The Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival has launched a crowdfunder campaign to save the event after a combination of challenging circumstances have threatened its future. In spite of returning for its seventh edition this year, the festival’s move away from the city’s Colston Hall (due to its ongoing refurbishment), receiving minimal funding and lost ticket sales last year due to extreme wintery weather caused by ‘the beast from the east’, have all contributed to its current financial straits. The festival has featured international names such as Dr John, Arturo Sandoval, Maceo Parker and Melody Gardot, alongside local heroes Andy Sheppard, Get The Blessing and Pee Wee Ellis (all pictured above) as well as countless new and emerging bands.

The festival’s artistic director Denny Illet commented on the decision to start the fundraising appeal: “In these challenging and confusing times, I feel we need entertaining now more than ever! With music being stripped away from school curriculums, funding for the arts at an all-time low and festivals, clubs and arts centres struggling to survive, we hope that you will join us in helping reverse this alarming trend by supporting our efforts to bring world class jazz and blues to Bristol, as well as continuing to provide creative opportunities to local musicians.”

The festival aims to raise £30,000 to ensure the future of the event, which has seen almost 3,000 local and international musicians perform, provided masterclasses and school workshops and attracted over 12,000 people annually to its free and ticketed events.

Mike Flynn

To support the festival and find out more about the campaign visit www.fundsurfer.com/bristoljazzandblues and www.bristoljazzandbluesfest.com

The full line-up for this year’s Manchester Jazz Festival has been announced with its new time slot of 23 to 27 May. While there’s fresh-faced talent aplenty, there are some big names in the mix too. These include former Miles Davis right-hand-man and bass hero Marcus Miller (pictured centre) who plays music from his funk-fueled recent album, Laid Black, (Bridgwater Hall, 24 May). Leading UK names include saxophonist Tim Garland (above right) and his chamber-jazz Weather Walker group (St Ann’s Church, 26 May); Julian Siegel Quartet and trio MalijaMark Lockheart, Liam Noble and Jasper Høiby (The Whiskey Jar, 23 and 27 May) and electro-jazzers Roller Trio get busy on a double-bill with Werkha, (The Bread Shed, 26 May).

The festival’s topical ‘Celebrating Europe’ strand spotlights the likes of Italian bandleader/double-bassists Giulia Valle and Federica Michisanti, French electronica vocalist Leïla Martial (above left), Danish band Equilibrium and Turkish/Romanian duo Sanem Kalfa and George Dumitriu with concerts across the weekend. There’s also an explosion of new music from a dizzying array of adventurous home-grown jazz from the likes of the guitar-led Flying Machines; spiky proggers Taupe; boisterous brass groovers Young Pilgrims and cerebral drum’n’bass sounds from Trampette, among many others. Running at venues across the city, the festival will be partnering with the Manchester Food & Drink Festival for the first time, with a wide variety of food stalls around the festival hub at St Ann’s Square.

Mike Flynn

For more info and tickets visit www.manchesterjazz.com

After last year’s swelter, Cheltenham Festival offered a more temperate climate for 2019’s week of jazz – a genre where cool is always welcome. There was a cool new venue too – a Gilles Peterson curated pop-up (pop-down?) nightclub in a department store basement offering a hipster counterpoint to mainstage big names including Gregory Porter, Incognito and Jamie Cullum. Overall it seemed that, along with a wider UK jazz audience, the town was turning out for the occasion. 

Three jazz big guns featured on Saturday to slightly mixed results, with John Surman’s appearance with the Brass Project disappointingly light on the saxophonist’s own playing. John Warren’s hour-long composition ‘Traveller’s Tale’ felt monochromatic, lacking in variety of tone, though Chris Laurence’s bass made a notably lively contribution. Over in the Big Top Abdullah Ibrahim once again proved that, like a skilled homeopath, he dispenses the minimum of his own playing needed to satisfy an audience. Apart from occasional interjections and an occasional linking segue, he left his band Ekaya to carry the gig.

