Four years ago Colin Gorrie and Denny Ilett started Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival. They shared the belief that a city like Bristol needed, and deserved, a high calibre festival dedicated to jazz and blues. Bristol’s long and illustrious association with jazz dates back to the ‘50s and ‘60s when a dizzying array of stars – including Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald – regularly played to sell-out audiences at Colston Hall. The programme is designed to appeal to music lovers of all ages and tastes and celebrates jazz and blues in a way that makes these important genres accessible and appealing to a wide and diverse audience – from primary school children to OAPs. Now in its fourth year, with 50% year on year audience growth and increasingly wider appeal, Bristol International Jazz & Blues Festival is one of the city’s biggest music events.
This year’s line-up of over 50 concerts takes us on a toe-tapping journey through a century of jazz and blues: starting off with the birth of jazz in New Orleans and the great blues men of the Mississippi Delta, taking in the wartime swing era and the growth of the beat generation’s jazz scene, swinging by the ‘60s and ‘70s for an education in funk and finishing up in the present day when the world’s biggest jazz and blues stars are heavily influenced by these past eras.
Headlining the festival is three members of James Brown’s original line-up including the ‘King of Funk & Soul’ himself, Maceo Parker; the phenomenal and supremely talented, Melody Gardot and the UK’s own ‘King of Jazz’, Courtney Pine with a very personal project featuring musicians from Africa, the Caribbean and Europe.
Artistic director Denny Ilett is curating a number of special one-off events for this year’s festival including: The legendary Big Swing night with the world’s premier swing band King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys and our ‘house band’, the 17-piece Bruce/Ilett Big Band; a unique tribute to Frank Sinatra featuring Clare Teal, Joe Stilgo, the Big Buzzard Boogie Band and a 350-strong chorus and a trip down memory lane with Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley who will revisit the great jazz standards and be-bop classics that sparked their musical passion as youngsters.
The line-up is bursting at the seems with living legends including the four-time Grammy award winning guitarist Larry Carlton and master of the solo guitar Martin Taylor. Lisa Simone will echo the tradition of her mother – musical icon and pioneer Nina Simone.