fortnightly on Thursdays) kicking of of with Art Themen on 10th September and drop in on regular Sunday sessions at The Ring o Bells in Widcombe or Gascoyne Place. Bristol’s BeBop Club continues every Friday (watch out for 50th birthday Big Band led by promoter Andy Hague)and there’s Jazz at Future Inns on Thursdays going from strength to strength. The bigger halls, St. Georges and Colston Hall both have eye catching gigs (not least Aaron Parks Trio on October 8th at St. Georges for anyone who wants see one of the hottest tickets in the new generation of American pianists). The strength of the programmes at the Hen and Chicken and The Mall are signs of a very healthy scene and, we hope audiences to match.