By contrast the opening witty deconstruction of ‘Mack The Knife’ established that Joshua Redman (top) was out to enjoy himself. He powered through a set that ranged from smoking funk-bopper ‘Tailchase’ to the lusher balladry of ‘Never Let Me Go’ before welcoming Soweto Kinch for an unannounced guest spot. The two ripped into some hard-bopping blues, trading solos with proper competitive vigour to the great amusement of impressive bass man Reuben Rogers.

TD Soweto Kinch 10

The festival’s ‘Trios With A Twist’ theme also included Kinch’s own gig opening things at the Parabola Theatre, associate curator Tony Dudley-Evans’ favoured venue for more adventurous music. SUNLIGHT (above) pitched the saxophonist and MC together with astounding Swiss vocal artist Andreas Schaerer and Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima. What ensued was remarkable: a largely improvised stream of musical consciousness loosely woven around Kinch’s rap-style lyrics, musically shifting from free jazz to hip-hop and prog to schmaltz. What unified it was the vocalist’s phenomenal range, incorporating scat, vocal experimentation and beatboxing into a flexible sonic vocabulary that shapeshifted into whatever the music called for.

Hermia Ceccaldi Darrifourcq gave a third impressive ‘twisted trio’ gig with the additional curveball that illness brought dep saxophonist Quentin Biardeau into the band’s strongly original (and highly combative) set. Slamming into the relentlessly physical monotone of ‘Someone Burned The Pie’, drummer Sylvain Darrifourcq and cellist Valentin Ceccaldi created a furious post-industrial onslaught that rarely let up. One number even included an alarm clock, and by the end half the audience were exhilarated, half exasperated… but all were wide awake.

TD Julia Campiche 05

More subtle, yet equally impressive, Swiss harpist Julie Campiche’s (above) UK debut revealed a unique voice both in her electronically processed instrument and the style of her playing. Her quartet steered their way through the lengthy ‘Onkalo/To The Holy Land’ suite with remarkable empathy, managing extended electronic spells and shifting rhythmic forms with seamless precision.

Anticipation for the Rymden (below) concert in the Jazz Arena had been high and not disappointed by the Scandinavian supertrio of EST rhythm section Dan Berglund and Magnus Öström with Norwegian renegade Bugge Wesseltoft. Their music was highly textured, rarely sounding like a conventional piano trio, with effortless shifts of gear and mood that fed moments of coordinated technical brilliance few others could hope to emulate.

TD Rymden 16

But for sheer entertainment Cuban pianist Omar Sosa’s tireless grin and exuberant exploration of Afro-Cuban style with singer/violinist Yilian Cañizares and percussionist Gustavo Palacios was incomparable. Whether pounding rich montuno, sweeping a romantic ballad or even dancing energetically with the vocalist his music lifted the spirits and brought the audience to their feet long before their triumphant finish was drowned in huge applause.

Tony Benjamin

Photos by Tim Dickeson

 JazzArt Katowice

If many contemporary jazz festivals opt for maximum numbers, gigs-wise, then this well curated event in Katowice, an elegant city in the Silesian region of Poland, keeps the figures under control. Over its four-day term, there are no more than five concerts every 24 hours, which means that timetable clashes and the general audience fatigue that can afflict bigger events are not to be feared. JazzArt breathes. The use of venues such as bookshops and museums, as well as concert halls, such as the large scale Miasta Ogrodow, adds to the overall negotiability within the excitement generated by a programme of national and international artists.

The performance that sums this up more than any other is Erik Friedlander’s imaginative project Block Ice & Propane. Known for his work with John Zorn and Fred Hersch, and solo albums such as 1998’s Topaz, Friedlander appears solo in a calm yet stimulating context. He tells the story of his family’s road trips across America during his childhood that were captured by a series of captivating black-and-white portraits by his father Lee, a professional photographer who packed wife and children into a camper van for the epic journeys. The result is a charming, often candid evocation of a memorable ritual that is vividly brought to life by the images, and Friedlander’s jaunty storytelling and articulate composing. His melodies move from languorous whole notes to agitated eighth-note flurries that capture the intimacy and tension of life at close quarters on the freeways.

