Music / blues

The week in Jazz March 13 – 19

By tony benjamin, Monday Mar 13, 2017

And it’s here – the annual behemoth that is the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival (Thur 16-Sun 19) arrives for its fourth outing, with 50 gigs at the Colston Hall, a workshop programme at Folk House, and a headliner for Quantic with Alice Russell at O2 Academy (Fri 17). As before the weekend features a substantial swing band component with the popular swing dance evening The Big Swing (Friday 17) and a big band tribute to Dizzy Gillespie from former sideman Bobby Shew (above, Sunday 19). Bebop fans will also want to catch the unlikely (but highly successful) pairing of saxophonists Gilad Atzmon and Alan Barnes (Saturday 18).

There’s some tasty contemporary highlights, too – notably new projects from Phronesis’ uber-bass player Jasper Høiby (above, Sunday 19) and dazzling young trumpeter Laura Jurd (Saturday 18) and the festival opener is a live soundtrack to silent film classic Metropolis (Thursday 16) specially written by Andy Sheppard for a band including the astounding guitarist Eivind Aarset. And throughout the weekend there’s a fabulous free programme of foyer gigs featuring the top local jazz and blues talent, including Jim Blomfield, James Morton, Ruth Royall and Hucklebuck, with each night concluding with a lively jam session over the road at Bambalan.

But Bristol is Bristol and the beat goes on, with Thursday (16) night’s agenda particularly busy. St George’s welcomes the extremely hip and soothing spiritual jazz of the Matthew Halsall Gondwana Orchestra (above). The band’s modal sound draws it’s inspiration from jazz harpist Alice Coltrane and the gig has a support set from up and coming minimalist no-bass trio Mammal Hands. Over at Canteen you could catch trombonist Justin Thurgur, for many years part of the giant folk outfit Bellowhead, withhis own Afrobeat fusion band showcasing his powerful jazz grooves. Meanwhile, over at Future Inn, reflective jazz pianist Andrew Christie’s filmic compositions feature the evocative cello of Sarah Moody.

Fans of the free end of jazz will be glad to see the Fringe welcome back Dunmall/Edwards/Sanders (Wednesday 15), a trio of well-seasoned improvisers well able to conjure great music out of spontaneity. It’s a jazzy weekend at Canteen, too, with global groovers Nomad Collective (above) providing the Saturday night entertainment and cosmic electro-acoustic duo Eyebrow laying down the Sunday afternoon vibe. Later that day there’s hard-nosed guitar-led jazz-rock fusion at The Old Fishmarket from the  Mark Lawrence Trio. Oh, and you could catch those wandering Nomads at No 1 Harbourside on Friday evening, too.

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