Bristol launches International Jazz and Blues Festival

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By Contributor profile

Neil McKim

Neil McKim

Neil McKim is production editor of BBC Music Magazine

Neil McKim
, Updated 3rd December 2012

A top line-up of musical stars confirmed for a city that aims to be twinned with New Orleans

Lillian BouttéLast night was a big occasion for Bristol, as the line-up for Bristol’s 1st International Jazz and Blues Festival was announced in the city’s Colston Hall. And it wasn’t just the fact that the festival will take place next March (1-3) with a weekend dedicated to jazz and blues: the city is also aspiring to be twinned with the birthplace of jazz itself – New Orleans. And to boost this plan, which will hopefully come to fruition within two years, the official New Orleans musical ambassador, Lillian Boutté, was in attendance.

She was singing at a launch concert with other forthcoming festival artists, including local saxophone legend Pee Wee Ellis.

Now based in Frome, Ellis was once musical director of the James Brown band in the late 1960s, where he wrote hits such as ‘Cold Sweat’. (He mentioned that he got the idea for this seminal track from hearing the riff on Miles Davis’s ‘So What’). He’ll be performing at the festival with star jazz vocalist and Radio 2 broadcaster Clare Teal.

Also on stage, on guitar, was festival director Denny Ilett. ‘What we really want to do is to highlight what a fine and healthy jazz scene this city has,’ he said. ‘The idea behind keeping it at the Colston Hall in the first place is to keep it small and see how it goes. It would be absolutely wonderful to see it grow to become a city-wide thing.’

The weekend line-up promises some top names including trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, who has performed at the Whitehouse for President Obama. And it’s perhaps fitting that Sandoval plays at the Colston Hall, following in the footsteps of his mentor Dizzy Gillespie, who played here in the 1980s when it was used as a satellite venue of the Bath Festival. Legendary UK jazz trombonist and blues innovator Chris Barber, (who apparently performed in Bristol for the first time in 1953) will be making a welcome return. And big-name guitarist John Scofield, who worked with Miles Davis, will be another headliner, making an appearance with his Organic Trio.

Other top local-based names include top saxophonist Andy Sheppard, performing in his Trio Libera, and (BBC Jazz Award winners) Get The Blessing, who draw from the ranks of trip-hoppers Portishead. And in the hall’s foyer, there will be a simultaneous programme of free performances.

Aside from the music, drawing a comparison between Bristol and New Orleans, artistic director Ilett points out the fact that both are ‘delta cities’ and both have historical links to the impact of slavery.

And taking the stage, the newly elected (red-trousered) Bristol mayor, George Ferguson, was also clearly excited about the festival: ‘Can I just say that this is exactly what Bristol needs and I will make quite sure that Bristol becomes the New Orleans of the UK,’ he announced.

For further information on the 1st Bristol International Jazz and Blues festival, visit the website.

Contributor profile

Neil McKim

Neil McKim

Neil McKim is production editor of BBC Music Magazine

Neil McKim