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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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