A now-favourite on the Bristol calendar, the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival returns for its fourth consecutive year this March – marking the beginning of the warmer weather with a diverse mixture of free and paid-for shows, spanning the whole jazz and blues spectrum from swing to electronic funk.
Festival organisers pride themselves on putting on a four-day event that’s accessible to a wide demographic, and lovers of all genres of music of which jazz has had an influence – which, let’s be honest, is most. In their words: ‘If you think you know jazz and blues, you’re probably wrong!’
The bulk of the festival is held at Colston Hall, a nod to the likes of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, who would regularly play sell-out gigs at the venue in the golden era of jazz. Other performances and workshops across the four-day programme will be taking place at the O2 Academy and The Folk House.
‘If you think you know jazz and blues, you’re probably wrong’
One of our highlights on the roster is Quantic, who will be mixing his warm, brassy funk and soul grooves with the distinct and powerful vocals of Alice Russel. The collaboration will be supported by Pete Josef, whose 2015 debut album Colour saw him firmly enter the world of jazz and soul as a bonafide solo artist, having previously shared the stage with the likes of Roni Size, Darren Emerson (Underworld) and Kelis.
The multi-award winning artist Macy Gray will take to the stage on Sunday in the Colston Hall. Her soulful, husky voice has returned to the spotlight following the release of her 2016 album Stripped, which includes a cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters (one of the most peculiar covers we’ve heard in a long time), and leaving no doubt her that distinctive sound has held its own since the recognisable classic and noughties anthem, I Try.
The variety on offer this year is apparent with a closer look at the weekend’s schedule. For example, German filmmaker Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis will be accompanied by a live score courtesy of the acclaimed composer Andy Sheppard on Thursday night. On Sunday, a collaboration of artists will be taking on the mammoth task of recreating Jimi Hendrix’s debut album Are You Experienced in celebration of its 50th anniversary. And also The Big Swing returns on Friday, with a 1940s-style knees up with musical accompaniment from Kansas Smitty’s House Band, Emily Wright and The Royals and The Bruce/Ilett Big Band (both spectator and dancer tickets available).
The festival will also be running a number of workshops in the folk house, run by artists such as Bobby Shew, Andy Sheppard and Kirk Fletcher, some of whom you can find performing elsewhere on the roster. Pee Wee Ellis, with his experience supporting the likes of James Brown, will be hosting an interactive masterclass in all things jazz, before his Sunday performance with Roger Biwandu Trio.
The festival itself is a registered charity, whose aims are to promote, improve, develop and maintain public appreciation of jazz, blues and similar genres of music; and is only able to take place each year with the help of local and national sponsors and patrons. Jazz lovers of all budgets are invited to support the festival via tiered memberships from £40 – £400 per year, with each including discounted festival tickets. Find out more here.
And for those with no budget, the Colston Hall Foyer will, as usual, be hosting a selection of free performances across the festival, including the Bristol Community Big Band, Molly and the Kings and the Jim Bloomfield Trio.
The Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival takes place 16 – 19 March. For more information and tickets please visit the website.