Though contending with recurrent tuning issues Friedlander gives a good narrative arc to the set that concludes with a reprise of Eric Dolphy’s ‘Serene’. On the previous evening he was heard as part of the Franco-American quartet Reverso, an interesting band that largely fulfils its mission statement of blending jazz and classical music. Trombonist Ryan Keberle and pianist Frank Woeste prove to be good soloists in a programme of understated harmonies and hard rhythmic edges that also highlights Friedlander’s comping skills in the company of a small group that often punches above its weight.

Spanish double-bassist Giulia Valle, a mainstay of the Barcelona scene for over two decades, more or less accomplishes the same with a trio comprising younger players, pianist Tom Amat and drummer Adri Claremunt, who also feature in her septet. A writer who is able to combine a populist touch with artistic finesse, Valle has a firm grip on the music of the Americas in the widest sense, from jazz to tango to calypso, and the danceable themes are enhanced by her own potent improvisations and smart exchanges with Amat, who also creates ghostly effects on a keyboard. Sadly, Claremunt’s drumming is crash-bang-loud on occasion, drowning out the finer points of the arrangements, which, in the exposed setting of a trio, is problematic, to say the least.

Austria’s Zsamm, on the other hand, is more than happy to bring the noise. Maija Osojnik’s active volcano of electronics and vocals and Patrick Wurzwallner’s equally seismic drums are a culture shock for seated punters who are nonetheless mostly responsive. Punkish, brutish and banshee-like in resonance they have a touch of The Creatures about them, though there is much more improvisation in their aesthetic. As for Norwegian singer Marja Mortensson she has a bracing, at times tempestuous energy that is deeply rooted in the Sami tradition of ‘joik’, a kind of praise song to a person, place or animal. The singer’s nasal timbre is striking, especially as it cast against the soft folds of Daniel Herskedal’s tuba and bass trumpet. The music often has a quality of poignant lament that finds favour with an audience for whom the language barrier is no obstacle at all. Without an avalanche of gigs for listeners to contend with maybe concentration levels are that much higher.

Kevin Le Gendre 
– Photo by Radosław Kaźmierczak

Progressive jazz five-piece Bonsai – formerly known as Jam Experiment – are hitting the road for an extensive UK tour in support of the debut album, Bonsai Club, which is released on the Ubuntu Music label on 31 May. Featuring trombonist Rory Ingham, violinist/vocalist Dominic Ingham, keyboardist Toby Comeau, electric bassist Joe Lee and drummer Jonny Mansfield, the band explore a mix of hook-laden melodies, contemporary grooves and improvisation.

See a taster of the band’s album below – tour dates are: Ribble Valley Jazz Festival, Clitheroe (4 May); Stratford Jazz, Stratford-upon-Avon (8 May); Wakefield Jazz, Yorkshire (10 May); North Devon Jazz Club, Appledore (13 May); St. Ives Jazz Club, Cornwall (14 May); Jazzlines, Birmingham (24 May); Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London - ALBUM LAUNCH (28 May); Teignmouth Jazz, Devon (24 July); Soundcellar, Poole (25 July); The Verdict, Brighton (26 July); Fleece Jazz, Colchester (13 Sept); Hermon Chapel Arts Centre, Oswestry (15 Sept); The Whiskey Jar, Manchester (16 Sept); PARRJAZZ, Liverpool (17 Sept); The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh (18 Sept); The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen (19 Sept); The Blue Arrow, Glasgow (20 Sept); Scarborough Jazz Festival, Yorkshire (22 Sept); Seven Jazz, Leeds (6 Oct); The Stables, Milton Keynes (8 Oct) and
Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall, London (31 Oct).

Mike Flynn

For more info visit www.bonsaibanduk.com

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