Gathering huge crowds over the past three years, Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival has set out its wares for its fourth Festival in March 2016.
Packed with jazz, blues, swing and funk, the Festival is an exhilarating four-day celebration of jazz and blues in a multitude of guises. Colston Hall’s main auditorium will host stars from the world of jazz and blues, whilst the Lantern offers a more intimate setting for gypsy and contemporary jazz, blues and more. The foyer space has proved massively popular with thousands watching local and national bands from the top of the building down; at the Folk House, workshops will be led by world-famous artists; and a fringe programme will be announced in the new year.
The weekend is to open with the warm, soulful voice of American songstress Melody Gardot. Gardot came to her professional career through a devastating accident, and remains a huge advocate of the benefits of music to mind and body. One of only two UK performances by an artist whose shows, combining natural talent and musical sophistication, are absolutely captivating.
Ramping up the funk hotlist, Maceo Parker returns to the south west after a ten year gap, whilst Pee Wee Ellis is reunited with Fred Wesley – but this time, the grandfathers of funk horns delve deep into their original inspirations and search the back catalogue of '50s and '60s jazz for a special festival commission, Back to Jazz.
2016 marks the 100th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s birth, and the occasion will be celebrated by a special show, Ol’ Blue Eyes; Bath-based singer and BBC Radio 2 presenter Clare Teal will be joined by Joe Stilgoe to sing some of Sinatra’s classic songs in a show which will feature exciting new arrangements of best loved and rarer songs, with the Big Buzzard band and a choir of over 300.
Lisa Simone hit the national press in the UK this year after the release of documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, about her complex relationship with her mother, Nina Simone. Lisa's voice captures some of the unique timbre of her mother’s but with her own earthy, gutsy quality – and, after a hugely successful career on Broadway, she released Simone on Simone in 2009, an updated interpretation of her mother’s catalogue. Since then, Lisa has continued to forge her own following and appears at the festival with her superb band.
Seminal jazz-rock group Soft Machine was founded by singer/drummer Robert Wyatt and maintained a huge following, inspiring decades of musicians. Appearing at the festival, the current line-up – Soft Machine Legacy – comprises John Marshall, Roy Babbington, John Etheridge and Theo Travis.
The Big Swing opens the festival yet again, giving Bristol and the South West’s vintage-clad jitterbuggers a great live band to strut their stuff to; and the night will also include the excellent King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys (whose 60+ TV appearances are testament to their lightning playing and eye-catching costumes), as well as regulars Bruce/Ilett Big Band.
Highlights of the more intimate Lantern programme include Ray Gelato (who stunned the swing crowd last year) with one of the UK’s finest jazz vocalists, Claire Martin; gypsy violinist Tcha Limberger returns to the festival, this time with guitarist Mozes Rosenberg; and guitarist and singer Ian Siegal promises a full-throttle show.
Also appearing is British Blues Awards Guitarist of the Year 2015, Aynsley Lister; and bringing the festival to a dazzling close, Courtney Pine’s House of Legends celebrates his musical heritage with a host of infectious tunes drawing on merengue, ska, mento and calypso.
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