As we kick off the 20s there’s the welcome return of a great saxophonist, a weekend festival of freeness and several of our hipper local combos to be sampled.
Following a roof-rattling set at the Bath Jazz Weekend, Tony Orrell’s Big Top heads back to The Fringe (Wednesday 8). The mighty quintet features two great drummers (Tony O and Matt Brown) yet is rarely bombastic, leaving plenty of space for Jake McMurchie’s tenor sax and Dan Moore’s piano with Riaan Vosloo’s bass the engine of continuity. It’s a context that allows Jake’s lyrical side to take centre stage, and another richly toned tenor player opens the Be-Bop Club’s spring season.
Martin Genge (Be-Bop Club, Friday 10) had been a prominent player on the Bristol scene until the turn of the century, but has only made rare trips back since. His quartet also includes bass player Clive Morton – another name happily familiar to veterans of the local jazz world.
It’s always good to have a new festival in Bristol, especially one representing the city’s lively free music subculture. Tongue Theory is a cavalcade of established practitioners of ‘avant-gardery’ taking place at Cafe Kino (Saturday 11) and The Exchange (Sunday 12). Highlights will include ‘improvised drum machine/ effects pedal throw-down’ duo Harpoon and a punk jazz double bass performance from Joseph Kelly as well as multiple permutations of well-known free thinking musicians like seasoned bass-wrestler Dominic Lash.
Snazzback are handing over their Gallimaufry session to Ethio-funksters Tezeta (Thursday 9). Another twin drum outfit, this one led by keyboard player Dan Inzani also features Andrew Neil Hayes on sax and Harriet Riley’s vibraphone in a cool evocation of that slinky funk-jazz from the Horn of Africa. Ms Riley’s fellow member of the Phantom Ensemble Simiah also crops up at the Gallimaufry (Sunday 12) in a solo performance of beat-driven electronica, while compelling math-jazz improvisers Waldo’s Gift have their usual Wednesday slot at the same venue.
Fast-rising contemporary electro-groove jazz trio Hippo appear at Old Market Assembly (Saturday 11) where their blend of electronic dance energy and ambient jazz improvisation should go down a storm.
It’s a busy week for Swiss-born (but now Bristol-based) saxophonist Martin Kern, with his Martin Kern Quartet coming to Canteen (Wednesday 8) and he himself leading off at the Stag and Hounds’ Sunday session (Sunday 12). He’s been building a name for himself around the town thanks to a mature post-bop style and energy in his playing. Even more matured is the pre-war jazz and swing sound of Old Malthouse Jazz Band (Golden Lion, Friday 10).
There’s a pick of brass-blasters on Friday night, too. Canteen is offering the acoustic rock-jazz sound of Birmingham’s Young Pilgrims while No. 1 Harbourside will host Bath’s Horning Glory on the same night. Both outfits boast a sousaphone bass underpinning a brass and percussion ensemble – you pays your money (into the collection bucket, please!) and you takes your choice.
And, finally, there’s an intriguing debut at Canteen on Tuesday (7). Kait Lee & Eddie Jay are both great musicians – she sings, he plays accordion – whose backgrounds encompass jazz, swing and folk music. This new acoustic duo will probably have elements of all of that, adding up to an interesting and distinctive new sound.