|Emily Wright and Nick Malcolm of Moonlight Saving Time|
This year’s fourth Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival runs from 18th-20th March. Jon Turney has already written about the headliners (link below). In this second piece he looks at the festival in its other role, as a free-admission, welcome-to-all showcase for the city’s diverse jazz scene:
A city-based jazz festival gives a chance to showcase local talent, and it’s one Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival has made the most of. The fourth edition of the festival offers twenty sets over three days featuring a shifting constellation of musicians from the city, or thereabouts.
The big deal is that these sessions, most a brisk 45 mins, are all in the Colston Hall’s spacious new foyer, and open to all. They allow those new to jazz to sample the impressive range of music on offer in the city, and see musicians who don’t always enjoy big audiences playing to hundreds of people.
It can get pretty crowded as the festival gets into gear – you’ll have to claim a place early this year to have a good spot for international stars Get the Blessing, who retain a big local following. But there are plenty of less well known delights in prospect. GTB’s Pete Judge appears as one half of trumpet and drums anbient-improv duo Eyebrow with Paul Wigens. Their tenor player, Jake McMurchie will also be playing with Sophie Stockham’s fascinating five piece Sefrial, who started out playing John Zorn covers but now have their own new repertoire.
For those looking for a livelier time, Emily Wright is gaining national attention with Moonlight Saving Time, but for the Festival her vocals are featured in The Royals, whose Nat King Cole inspired repertoire caters for the swing dancers who somehow always find space in the foyer to strut their stuff. They’ll probably be there for trumpeter Andy Hague’s Silverado, earlier the same evening, who feature rarely heard Horace Silver tunes lovingly transcribed from the original recordings.
Others to look out for include altoist Kevin Figes’ quartet, more Blue Note-influenced classiness from pianist George Cooper’s Jazz Defenders, and the polished jazz rock of the Duval Project.
So basically, you can find a space, settle in for a day, and let Bristol bring the festival to you. Do remember that occasional excursions to the two main halls to hear the likes of Melody Gardot, Lisa Simone, Pee Wee Ellis, Partisans or Soft Machine, or even a diversion to nearby St George’s to hear Christian McBride, may also be necessary. I wouldn’t want to propose coming to Bristol and not paying for any of the excellent ticketed gigs. But, if you did, you’d still have a pretty rewarding time.