Music / Jazz

Bristol’s week in jazz, November 18-24 2019

By tony benjamin, Monday Nov 18, 2019

This week there’s a fair amount of quality sax action, as usual, plus a flurry of hippy prog revivals and quite a lot of left field business, too.

To start with those saxes … and it is always great to welcome the mighty Pee Wee Ellis, funk originator and former band leader for both Van Morrison and James Brown.

He comes alongside a former protege when James Morton featuring Pee Wee Ellis arrives at The Exchange (Saturday 23). Flamboyant alto player James brings a bogglingly all-star band, including Massive Attack guitarist Angelo Bruschini, and this one will clearly have grooves running from the get go.

Initial publicity about the visit of vocalist Peter Jones to Future Inn (Thursday 21) promised to bring saxophonist Tony Kofi. Sadly that can’t now happen but – happily – local hero Jake McMurchie is stepping into the breach.

Fresh from celebrating 20 years of Get The Blessing it’s likely Jake will be revealing more of his mainstream influences, notably the great Sonny Rollins.

The Bebop Club features Tommaso Starace & David Newton (Friday 22), a quartet fronted by Italian alto player Tommaso and ever-impressive pianist David.

Now based in the UK, Tomasso has a Europe wide reputation as an assured post-bop player and the set will mix his own compositions with an eclectic pick of classics.

If you don’t already know what prog hippies look or sound like there’s a trio of classics passing through, each with half a century of psychedelic meandering behind them. Probably the most definitive is Anglo-French psych-jazzers Gong, appearing in support of The Steve Hillage Band (O2 Academy, Wednesday 20).

Of course, as alumnus of the original Canterbury Scene and sometime membership of Gong, Mr Hillage’s guitar has equally kept the hippy flame burning and this gig features music from his original 70s albums.

Meanwhile the mighty Hawkwind (Anson Rooms, Tuesday 19) are celebrating 50 years of thrashing out their own brand of space rock, still In Search of Utopia. For a contemporary exploration of the cosmic, however, you could check the electro-ambient Silenzio (The Bell, Monday).

Bass player Al Swainger launched his Chick Corea themed  Biophosmos quartet project last year to great acclaim for its electro-acoustic textures and grasp of the great composer’s Latin influences. Now Al’s taken the idea further as Ant Law & Biophosmos (Fringe Jazz, Wednesday 20), involving one of the country’s most interesting and innovative jazz guitarists in what should be a fascinating collaboration. Some reviews of the original Biophosmos compared the band’s approach to Radiohead and the awesome Bristol Fantasy Orchestra are interpreting that band’s A Moon Shaped Pool album at St George’s (Sunday 24).

The free and fearless programme kicks off this week with improvised songsmiths Fourth Page (Cafe Kino, Wednesday 20), swiftly followed by long-established free jazzers Blazing Flame (Greenbank, Friday 22) with poet Steve Day’s declamatory work woven into the heart of things. Saturday lunchtime has the electronic improvisators Saltings and Sean Addicott appearing in the St George’s Glass Studio space as part of the venue’s very interesting Listening Room series.

And then in the evening The Cube hosts the fifth outing of their audio-visual QWAK club featuring post-punk artist Graham Lambkin (Saturday 23) atop a full programme of eclectic spontaneity.

That’s all a long way from the classic sound of swing, of course, which is what the Jonny Bruce Skellington Trio (Leftbank, Saturday 23) specialise in. The clue, as they say, is in the name, with trumpeter Jonny paying tribute to the many brilliant compositions of the great Duke Ellington among others.

Plenty of swing, too, when virtuoso violinist  John Pearce & friends squeeze into El Rincon (Sunday 24) or breezy vocalist Lucy Moon visits the Fringe for an afternoon concert (Thursday 21). Most intriguing, though, is the advertising for a Swing & Bass Soundsystem appearing at The Attic (Saturday 23). Presumably a step onwards from the somewhat passée Electroswing thing?

And if quality music you can also dance to is your thing then probably the best bets (once you get past the mighty James Morton and Pee Wee Ellis, of course) are the uber funky Mulvey’s Medicine (Mr Wolf’s, Friday 22) and Afrobeat inspired prog-jazzers  Cousin Kula (Crofters Rights, Wednesday 20).

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