This week you can catch one of Bristol’s finest contemporary jazz acts as well as sampling a whole host of different ways with a jazz piano, walking way out on the wild side of free music or getting into the swing of things.
Sometimes a band is launched with a clear idea that then evolves into an even better one. Acoustic Ladyland, for instance, gained electronics and gave up on dis-arrangements of Hendrix to pioneer a whole new direction for UK jazz. When saxophonist Sophie Stockham pulled Sefrial (Gallimaufry. Thursday 23) together she was aiming at the US post-rock sounds of John Zorn and others, but once the band began writing their own material a very individual sound soon emerged. Blending jazz and rock with underlying flavours of Americana the all-star six-piece band manages to retain an uncluttered spaciousness even at their most improvisatory moments.
His recent appearances with Iain Ballamy at the Bath Jazz Weekend were a welcome reminder of pianist Huw Warren’s eclectic skills so the return of the Huw Warren/Mark Lockheart Quartet to Fringe Jazz (Wednesday 22) should be a cracker. As well as drummer Zoot Warren (yes, son of …) the new line-up includes great Russian bass player Yuri Goloubev, a fine foil for Polar Bear sax man Mark’s lyrical tenor. It’s unfortunate for piano jazz buffs that Huw’s arrival coincides with John Pearce & David Newton (New MoOn On The Quay), David being another excellent and versatile ivory tinkler, and the AV Trio at the Gallimaufry. The latter, which features post-cool pianist Alex Vetch with two thirds of Waldo’s Gift, can also be caught at Greenbank (Thursday 23).
With an excellent frontline of Canadian tenor player Terry Quinney and our very own Andy Hague’s trumpet, pianist Ray D’Inverno’s Quintessential Groove (Be-Bop Club, Friday 24) is a classy evocation of classic straight ahead modern jazz, with Ray’s strong presence on piano and as composer shaping the band’s assertive voice. Los Clandestinos (Jazz at Future Inn, Thursday 23) are another piano centric combo, most usually seen as the duo of pianist John Baggott and trumpeter Pete Judge. For this gig, however, they will be joined by ace drummer Dylan Howe, whose rock associations (Wilko Johnson, The Blockheads) might seem a possibly incongruous choice for Los Clandestinos’ leisurely explorations of classic jazz tunes. However when you think of John’s CV (Robert Plant, Portishead, Massive Attack) and Pete’s sometime stints with Super Furry Animals it’s clear that there’s a whole lotta jazz underneath many rock careers.
It’s a good week for the wilder side of things, too, starting with the return of Free Jazz to The Greenbank (Tuesday 21), featuring the highly reputable improve talents of Matthew Grigg, Mark Langford and Dominic Lash on guitar, sax and bass respectively. In the same vein the Eternal Now Quartet (Old England, Friday 24) are joined by local legend Tony Wrafter (Glaxo Babies, Maximum Joy) for a free jazz workout. Then there’s Dark Alchemy (St John on the Wall), Friday 24), a 4-act bill of electronic experimentalists headlined by A-Sun Amissa and Cardboard Club (Cafe Kino, Saturday 25) which includes an unplugged performance from self-styled ‘Tupperwave’ artist and Cardboard Prince RRS (aka Robert Ridley-Shackleton).
Good to see the Attic continuing to showcase powerful instrumental music with King Brasstards (Friday 24) particularly swinging take on the upbeat Nu Orleans brass sound, with support from King Dukes. There’s a more classic swing sound (as well as old school jazz) about The Old Malthouse Jazz Band (Leftbank, Saturday 25) and an outright swingfest at the Tobacco Factory with their monthly all-swinging, all dancing Sunday Swing Factory . Versatile trumpeter Rowan Porteous pops down from London to lead off the Stag and Hounds weekly jazz session (Sunday 26) with some great standard tunes and, no doubt, that’s a similar direction for Ruth Hammond to direct her superb keyboard skills in an afternoon concert at The Fringe (Thursday 23). She’ll also be singing and cunningly deploying loop station technology to allow her to also showcase her great way with tenor sax.
And, finally, there’s an excellent chance to spot future megastars of the UK jazz scene when the mighty NYJO come to town (1532 Performing Arts Centre, Tuesday 21). The National Youth Jazz orchestra is a long-established launch pad for jazz careers, with Guy Barker, Laura Jurd and even Amy Winehouse among its alumni. Their high professional standards, great musicality and discipline always make for impressive listening and they are a great encouragement for any younger player looking to take jazz seriously.