Preview: Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival

1 03 2013

The inaugural Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival comes to the Colston Hall this weekend for what promises to be three days of superb live music. The lineup includes musicians from across the world with more than 24 individual concerts as well as free late night jam sessions and ‘In Session With.’ events featuring some of the artists.

The main hall will see performances by acts including Cuban Arturo Sandoval and his sextet, John Scofield with his new project the Organic Trio featuring Larry Goldings and Greg Hutchinson, Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion, Chris Barber, New Orleans official musical ambassador Lillian Boutté, funk maestro Pee Wee Ellis, and Bristol’s very own Andy Sheppard, Get The Blessing, Moscow Drug Club and the Zen Hussies.

The free Foyer Stage will have music running over all three days from South West jazz talent, while Colston Hall 2 will host shows as well as being the venue for a series of workshops from festival musicians.

In the upstairs bar, late night jam sessions will kick off after the Hall 1 performance on each evening, and a house band will give an unrivalled opportunity to any musicians wanting an after-hours jam with a world-class rhythm section.

One undoubted festival highlight takes place at 2.15pm on Saturday. The Duke Ellington Sacred Concert will feature Massive Attack and Phantom Limb vocalist Yolanda Quartey, the Big Buzzard Band, the City of Bristol Choir and tap dancer Junior Laniyan.

To whet your appetite for the weekend, here is a photograph of Duke Ellington and his Orchestra playing on the Colston Hall stage in 1969:

Duke Ellington and his orchestra at the Colston Hall in 1969

My Bristol favourites: Denny Ilett

24 02 2013

Denny Ilett is the artistic director for the Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival, which comes to the Colston Hall from March 1 to 3 for its debut festival. Bristol will play host to some of the world’s most exciting and innovative jazz musicians, with 24 individual concerts as well as free late night jam sessions and ‘In Session With..’ events featuring some of the artists.

Here are Denny’s top-five Bristol favourites:

The Windmill
“This is my local pub and one of the reasons I decided to finally move to Bristol five years ago. I had been to look at a house nearby and went in there after the viewing to have a pint and a think about it. As soon as I saw they serve German weissbier on draft, I knew it was the place for me!”

Victoria Park
“After I’d moved in, I discovered Victoria Park and then I REALLY knew Bristol was the place for me. For me, this park is one of the most pleasant open spaces in the whole city and I regularly wander about there.”

The Coronation Tap
“Being a jazz musician, I spent my first months here in Bristol looking at what venues were around hosting the music I was into. Jan and Mick made me feel very welcome when I first went to the Cori Tap and I love going there and playing there too.”

Plastic Wax and all the second hand record shops
“I love shopping for, and buying, old vinyl albums. I can, and do, spend hours looking through all the lovely record shops in town like Plastic Wax and Wanted. For new stuff, I like Rise.”

The size and layout of Bristol
“Bristol is so easy to get around. I can walk from Windmill Hill to Clifton in less than an hour and most of that walk is very scenic and lovely. I can drive to gigs and be there in 10 minutes. You’re never far away from your mates. I like the hills all over the city.”

Marlborough Hill

This week in Bristol, February 11-17

11 02 2013

Monday: Penguins – Spy in the Huddle, BBC One (below)
The ingenuity of the BBC Natural History Unit on Whiteladies Road is at its best, as 50 spy cameras capture unique footage from the Antarctic.

Tuesday-Saturday: Look Back in Anger, Alma Tavern Theatre
From Full Theatre Company comes “one angry man’s contempt of life and society from a cramped… bedsit. Showing the fraught relationships between lovers and friends.”

Tuesday-Saturday: The Tiger and the Moustache, Brewery Theatre
Saikat Ahamed, most recently seen as Tinkerbell in Peter Pan at the Old Vic, presents a show blending storytelling, music and humour about the emerging nation of Bangladesh.

