‘The Session’; a little New Orleans back in Bristol

The Session: Hen & Chicken, Sun 16 August 2015

session 5Just over a year ago I introduced this young quintet to Bristol, little knowing the ripple effect they managed to create in a short period of time. last year following contact made by Englishman in New Orleans, James Partridge (Tenor Sax) I took a gamble on these young guys who were teaching & performing at Aberystwyth Summer School & Festival. Ideally they wanted three or four gigs after this festival until a gig they had a week later at Purbeck Jazz Festival.

I was able to offer them small potatoes in terms of fee (mainly due to time of year with many on annual Hols), but did offer to help find other gigs and arrange accommodation for all five; for four or five days after the gig. Our house is not very big, though we have a track record with musicians as a comforting ‘lay-over’ when on tour….sometimes even when not playing in Bristol! luckily for me a neighbour two doors down was going on holiday and she kindly let me use her house to put two up while I billeted the other three…..well that was OK for three days but the last day she would be home; so they then moved to the next door neighbour who had tagged teamed holidays and so her house was vacant for the last night, phew!

Anyway I had little success at getting anyone else interested in an unknown band especially at this time of year. My gig was to be the only one that week; however on my gig, long time friend and associate Andy Hague (local trumpeter hero/drummer/composer and promoter at The Be-Bop Club in Bristol) was at the gig on the Sunday. He had to really…..he’d lent me his drum kit! Bass was kindly supplied by (and this year) Greg Cordez!

Andy (as were all the 45-souls in attendance) was blown away with energy and verve these guys managed to produce. He said during the interval “We must try to do another gig before they leave and as they are just kicking their heels for a week, why not?” (Or something along those lines!)

Why not indeed; so with Andy securing The Bear for a second “Pop-Up” gig on the following Tuesday, organising back line again, Sandra & Ian Fryer kindly offering to cook food for the guys on the day of the gig, and both of us Twittering and Facebooking madly to drum up support, plus the guys attending the  Jam Session at the Canteen (Stokes Croft) on the Monday to spread the word; we ventured to see what would happen?

Word of mouth was as much a factor from the Sunday as folk let all friends & colleagues know about the happening ~ The bloody gig sold out, with a few not able to physically get in the room, viewing from the hallway!

Darrian_Douglas_and_the_Session_courtesy_Darrian_Douglas_t670So, this year they would return (again in association with Aberystwyth fest); but this time for two separate events. One earlier in June which the Hague-ster managed to make the last gig of his season before their Summer break at the Be-Bop, then back with me at the Chicken in August again.

The Be-Bop gig was vastly oversubscribed with many Be-Bop regulars not gaining visitation rights to the event. Due to massive electrical storms over New Orleans, two of the guys flights were cancelled meaning trumpeter Steve Lands and drummer Darian Douglas missed the gig. This allowed Andy to step in at the last-minute on horns and Mark Whitlam came to the aid of the party by filling the drum chair. A review of this one by Mike Collins can be found here: https://jazzyblogman.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/not-quite-the-session-but-still-cooking-bebop-club-bristol-friday-12th-june/

So August comes around and they are back, what sort of turnout would I get for our gig? Well we doubled the audience from the previous year: Proving that if musicians are willing and able to get out there and persevere, all is possible. Thanks again to Greg for his Bass & Amp and Andy Tween who kindly let us use his kit, cheers boys!

Also thanks this time to The Fryers taking two for lodgings at their splendid Hotwells pad for two nights this visit. Steve Lands made it this time with a very young guy almost straight out of college Willie Green III on drums, more about Willie’s exploits at the end of this piece.

As always if there is an unbiased appraisal of our gigs I like to use them, so again thanks to Mike Collins (Jazzyblogman), methinks he likes these guys…he’s been to all the gigs so far!!

The Session: Hen & Chicken, Sun 16 Aug’ 2015

The Session_H&Ch


I’m not sure I can remember the last time I was at  jazz gig that wrapped up with a sing-a-long, but trumpeter Steve Lands was irresistible as he declaimed the verses and egged on the cheerfully dis-inhibited crowd for the responses and chorus of L’il Liza JaneIt was the encore and the packed Hen and Chicken had been thoroughly won over by two blistering sets from the return of the New Orleans based band last Sunday.

The trio of pianist Andrew McGowan, bass player Jason Weaver and saxophonist James Partridge (on Baritone for the evening) have been constants in the line-ups that have visited over the last year. This visit saw Willie Green III powering the quintet from the drum chair.  It was two sets that covered plenty of bases.  They launched with dense contemporary jazz, drifting horn hooks over spiky bass and percussion figures and urgent swing and furious blowing from Lands and Partridge on Sitting Bull Beckons.

Newly minted originals, Andrew’s Blues, Steve’s Samba, and Andrew’s 6/8 thing showed their skill in taking familiar jazz materials and forms, twisting them and opening them up for fluid improvising.   A howling, squealing bleak solo from Lands over the chiming piano chords of a Partridge penned ballad was a stand-out moment of the first set – no surprise that the trumpeter is an increasingly in demand player.

