Each year we bring our diverging tastes together in the form of a festival line-up which celebrates all things jazz and blues – from swing to funk, bebop to blues, soul to rock ‘n roll. The team all look forward to very different parts of the festival and with just six weeks to go, we bring you this year’s top picks, as chosen by the festival team…
Colin Gorrie – Festival Producer
There are obvious favourites in this year’s line-up that are selling fast but my top picks are those that hold an excitement of discovery and emotional response. Richard Galliano – I love the accordion and its use in much of French music and this guy brings that hallmark. As a trumpet player and composer Yazz Ahmed (pictured) blends her mixed heritage in jazz that for me, discovers new meaning. Hannah Williams catches my attention because of her powerful and very theatrical presentation. And then there’s Elftet – with that line-up of talented musicians it can only produce exciting results. And I mustn’t forget Little Swing because anyone who can turn young kids into jazz fans like Lucy Moon is worth gold. Got kids? Don’t miss it!
Rob Ellmore – Technical manager
As chief sound engineer for the Festival, I’m always on the hunt for the golden ticket of sonic excellence, and I think I’ve found it with Ant Law and his spellbinding interpretation of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (originally performed by the beautifully unhinged master chocolatier, Gene Wilder). Ant’s solo instrumental features on his latest studio album Life I Know, and I think this will be a special “hear-a-pin-drop” moment when he performs it live. Ant uses spacious guitar effects to create a haunting soundscape for the classic dreamlike melody to meander over. Be prepared for your arm and neck hair to be stood on end for this ethereal chocolatey fairytale!
Polly Eldridge – Press Officer (Sound UK)
I booked The Herbaliser back in 1998 for a night called In the Mix that I put on in Cheltenham and I’m so excited I’ll catch them again some 20 years later. They were a key artist on 90’s Ninja Tune and just such a brilliant band for a good night out dancing; Funky horns, hip hop beats, it’s an irresistible combo!
Katya Gorrie – Assistant Producer
Back in the early 90’s, I was in my last year at music college, and eager to get out into the world and start gigging. With my little jazz demo (cassette) I’d made at college, in hand, I hit the pavement in hopes of finding a venue that had live music, that would give me gig. The last stop on this particular day was a little Portugese tapas bar called Santos. The owner was a slightly shady character, who took a shine to me, and offered me a date to do a trial gig. I ended up playing there with my little jazz trio for many years. The music playing every night I walked in, was the then-new album of a band called The Gipsy Kings. I loved the album and never tired of hearing it. It was a mix of so many musical styles I loved… Rumba Gitano, Flamenco, Cuban, and to my ears, the haunting cry of the Portuguese Fado.
That particular album, like for so many, was the soundtrack to my life. Since that time, no matter where I am on my travels, if I walk into a place and The Gipsy Kings are playing, I instantly feel happy and at home! Can’t wait to see them live at O2 Academy Bristol.
Rozi Flack – Programme Coordinator
For me, it has to be The Herbaliser. Their hip-hop based, sample-driven style makes their live shows a wonderful show of tight musicianship whilst still being innately dance-able. I have followed them for some time and they have progressed from a classic nineties trip-hop sound to producing epic, cinematic jazz tracks that bring the film scores of Guy Ritchie films to mind (they did indeed feature on the soundtrack for Snatch). They have worked with some of the best vocalists and MC’s in the jazz/hip-hop world – thought-provoking lyrics with a theme of social commentary run through their songs. This is urban jazz at it’s best – don’t miss it!
Leon Etchells – Festival Market / Ad Sales Manager
Although you might not think of this band as Jazz or Blues, music is truly a universal language and is often influenced by a variety of genres, which is definitely one of the main dynamics of this band. I think it would be hard to name one country or even one living musician that hasn’t been influenced in some way by the energy and magnetism their songs have. The passion and romance in their music, mixed with the energy of their percussion and the finger picking of their guitars, is truly universal and crosses all kinds of borders.
Having grown up internationally I clearly remember their songs played on the radio in Greece and at parties in small tavernas, I remember when they came to Singapore and hearing the story of my parents going to a bar after the gig and the band rocking up and taking over the stage, while the audience danced and chanted along. And time and time again when I travel the world I hear their music come on, whether in a small bar by the beach in the Maldives, sang by a local band in some obscure bar in Kathmandu or danced to at house party in Bristol. So my top pick for this year’s festival would have to be the Gipsy Kings, as the thought of them attending this year’s festival already has me humming along and clapping my hands while trying to keep up with that infectious and enchanting beat.
Nigel Evans – Sponsorship Advisor
One of the amazing things about the festival is the opportunity to experience new music that you just wouldn’t normally get access to, see artists you’ve only listened to and experience established artists at the top of their game. I’ve seen Huw Warren play with a lot of other musicians but never lead his own group, the jazz suite inspired by Dylan Thomas’s poetry will be something very special. Towards the end of the festival when energy levels might be dropping Dennis Rollins Funky-Funk will definitely revitalise me, ‘fat angular bass lines and sumptuous horn melodies’, what more could you ask for! Finally, I am embarrassed to say I was very late in coming to the music of Liane Carroll since hearing her play Nina Simone’s ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is’ I’ve spent a lot of time listening to her. We are very lucky to have Liane running a Masterclass as well.
To help people make their choices I’ve put together a Spotify playlist that has music from all of the artists appearing. Enjoy!
Sooz Moon – Marketing Manager
When working on the marketing of the Festival the thing I hear regularly is ‘Oh I don’t like jazz’ (cue Fast Show reference). This is frustrating as the Festival has so much to offer to such a variety of people. I love the free stage and seeing kids experience live music for the first time. The crowds and characters that turn up for Bristol’s biggest swing dance and then the more contemporary acts (check out the Winston Theatre this year). So my choice is Soweto Kinch who is just the guy to challenge these assumptions! Kinch has made huge impression in both the jazz and hip-hop community. See his video here and ‘So is it jazz’ and give it a go! You may even enjoy it…
Also really looking forward to my first Hannah Williams and the Affirmations gig. Having been introduced to them via the Festival I am now addicted. Hannah has such soul in her voice and they have a massive following (for a reason!). Happy that they will help us launch the Festival on Friday night (Anson Rooms). Are you ready to party?