Music / Jazz

Bristol’s week in jazz, February 10 – 16

By tony benjamin, Monday Feb 10, 2020

However you like your jazz sung there’s something for you this week, from smoothly swinging to outer-than-out-there madness. Then there’s some brash-as-you-like prog futurism cropping up here and there. Oh, and there’s some excellent good ol’ jazzy jazz, too.

Since emerging from the original Jazz Warriors in 80s London there has been no doubting the vocal power and accomplishment of Cleveland Watkiss (St George’s, Thursday 13). Over some 30 years he’s taken his talents into a mind-boggling range of contexts from opera to soul, R’n’B and rock while keeping his place at the top of UK jazz vocalists. As a child of Jamaican parents in East London his first musical love was reggae, however, and his latest project recognises The Great Jamaican Songbook from early mento through ska to lover’s rock and roots. His brilliant 7-piece band includes trombonist Dennis Rollins and Orphy Robinson on keys and percussion – like Cleveland, both have also been awarded MBEs for services to music.

Phil King’s soul-jazz vocals and Gary Alesbrook’s trumpet have a long history, punctuated by Phil’s excursions into theatre land. He’s an excellent choice to join the Gary Alesbrook Quintet at The Fringe (Wednesday 12) to showcase Gary’s The Stories We Tell Ourselves album. It’s a set of original jazz numbers with strong elements of the West Coast cool school in the open phrasing and easy tempos. A similar spaciousness runs through the music of Quinn Oulton (Gallimaufry, Tuesday 11), the young saxophonist having re-established himself as a singer/songwriter with a foot firmly in London’s contemporary jazz scene. And you can catch the jazz-edged hip-hop of Komposa in St George’s Listening Room (Saturday 15)

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What’s cool about him is that there’s nothing remotely cool about former Can vocalist Damo Suzuki (Rough Trade, Friday 14), impassioned declaimer of semi-improvised vocals to the accompaniment of hastily assembled local collaborators wherever he pitches up. He’s been an inspiration to countless others and no doubt would figure in the playlist of MXLX (Exchange, Friday 13) the latest incarnation of former BEAK> musician Matt Williams. He’s no mean declaimer himself, weaving through his own electronic onslaughts. One band that has backed Damo Suzuki in the past is Black Midi (Marble Factory, Wednesday 12). Their music is a kind of post-jazz rock, relentlessly full of instrumental flamboyance recalling Can in their heyday.

But if it’s Proggy flamboyance you want then seek out the flailing guitars, bass and drum sound of Polyphia (Trinity, Friday 14) or the dynamite combination of Leeds ‘future prog’ 6-piece Shaku and Bristol’s Milon (Gallimaufry, Sunday 16). Most intriguing might be Waldo’s Gift’s reworking of the music of Fleetwood Mac (Gallimaufry, Wednesday 12).

Any (or all) of those will fulfil your fretwork fantasies for sure.

Despite being a respected contemporary of both Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell in the 50s and 60s few remember the pianist Elmo Hope, who died in 1967 aged 43. The Raible/Gradischnig Quintet (Future Inn, Thursday 13) aim to put that right with a set of tunes by Hope and his collaborator saxophonist Harold Land. It’s vigorous hard bopping music that lends itself to pianist Claus Raible’s fluid right hand technique and the forthright tenor sax of Herwig Gradishnig. More vigorous hard bopping can be expected at The Be-bop Club (Friday 14) from Andy Hague’s Double Standards, one of those all-star combinations that unites Andy’s trumpet with Jim Blomfield on piano – always a rewarding combination. And the LeftBank jam sessions return with guitarist Adam Stokes leading off a Tribute to Thelonious Monk (Tuesday 11).

For an evening of more contemporary electro-acoustic jazz choose between Kinkajous (Jam Jar, Thursday 13), a cool quintet from London, with support from Snazzback offshoot Rwkus, or the AVtrio at the Gallimaufry on the same night.

It’s always good to welcome flamenco jazz guitar virtuoso Eduardo Niebla (St George’s, Saturday 15) back to Bristol – one of those uncategorisable musicians whose show-off technique and musicality balance each other perfectly. Another band who combine a range of European and African styles into their own sound is Sol (Canteen, Wednesday 12), while Ponyland (The Lanes, Saturday 15) blend Balkan two-step and Afrobeat polyrhythms into their danceable fusions. West African grooves underpin the infectious beats of Iguanas (Canteen, Friday 14) while it’s not hard to guess what 9-piece The Balkanoes (Canteen, Saturday 15) might play.


And finally – it’s great to see the re-appearance of The George Mabuza Group (The Bell, Wednesday 12), the collective brought together by World Government guitarist Chris Powell to celebrate the lively, Carnival-inspired Afro-jazz compositions of the late, great saxophonist George.


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