Partridge was formidable all evening. Whenever he stepped up the emotional temperature went up, whether blowing flurries of notes or letting long notes and a delicious tone from the baritone sax carry his thoughts.  As the gig went on, the dynamism and fluency  of Weaver’s bass playing shone through and by the time the inevitable second line groove kicked in on  one of his originals, the band were steaming and the smiles broad all round.

A band of mainly New Orleans natives who all met on the Crescent City’s scene, they bring an exuberance and desire to connect which is infectious and once again it wowed the near capacity crowd at the Hen and Chicken.   Another side of their generosity and musicianship was on display the following evening when they showed up at the regular fortnightly jam session at The Canteen.

A review of the Jam session at The Canteen by Tony B can be read here (for Darian Douglas read Willie Green III): http://www.bristol247.com/channel/culture/music/reviews/live-review-canteen-jazz-session 


Back to Willie Green III to finish of this tale of hands across the water & stuff, and the sharing of hospitality between the two cities of New Orleans and Bristol…..even if we aren’t twinned (officially!!!) and we haven’t seen any Ambassadors around lately for these four gigs?

Willie Green IIIThis is Willie’s first time outside of the USA, he’s just 18 and is quite shy until he’s let loose on a drum kit, when he explodes and shows his mettle. I found out he has a big appetite not just for food but loves watching films. After the gig on the Sunday when arriving back home, laden with ‘new food’ for the majority of The Session, notably kebab’s from Joe Kubub’s on the London Inn; we decided a film was in order, while eating and washing down with red wine.

To my surprise none of the guys had seen the film ‘Whiplash’; set in a music school Stateside, following the exploits of a young drum student under the tuition of a sadistic and maniacal tutor, with a penchant for throwing things and glad slapping his pupils around if they don’t get right: “Are you rushing or dragging….?” He yells at the student?

I didn’t know and watching Willie’s face, I got the impression he didn’t either. He displayed a mix of nervous laughter and disbelief at the storyline; that any tutor would behave this way, while at the same time the whites of his eyes bulged at the prospect of seeing in the student, what could have been!!!

The following day after rousing and the Full English, I took the three up to view the Suspension Bridge; which we didn’t manage to do last year, though we did go see the very good Slavery exhibit at M-Shed on Bristol dockside, last time. Whilst that did anger some of the guys, they were very appreciative that our City had taken the time, trouble and effort to open up, about that part of Bristol’s history.

Ashlin Parker, trumpetAshlin Parker who was on trumpet last year commented, it was a pity none of this is spoken of back in the USA and also highly praised the display. In the current climate at home they said maybe it would be good to have a similar exhibit.

The guys planned a repeat visit to the Jam Session at The Canteen on Monday night (review link above) before leaving on Tuesday for Swansea and a gig at Swansea Jazzland.

On the way home Willie left his i-pad on the bus. Evidently this was not the first time he had mislaid the said i-pad. The guys told me he lost it twice at the festival and one time left it on the roof of a car, watching is drive away into the distance. So far he’d managed to retrieve the important link to home, via the websphere, on all occasions:

But he hadn’t counted on dealing with ‘First Bus’.

On getting home on Monday night his first reaction was get back on the bus coming back the opposite way, but we talked him out of that, because the chance of getting on the exact same bus was a long shot, especially at 11.30pm. Instead we reported it to lost & found, in the hope that someone would hand it in and we could pick it up next day. I had arrived at the conclusion that WG III was never going to be in the rocket science category, and his fellow band members were well aware of that, whilst being fatherly to him on his first trip abroad, they were dismayed somewhat at the constant forgetfulness of the young man. All good experience for one so young.

In the morning Willie was first up as I preparing to serve second helpings of Full English. Did he want the Full Monte? “Yes” he said, ” But I’m going for a quick walk first”. I told him fine, and I would hold the fry-up till his return.

By 11.45am the band were ready to head to the bus station to catch their link to Swansea via Cardiff, booked onto the 12.15 coach…..but no Willie, he’d gone walkabout; wandering the buses of Bristol and to lost property to find his i-pad! We bundled all his gear together in the car, in the vain hope he was at the bus station….he wasn’t. Coach pulled out on time as my phone rang for Lorraine to tell me he was back at home, believing he had to be there for 12.15, not leaving at that time.

I tried diving in front of the coach as it left the station but the driver was having none of it, I luckily avoided becoming roadkill by a whisker! A phone call to James and we worked out that he could re-book Willie onto the 4.15 coach which would get him to Swansea with an hour to spare. I was to return home and print off his booking form from an e-mail, and I’d get him to the bus on time.

Another phone call a little later from trumpeter Steve, let me know that when Willie went to catch the 4.15 he was to go lost property….not to collect his i-pad (never seen again, not surprising on a bus to Hartcliffe) but to get Steve’s luggage; which Steve forgot to load onto the bus in the panic looking for Willie. Well at least there was a silver lining, Willie could take the luggage.

The guys weren’t overly kind to Willie for missing the bus; when I printed off the booking form they had filled in his name as: Willie ‘defuq’ Green III!

I hope he didn’t notice it and I didn’t point it out to him. He’s a lovely guy and maybe next time he will have grown more street wise, it’ll be a pleasure to have them back again sometime, Willie and all.





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Jazz at The Albert (Inn)

Andy Sheppard & Paul Dunmall

August 2015
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