Review: Get The Blessing at Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival

Get The Blessing: Pete Judge, Clive Deamer, Jim Barr, Jake McMurchie
Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival 2013
Photo Credit: Ruth Butler


Get The Blessing
(Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival. 2nd March 2013. Review by Mike Collins)


Take one trumpet, one sax, a modicum of electronics and see what magic you can create. A tap of the trumpet’s bell and a wriggle of the valves with breathy sighs down the tenor were all Pete Judge and Jake Mc Murchie used to create an eerie soundscape over a typically throbbing pulse from Jim Barr’s bass to the set the scene for guest Tammy Payne’s haunting vocal, one of two tunes for which she joined the band.

This was a rare home town gig for the band and the blend of groove and atmosphere of that song perhaps gave a glimpse and reminder of some of the different parts of the music scene in which this eclectic group of musicians are involved. Drummer Clive Deamer has been touring in the past year with Radiohead; Pete Judge is at Kings Place next week launching ‘alt –folk’ Three Cane Whale’s latest album; Jake Mc Murchie is frequently to be seen locally in a stripped down sax, bass and drums trio; the electricity between Jim Barr and Clive Deamer has always been at the service of Portishead (whose guitarist Adrian Utley was also guesting on this gig). That electricity is the pulsing heart over which sit the layers of intrigue and invention provided by Pete Judge and Jake McMurchie some times floating, sometimes locking in tight riffs and melodic motifs and defining Get the Blessing’s sound.

There’s little chance of finding out what many of the tunes are actually called (including that haunting song) as Jim Barr’s frequently surreal and always elliptical announcing is unfailingly entertaining but rarely informative. The audience in the packed Hall 2 were lapping it up however and the band was on great form. Its exciting, urgent music with plenty of spaces cleared for episodes of unhinged electronic scrambling, floating trumpet solos punctuated by staccato phrases or driving, fluent emotional playing on tenor from the ever-inventive McMurchie.

Get The Blessing: Pete Judge, Jake McMurchie
Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival 2013
Photo Credit: Ruth Butler


They had started with Low Earth Orbit, a typically hooky unison riff from trumpet and sax launching them into the racing, rocky groove. Guest guitarist Adrian Utley’s first contribution was to immediately take a violin bow to the strings of his guitar, adding some colour and atmosphere behind the looping phrases and howling sax solo. Tammy Payne’s second contribution was to American Meccano, adding the wordless vocal supplied by Robert Wyatt on the album (without the white beard as Jim Barr observed); the shift to a soaring hymn like theme at just the right delayed moment never fails to bring a lump to my throat. Alongside the brash, assertiveness of the rhythms, the never over extended pieces are artfully constructed with lots going on. Miss that and you miss all the humour and emotion and the fun.

Hall 2 were in no doubt. The roars for more only went unrewarded this time because of the demands of the festival schedule.

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