The skull, that had been staring into the hall from Dr John’s piano throughout his nearly two hour set, might have remained un-moved as the final crunching chord hung in the air, but the rest of the packed Colston Hall were on their feet roaring their approval. It was a rousing finale to the weekend festival. The Nite Tripper’s (pictured above) evening performance completed a trio of gigs in the main hall on the Sunday, billed as New Orleans Takeover, that had also included a ‘Louis Armstrong Story’ and a sizzling, funky Pee Wee Ellis band with Huey Morgan of the Fun Loving Criminals guesting who had them playing out on a cover of Armstrong’s ‘We Have All The Time in the World’. It could have been Satchmo Sunday.

TD-Alice-Zawadzki-bristol

This was the festival’s third year and the programme lived up to its billing of International Jazz and Blues. Carleen Anderson’s soul and gospel infused vocal pyrotechnics headlined on Saturday whilst a series of gigs showcased some of the most adventurous and exciting emerging talents on the current UK scene including the Paradox Ensemble’s tightly arranged, angular grooves, Alice Zawadzki’s (above) beguiling songs and Slowly Rolling Camera’s many layered, vocal led cinematic sound. Andy Sheppard’s latest ECM quartet (below) wove a magical spell in the middle of Saturday afternoon premiering material from his forthcoming album.

TD-Andy-Sheppard-bristol

Bristol’s festival has its own distinct flavour. Hosted in the Colston Hall, with just workshops and some film screenings leaking into nearby venues, the building was teeming with crowds all weekend, ebbing and flowing from the gigs in the two halls and soaking up a foyer programme of bands mainly from the city’s dynamic scene, that began with a Community Big Band on Friday, ended with Brass Junkies’ blistering latin and rocket fuelled grooves on Sunday and had taken in a great set by emerging stars Moonlight Saving Time, steaming post bop from Andy Hague’s Quintet and, as well as more than a dozen others.


Another appearance by Andy Sheppard, this time with his not-so-secret local organ trio The Pushy Doctors, threatened to hold the crowds from Pee-Wee’s gig with a Satchmo Sunday rendition of Wonderful World’ that morphed into a Coltrane-esqe burn up to wild delight all round. Saturday’s Cartoon Jazz (above) was a family friendly event that filled the main hall with massed Community and School choirs joining a top drawer mini-big band playing Ned Bennet’s specially written arrangements of all manner of ‘tunes from toons’ that managed the trick of surprising and delighting everyone, young and not so young. Three rousingly successful celebrations in Bristol of the many faces of jazz is looking like becoming a habit.

– Mike Collins

– Photos by Tim Dickeson

Saxophonist George Crowley has been paying his dues on the fringes of the London jazz scene since finishing his studies at the Royal Academy at the end of the noughties. The launch of his impressive upcoming second album on Whirlwind titled after his new quintet Can of Worms coming at the end of a mini-tour of the UK though looks like putting him on the map as a composer and bandleader. The line up boasts a gifted and able set of London-based contemporaries including fellow tenorist Tom Challenger, pianist Dan Nicholls, drummer Jon Scott and double bassist Sam Lasserson.

Speaking to the audience between tunes, Crowley is as eloquent and comfortable with a microphone in his hand as he is with his sax, if inheriting an excess of the kind of self-deprecating humour that’s characteristic of the British jazzer, but none of the reserve. He and the LOOP Collective’s Challenger follow in the spirit of recent double tenor horn frontlines that include Polar Bear and Outhouse. But all work to a different aesthetic, the common thread being how the saxes both contrast and complement each other. Crowley’s playing is breathy and lithe, while Challenger is the more gutsy-toned, exploratory one but they have empathy and are as impressive paired up as they are solo.

Chattering free jazz-y horn dialogues and surging Afro-Cuban-edged themes gave way to cooler, wormier high-register unisons, with a gospel tinge at times that recalled something of Mingus. Drums and bass added a bubbling percussive drive to Crowley’s rousing themes, but it was the LOOP Collective/Strobes’ pianist Dan Nicholls’s strong personal concept that provided the unexpected twists, breaking up the party with otherworldly music-box, occasionally John Cage-ish, motifs or a trance-like flow of rhythmic ideas, drawn from a progressive tonal jazz tradition but steering clear of more familiar phraseology. A partisan full house – packed in like sardines into the seating area with little standing room available – was highly appreciative. It was a welcome sight in light of the venue’s recent financial blip, and the thunderous applause and whoops at the end of the second set was thoroughly deserved.

