Round-up Review: Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival

Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival 2013
Photo credit: Ruth Butler

Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival
Colston Hall Bristol March 1st-3rd 2013. Round-up review by Mike Collins)

When the dreamers dreamed the plan for Bristol Colston Hall’s new foyer, completed nearly four years ago now, with its dramatic four storey high glass walls and wide staircase circling round the soaring space above the foyer, maybe they were picturing scenes like those from this last weekend. When the dreamers dreamed of a Jazz and Blues festival for Bristol, filling that space with people, the foyer with music, the adjacent halls with enthusiastic, cheering audiences, surely they were picturing scenes like those from this last weekend.

Delight. In the faces of the organisers – it worked! In the faces of groups of all ages, young people; more grizzled jazz aficionados (‘I saw, Ellington, Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan here, Chris Barber in ’53’); families, many spending chunks of the day soaking up the atmosphere and the varied in style but not quality programme on the free, foyer stage. Delight in the faces of musicians – perhaps rarely in Bristol, have so many been gathered in one place playing, listening and just hanging.

Afternoon at the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival
Photo credit: Ruth Butler

The crowds ebbed and flowed as they were sucked into one of the two Halls for the gigs in an eclectic programme, and then flowed out to digest, discuss and recharge for more. Moving through the throng, a festival highlights began to emerge. Chris Barber was a hit early on the first night and not just with his loyal followers. The Duke Ellington Sacred Concert on Saturday afternoon, a huge undertaking merging choirs, and an impressive big band had everyone talking. Special moments a – plenty were nominated. Trumpeter Jonny Bruce’s blistering solo in that sacred concert, Pee Wee Elllis’ solo guesting with Lillian Boutte on Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? had the band in tears never mind the audience.

Pee wee Ellis with Clare Teal
Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival 2013
Photo credit: Ruth Butler

And the constant background of the free stage supplied plenty more moments for nomination, drawn principally from Bristol’s dynamic local scene ranging from more New Orleans stomp from Brass Junkies; all manner of gypsy, cabaret, crossovers through rocket fuelled funk peaking with James Morton’s Porkchop, via the sublime David Newton’s solo set; a fantastic contemporary vocal led set from Moonlight Saving Time – their reworking of Goodbye Porkpie Hat was one of my highlights and too many more to mention or see.

James Morton’s PorkChop. L to R: Denny Ilett, James Morton, Ian Matthews,
 Dan Moore.Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival 2013
Photo Credit: Ruth Butler

Each evening as dazzled and dazed punters emerged from Ginger Baker on Friday, John Scofield’s bravura performance on Saturday and Arturo Sandoval on Sunday they were greeted by the jam session revving up in the bar, invariably with Pee Wee Ellis and Lillian Boutte taking their duties as festival patrons seriously. A magic moment was Boutte determinedly educating the band, watching crowds round the bar, random passers by in both the musical and performative aspects of New Orleans second line with irrepressible, infectious enthusiasm. Impossible not to join in.

This weekend was a triumph. There is surely a virtuous cycle between the delight, joy and pleasure in the music, the company, the atmosphere and the motivation and adventurousness of the performers. For 72 hours this weekend the elusive chemistry worked its magic and set the scene for a second Bristol festival in 2014.

Colston Hall after hours
Photo Credit: Ruth Butler

Categories: miscellaneous

1 reply »

  1. We attended the Bristol Jazz Festival last weekend and it was the most amazing time! I suppose I am rather biased in that my son, Jonny Bruce (Trumpeter – the one who played the incredible solo in the Ellington Sacred Suites on Saturday), was one of the performers. He also played with Brass Junkies and Zen Hussies (Fri). Altogether it was one amazing occasion and one which we will most certainly attend next year – not just to hear my son but to catch the brilliant music loving atmosphere that there was. Everyone there with the same idea – to appreciate music and the good atmosphere that goes with it!

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