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Preview: Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival (March 1st -3rd)

Preview: Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival
(Friday 1st March – Sunday 3rd of March 2013. Preview by Jon Turney)

Bristol’s inaugural International Jazz and Blues Festival made its ambitions clearer when it unveiled its full programme last night (Nov 26). The new festival will have plenty of good time music to appeal beyond the contemporary jazz cognoscenti. And it will be a broad showcase for the lively Bristol and South West jazz scene.

The three nights and two days festival (March 1-3) will make it easy for visitors by running in a single venue, Colston Hall, making use of its splendidly appointed new foyer spaces as well as the two main concert rooms. The launch party underlined its populist appeal with a short set from charismatic singer Lillian Boutté alongside local resident and sax legend Pee Wee Ellis. They have separate gigs in the main hall during the festival, along with already announced headliners Richard Galliano and Birelli Lagrene in duo, John Scofield’s Organic Trio and a rare UK appearance by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.

Bristol’s best known player, Andy Sheppard, will appear with Trio Libero, and artistic director Denny Ilett’s broad church also embraces Alyn Shipton’s Buck Clayton Legacy Band, a performance of Ellington’s Sacred music with Yolanda Quartey, a South West big band and the City of Bristol Choir expanded to 180 singers, and the Bateman Brothers Jazz Band’s tribute to Louis Armstrong. Friday night also sees an appearance by The Big Chris Barber Band, led by the trombonist and British blues pioneer who first appeared in Bristol in 1953. And you thought Sonny Rollins had been on the road a long time…

Colston Hall’s foyer will see free music all day, with a stream of Bristol players, including bands led by trumpeters Andy Hague and rising star Nick Malcolm, saxophonists Kevin Figes and James Morton, guitarists Jerry Crozier-Cole and Ilett himself. “We want to highlight what a healthy jazz scene this city has”, he said. Bristol’s newly-elected independent Mayor, George Ferguson, is a jazz enthusiast, and genuinely pleased the festival is coming early in his term. “I want to make Bristol the New Orleans of the UK!”, he declared. Well, one of this city’s nicest squares, ringed with former merchants’ houses, was built on a swamp, so we’re almost there already.

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4 replies »

  1. Well, not strictly a 'South West' big ban. It's the Big Buzzard Big Band, featuring some great players from the South West (eg Andy Hague, Ben Waghorn) but also Zoe Rahman on piano, Jules Jackson on Bass, Charlie Stratford on Drums, Ned Bennett and Mick Foster in the sax section, plus London Tap Jam founder, dancer Junior Laniyan and Bristol's Yolanda Quartey as vocal soloist. We'll be doing Duke Ellington's Sacred Concert as a family-friendly afternoon performance on Sat 2 March.

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  2. Another report has suggested that formal proceedings are under way to have Bristol twinned with New Orleans. We connected the relevant departmnt in Bristol Council who informed us:

    So far we have heard very little about this initiative which we assumed had gone quiet after the departure of the Place Maker whose idea it was [….] I note the new elected Mayor did not endorse the idea of a formal twinning at the concert.

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  3. Council rep is grossly misinformed. The 'place makers' are myself and festival director Colin Gorrie. Neither of us work for the council.
    The idea of twinning is being pursued although not yet at the 'formal' stage. New mayor, George Ferguson is VERY enthusiastic as you have quoted. Will keep you posted… Cheers, Denny Ilett, artistic director, Bristol jazz and blues festival.

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  4. Denny: some confusion here, I think. The Council did have a Place Making Director until recently. He was Mike Bennett, who previously did many enterprising things in the city (see http://venue.co.uk/features/10610-ideas-man) and had a 2 year contract. As that feature explains, there was a little scepticism about his role, and it seems to have ceased.
    Making Bristol a jazz place, though? Good idea! Jon Turney

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