You’d expect five former Tomorrow’s Warriors to have a solid grounding in both classic modern jazz and broader contemporary music styles and the Ezra Collective don’t disappoint on either count. There’s a real energy to their playing, with smart references to Afrobeat, reggae and dance beats woven into a straightforwardly modern jazz sound. After an incendiary late-night appearance at this year’s Valleyfest it’s great to see them heading back this way for the less muddy confines of the Lantern (Wednesday 15) with local soul-jazz purveyors Feelgood Experiment in support.
Jazz guitar aficionados are well served this week by Jimi Hendrix: Slight Return (Trinity, Friday 17), a four-guitar led supergroup convened by Moscow Drug Club’s Denny Ilett for the 2017 Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival The talent-stuffed collective will be playing the entirety of Hendrix’s seminal second album Axis Bold As Love, with support from down-home blues guitarist Will Edmunds’ Trio as part of the Festival’s winter warmer series of gigs. More contemporary jazz guitar grooves are also available from Indigo Kid’s Dan Messore at Canteen (Wednesday 15).
While we often get some of the country’s top saxophone talents visiting the city it’s rare to have four arrive in the same week. The reed-invasion starts on Wednesday (15) when the great Iain Ballamy plays The Fringe in his duo with pianist Gareth Williams celebrating the quiet genius of Bill Evans. That class act is followed by another at St George’s (Thursday 16) in the shape of Scots tenor player Tommy Smith in an acoustic duo with eclectic pianist Brian Kellock, always an entertaining experience. Then Blue Note-inspired tenorist Josh Kemp will arrive at The Bebop (Friday 17) with an exceptional quartet that also includes fabulous trumpeter Steve Fishwick, grooving Hammond player Liam Dunachie and ubiquitous drummer Tristan Maillot. Josh’s recent recording Rare Groove has been compared to Larry Young’s classic Unity album – high praise indeed.
The fourth illustrious brass merchant – Dave O’Higgins (Hen & Chicken, Sunday 19) – was a popular visitor back in the days of The Albert pub jazz sessions and his style has continued to mature over the years. His well-established quartet also comprises Incognito pianist Graham Harvey, uber bass player Geoff Gascoyne and swinging big band drummer Sebastian de Krom and can be relied upon to make a rip-snortingly entertaining evening of upbeat jazz treats.
But what about the less predictable side of things? As ever there’s a feast of free-thinking music to be had, with The Cube’s showcase (Saturday 18) of Berlin’s Monika Werkstatt, an intriguing selection of female musicians and producers from Gudrun Gut’s Monika-Enterprise collective of electronic explorers. Equally intriguing is sound artist Dos Floris (Crofter’s Rights, Tuesday 14) who combines home made instruments, loops and her voice into ethereal and surprising soundscapes.
It’s Friday night (17) when it all goes crazy (in the best possible way) with Café Kino hosting poet Steve Day’s Blazing Flame Quintet alongside guitarist Phil Gibbs’ free jazz trio The Drop Outs while Salt Café braces itself for a triple-header including Foster/Grigg/Pappaioannou (electronics meets baritone sax), Dominic Lash (solo bass) and the potentially hypnotic slow-mo collision of ambience that is SALTINGS vs ThomasStone. Probably the biggest noises might come at the Old England, however, when Iceman Furniss presents another sprawling sequence of bands including ‘post-death’ Swedes Junodef, sample-destroyers Legion of Swine and, of course, the Iceman’s free jazz quintet.
Calmer waters will also be an option, of course, for those fancying a more evolutionary ambient experience on Friday night. Composer David Moore’s chamber ensemble Bing & Ruth realise his highly textural music by surrounding his piano with washes of electro-acoustic sound whose simplicity and insistence recalls Arvo Pärt or Steve Reich.