The Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival returns 16 March for three days bursting with live music. This year’s festival has a whole host of swing kings and instrumental virtuosos. Here are some of our picks of what to catch.
All that Jazz
The festival’s headline act comes on Friday 17 March with a live performance from musical fusion artist Quantic. The multi-talented musician has become known for his combination of numerous different styles including funk, salsa, bossa nova and electronic, and he will be joined on stage in Bristol’s O2 Academy by soul singer Alison Russell – it’s going to be an eclectic night. Also performing on Friday is a back-to-back gig by brass quintet Dakhla and Latin guitarists the Remi Harris Trio. Both deliver a particularly break-neck brand of performance, so get ready to get upbeat.
Other jazz highlights from the long weekend are local favourites the Kim Cypher Quartet and their smooth, feel-good tunes; and piano guru Andy Nowak and his atmospheric trio. Keep an eye out for the Moscow Drug Club as well: the tango troupe are a throwback to the 1930s, and their selection of updated covers make for a steamy evening. Moscow Drug Club perform at Colston Hall at 17.30, Saturday 18 March.
Dakhla perform at 18.00 on Friday 17 March.
Feelin’ the Blues
Moving over to the Blues and there is a slightly thinner selection – but still plenty to see. Robben Ford performs at 13.00 on Saturday 18 March. The Californian guitarist toured with Miles Davis in 1986, and has worked with megastars such as Joni Mitchell and George Harrison. He brings his chilled-rock virtuosity to Colsten Hall with a three-piece band. Similar music royalty comes in the shape of Mud Morganfield. Mud is the first-born son of blues legend Muddy Waters, and he will be performing many of his father’s thumping hits. Straight afterwards is new blues prodigy Kirk Fletcher. The Compton native is known for searing guitar solos and vocals, and there will be plenty of both at this special gig.
Mud Morganfield performs in a double bill with Kirk Fletcher at 16.30 on Saturday 18 March.
A Swing Thing
If swing is your thing, you’re in luck. Bristol has lots of great swing acts and they’re all in action at this year’s festival. Local acts Sisters of Swing and the Bristol Community Big Band will both be getting you twirling with their large band ensembles. There is also Bartoune and their Gypsy-style swing, performing at 19.30 on Saturday 18 March. If you really want to dedicate yourself to some dance, don’t miss The Big Swing. This annual event takes over the whole of Colston Hall for an evening. Prepare to be sent jiving back to the 1930s and 40s with seven live acts, a dance workshop and a chance to have your own vintage makeover.
The Big Swing, Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival, starts at 19.30 on Friday 17 March.
A Bit More Experimental…
Jazz is all about the cutting edge, and there are plenty of acts at this year’s festival that are pushing musical boundaries. Dinosaur are one of the most anticipated groups coming to Bristol next weekend. The bright-faced quartet’s blend of heavy electric synth and bass alongside flares of explosive trumpet solos is unlike anything else around – one not to miss. Performing a few hours earlier on the Saturday is the Jim Bloomfield Trio. Jazz veteran Bloomfield formed this new group in 2013 and their collaborations have produced moody, brooding musical scapes. Also to see are local pair Run Logan Run and their web of hypnotic drum and saxophone riffs – they perform at 21.15 on Thursday 16 March. Finally, Gilad Atzmon & Alan Barnes take to the stage on the Saturday evening. The two soloists are widely respected and together they will be bouncing improvisation back and forth.
Something Different …
Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival also hosts a range of workshops covering everything from saxophone soloing to conducting a big band. Many of the headline acts will be joining in – see the festival schedule for full details. The life and work of Louis Armstrong are revisited with a lecture from Ricky Riccardi, director of Research at the Louis Armstrong House Museum. And you can celebrate the great Jimi Hendrix at an amazing tribute evening that sends off the weekend.