– Selwyn Harris

lansky

What do you get when you fuse jazz with a symphonic choir and theatrical tales from the mob underworld? The unlikely but no less fascinating answer is Lansky: The Mob’s Money Man, a ‘choral-jazz-drama’ (to coin a term) coming to the Southbank Centre in London this 27 April.

The multi-disciplinary piece dramatizes the life and crimes of mafioso man-of-mystery Meyer Lansky (pictured), popularly known as ‘The Mob’s Accountant’, who rose from abject poverty to global gambling kingpin. The staged tale of the Polish immigrant begins in the orthodox Jewish communities of pre-war Europe, moves through Ellis Island and into jazz-era New York and the hedonism of 1950s Havana.

Roland Perrin, the jazz pianist and composer responsible for this innovative work, has utilised a passion for jazz, film noir, Jewish heritage and Afro-Cuban music in this upcoming collaboration. Moreover, an autobiographical lens gives the interpretation potent depth; his own father, another ambitious young Jewish émigré, lived a similar life on the run from authorities, with family in tow. The itinerant globe-trotting behind him and now resident here in the UK, pianist Perrin claims he is ready for an “exploration of my Jewish roots.”

The performers include Perrin’s own Blue Planet Orchestra in collaboration with the David Temple’s acclaimed choir, Crouch End Festival Chorus. Vocalists Rachel Sutton and Allan Corduner also take leading roles in the storytelling.

Catch the world premier of the new commission at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre on 27 April. Touted as “Gershwin for the 21st Century” this promises to be a fascinating and pioneering concert.

For more information and tickets see: www.cefc.org.uk

– Tommie Black-Roff

This month brings a rare chance to see eclectic jazzman Shahin Novrasli live on stage in a tantalising collaboration titled The Pursuit of Now, with English/Bangladeshi dancer Akram Khan, presenting itsworld premiere on 17-18 March at Sadler’s Wells as part of the second Buta Festival. Pianist and singer Novrasli blends blinding technique, faultless jazz sensibilities with a passion for ‘Mugham’, the national music of his native Azerbaijan.

For his upcoming concert in London, Novrasli’s ensemble will be providing the musical tapestry for the improvised choreography. The acclaimed Akram Khan Company, produced by Farooq Chaudry, are themselves a seasoned fusion-artist, having already collaborated with the likes of Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney and Ben Frost.

This season’s exciting association takes place against the backdrop of increasingly ‘localised’ jazz culture in a global age. Young Novrasli, described as “formidably accomplished” by Jazzwise’s Stuart Nicholson back in May 2014, and critically acclaimed for his debut album Bayati, adds another welcome voice to jazz from the Caucasus. Tigran Hamasyan has company. The festival, whose mission is to stage Azerbaijani culture across London, winds down next month with the concert.

– Tommie Black-Roff


For more info go to www.butafestival.com

Grammy-winning groove collective Snarky Puppy (pictured above) have announced a series of UK tour dates for the autumn while their keyboardist/composer Bill Laurance is also set to return to these shores in May with a tour to support the release of his new album, Swift. Following his sold-out run of eight UK dates in 2014, the keyboardist will once again be joined by Snarky bandleader/bassist Michael League and drummer Robert ‘Sput’ Searight plus members of the Dutch Metropole Orkest who will accompany the trio as they perform Laurance’s genre-hopping string-laden blend of dance-fuelled electro jazz-fusion. Their tour kicks off on 23 May at the Union Chapel in Islington. Further tour dates are: Band on the Wall, Manchester (25 May); Hall Two, The Sage, Gateshead (26 May); Nottingham Contemporary (27 May); Colston Hall, Bristol (28 May); St George’s Church, Brighton (29 May).

The full Metropole Orkest also feature on Snarky Puppy’s latest opus Sylva, which was recorded last year in the Netherlands and is released in the UK on 20 April on the Impulse! label. The band also recently recorded the vocal-led Family Dinner Vol.2 in New Orleans, with guests including Salif Keita and Jacob Collier, with that album scheduled for release in September, followed by a run of UK dates. With a large UK fanbase the band concluded their several here visits last year with a spectacular sold-out night at London’s historic Roundhouse venue, performing to over 3,000 fans as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Snarky Puppy dates are: Vicar Street, Dublin (29 September); O2 Academy, Leeds (1 October); Ritz Ballroom, Manchester (2 October); O2 ABC, Glasgow (3 October); The Institute, Birmingham (4 October); O2 Academy, Bristol (5 October); Eventim Apollo Hammersmith, London (6 October) and Concorde 2, Brighton (7 October).

– Mike Flynn


For more info on Bill Laurance dates go to www.serious.org.uk/Bill+Laurance+Project and Snarky Puppy go to www.serious.org.uk//snarky-puppy

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