Wednesday: Crime, Evil, Wickedness and Justice; Foyles
Richard Lloyd Parry, Times foreign correspondent and author of a book about the murder of Lucie Blackman, joins novelist Tobias Jones and philosopher Julian Baggini.

Thursday: Darwin Deez, Thekla
A Valentine’s Day treat from the New York singer, whose live sets features synchronised dancing and in Bad Day has written one of the best break-up songs of all time.

Thursday-Sunday: In Between Time Festival
An extraordinary four days performance, including such events as a fake moon rising each night on College Green, roller skating acrobatics and art in shipping containers.

Thursday-March 30, Richard III, Tobacco Factory
With impeccable timing only a week after the discovery of Richard III’s bones in Leicester comes Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, with one of its largest ever casts.

Friday: Hollywood Blockbusters, Colston Hall
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra present music from Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, Schindler’s List, Star Trek, Avatar and much more.

Saturday: Run Harbourside
The launch of a new one-mile sports trail – England’s only free measured city centre sports trail – which features the colourful footprints of Bristol Olympic runner Nick Rose.

Sunday: Indonesian and Malaysian supper club, Milk Thistle
Genevieve Taylor and Jo Ingleby host their latest supper club, cooking up the cuisine of South East Asia which Genevieve describes as “fiery, sweet and incredibly diverse”.

Penguins - Spy in the Huddle

Review: Adhesive Live, Colston Hall

3 02 2013

Roni Size performing his seminal work Brown Paper Bag from the Mercury Prize-winning album New Forms live on stage at the Colston Hall, with a string quartet, grand piano, horn section and choir, would have been enough to make an evening exceptional.

But this was just one small element of Adhesive Live, a ground breaking concert seeing many of Bristol’s best artists perform their work with new twists.

“It doesn’t feel like a concert here, it feels like a rave,” said our compere on Saturday night, as a Who’s Who of Bristol talent took to the stage as 3D animated visuals and video projections presented a visual accompaniment to the aural pleasures.

The night had been brought together by musician and promoter Jay Wilcox, and he should be roundly applauded for this audacious mix of styles and genres in a concert hall that has probably never seen anything quite like this before.

As each band or artist was about to take to the stage, black and white videos of them appeared, each getting a cheer. Half of Bristol must have been on the blag for this event as so many names featured.

Buggsy performed a special composition called Bris Ting. Nicole Jackson began her short set with just the strings accompanying her luscious vocals, before the tempo was turned up a notch or two. Laid Blak also made good use of the added choir and strings.

Javeon sounded like R Kelly before he became trapped in the closet.  Dr Meaker employed the horn section to great affect. Joker brought some thuddering dubstep.

Clubbing at the Colston Hall? Whatever next. More soon please.

Adhesive Live Bristol

Colston Hall Remix Youth Ensemble

2 02 2013

The Colston Hall Remix Youth Ensemble gave their debut performance yesterday in the foyer space of the hall. The three-year projects aims to create a modern youth ensemble for Bristol, and their first show featured dozens of young musicians, aged between 11 and 25, performing two pieces that they had written and rehearsed since the beginning of the year.

Colston Hall Remix Ensemble

Big gigs and small gigs

31 01 2013

Two gigs. Two venues. One bigger than the other. Both big news. Happening tomorrow is the first night of live music in @TheWell, Cheltenham Road’s finest launderette and café. Acts playing from 8pm are The Milkwood, Ahbub Mahboubi and Robin Mitchell.

There will be fine wine and beer. Entry is free.

Live at the Laundrette

Then on a slightly larger scale and slightly further away comes a big New Year’s Eve shindig at the Colston Hall featuring not one but two sets from Bellowhead (who will be playing at midnight), as well as Spiro and Brassroots.

Tickets cost £45 and are on sale now.


Review: The Snowman and Peter & The Wolf, Colston Hall

19 12 2012

The stories of The Snowman and Peter & The Wolf are two childhood favourites that were brought vividly to life at Colston Hall thanks to a live soundtrack by the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera and the narration of Tamsin Greig.

