Well … The Comet is Coming once again (pictured above), this time to the Fleece (Thursday 18) and, no doubt, to a packed and lively crowd. The mighty Shabaka Hutchins’ 21st century take on the rolling groovy space jazz of Sun Ra has already stolen the hearts of the skronk generation. Rightly so, thanks to the man’s faultless judgement and impeccable talents, evidenced by the choice of Brighton duo Soccer 96 as creative collaborators. Dance music, Jim, but not etc etc.
Thursdays being Thursdays, of course, it means a crunchy choice between that gig and a couple of other tasty morsels, the first being suavely stylish young trumpeter Henry Spencer who brings a bright quintet to Future Inn including the ever-earcatching guitarist Ant Law and a hot rhythm section. Henry writes atmospheric and melodic contemporary music and his own solo playing is mature and distinctive. The trio of bands on offer at Crofters Rights that night are also distinctive but might not wish to be considered mature, being all of a somewhat thrashing electric post-rock nature. There’s The Brackish, an excellent four-piece with twin guitars and a load of left field experience (including guitarist Neil Smith), and the similarly structured quartet Olanza whose 2014 debut album set them well up in the Bristol premier league, but maybe the choicest treat is the return of Chairfight (pictured above), the anarchic and artful instrumental trio that span-off from the much-loved Bizali nearly a decade ago.
Over in Bath the annual festival kicks off on Friday (19) with the Party In The City but whilst once-upon-a-time that would have heralded an impressive jazz-themed weekend there’s much less of a jazz element in the programme these days. Saturday’s mega-gig of pianist Brad Mehldau was sold out months ago, but there is a bit of a treat in remarkable violinist and singer Alice Zawadzki (above, Old Theatre Royal, Sunday 21) and, of course, the Party’s many and varied free gigs all around the city.
More jazz vocal and violin delights are at St George’s on Friday (19) night with former Young Disciple Carleen Anderson (above) showcasing a sample of her multi-media Cage Street Memorial project, a soul and gospel tribute to her Pentecostal roots in the southern USA and her subsequent personal and musical journey across the Atlantic. Her backing band includes vibes-master Orphy Robinson and Egyptian violinist Sammy Bishai and should be one of those occasions that suits the Hall’s ‘churchy’ atmosphere perfectly.
Similarly, there’ll be a fine fit at the Fringe on Wednesday (17) when the mighty Partisans (above) make another very welcome return. As pioneers of post-rock jazz for over two decades the hefty sound and energetic performance of this quartet were the inspiration for Acoustic Ladyland and others. The chance to see such mastery up close in the Fringe’s intimate back room is a remarkable tribute to the credibility of this weekly session. But if you can’t squeeze in there it would be worth dashing down to Stokes Croft to catch another high-powered foursome, namely Smith, Crofton, Moore, Brown. And yes, it is that Neil Smith again!
Guitarist Matt Hopkins made a big impression up at The Fringe a couple of months ago with a superb Pat Metheny tribute gig so there should be a lot of interest in his ambiguously named Matt Hopkins Hammond Trio (Bebop Club, Friday 19). Yes, there’s that distinctive organ sound involved but the ambiguity comes from the other two players being Ruth and Scott Hammond on keyboards and drums respectively. And, finally, there’s a mid-month bonus for the Fringe’s free jazz posse on Monday (15) with the Vostok Five’s rumbustious quintet of space cowboys.