An Olivier Award-winning stage actress, Greig is best known for her roles in two Channel 4 dramas, Black Books and Green Wing.

Other than making rather an inappropriate comment about why a child was lying on the floor, Greig held proceedings together well, telling us that the hall we were in on Wednesday evening was 140 years old and that there were only 140 hours to go until Christmas.

The Snowman is a bona fide Christmas classic. This year, a new Snowman tale is appearing on our screens, but it will have to go some way to match the magic of the original, which tells the story of a little boy who builds a snowman, who takes him on a magical adventure before the warmth of the sun gets the better of him.

Raymond Briggs’ tale is a well-known one, as is the music by Howard Blake which was performed with aplomb, conducted by Neil Thomson and with a solo of Walking in the Air by a young singer whose voice cracked slightly but was nonetheless reminiscent of the most famous singer of the song, Aled Jones.

After the interval, Greig returned to the microphone to announce the instruments in the orchestra for their respective parts in Sergei Prokofiev’s masterpiece, and then tell the tale of Peter, the wolf and the assorted other animals.

It was a delightful way for the young audience to be introduced to oboes and bassoons as well as violins, cellos and double basses, as different instruments played the parts of different animals in the story.

What was especially interesting to see was the musicians themselves, the brass section loud and boisterous, the strings more refined.

A marvellous evening’s entertainment then, as an introduction both to Christmas and to classical music.

Preview: A Sunday Soak

6 12 2012

There is a special treat on Sunday at Colston Hall from Qu Junktions, a Bristol-based outfit with the admirable aim to “tour, produce, curate and dream up ways of making music as alive and enthralling as possible”. A Sunday Soak will feature Rozi Plain, The Mike Heron Band, Crybaby and Marisa Anderson.

The highlight of the lineup is undoubtedly Plain, who will be featuring songs from new album Joined Sometimes Unjoined in a special homecoming show.

Now based in Brixton, Plain used to work for Bristol Ferry Boat Company before her music came to the attention of Fence label bosses Kenny Anderson. Her 2008 lo-fi debut Inside Over Here was picked by Devendra Banhart as one of his favourite albums of the year.

Rozi Plain

Mayor pledges to refurbish Colston Hall

30 11 2012

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson has gone cap in hand to London for the first time since being elected. His demands yesterday included extra funding to plug the £34 million in the city council’s finances for next year’s budget, £50 million for a River Avon flood barrier and an integrated transport authority.

Ferguson also wants £40 million for the refurbishment of the Colston Hall auditorium, to create a world class concert venue.

Colston Hall became independent from Bristol City Council in May 2011 when the Bristol Music Trust was formed, with the dual aims of managing the operations of the venue, and also “to drive forward music across Bristol”.

Bristol Music Trust chief executive Louise Mitchell welcomed Ferguson’s aims to secure a grand future for the hall; aims also backed by Simon Cook, former council leader who will be joining the mayor’s cabinet with responsibility for culture.

Mitchell said: “As one of Bristol’s key cultural organisations The Bristol Music Trust is delighted that Mayor George Ferguson is supporting plans to transform the Colston Hall into the international music venue that Bristol deserves.

“The redevelopment of the hall will deliver performance spaces where all types of music can be performed, explored and enjoyed at the highest level.

“We are proud that George Ferguson sees the project as a priority for Bristol and that music can play such a strong role in strengthening the unique cultural infrastructure of our city.”

Bellowhead play Colston Hall then Yard

18 11 2012

Bellowhead played not once but twice in Bristol last night, first their scheduled appearance with full 11-member band at Colston Hall, followed almost immediately by an unscheduled pub singalong at the Colston Yard up the road with lead singer Jon Boden and fiddle player Sam Sweeney.

The pair made the short walk up Colston Street with their fiddles and somehow managed to find two seats in one corner as many of the Colston Hall audience, and then several other members of the band, packed in to join the impromptu after-party, much to the astonishment of those already in the pub.