Published on November 14th, 2014 | by Alastair Gilmour


Jazz bridges the live music gap

Think about the relationship between jazz and ale, and the image that’s most likely to come to mind is of a banjo-wielding trad band at one end of the room, working its way through St Louis Blues. There there are plenty of pubs in the North East that regularly feature jazz nights that follow this formula – it’s entertaining, it’s reassuring, but maybe it’s also a touch predictable.

But go to Newcastle’s Bridge Hotel on a Sunday evening and you enter a completely different world of jazz where promoters Splinter @ The Bridge present a constantly changing programme of contemporary jazz, delivered by bands from around the UK and abroad.

The Splinter sessions have been running since December 2009 and were initially established as an opportunity for young North East musicians to develop their style. Top local bands still feature, but the word soon got round the jazz world, and it wasn’t long before musicians from further afield were asking for the chance to join the party. Now it’s very much on the international radar – in fact, top New York drummer Tom Rainey has described the pub as “a cultural oasis”. (He liked the beer as well.)

Splinter’s featured bands cover an extraordinary stylistic range. In November offerings range from rising star Zoë Gilby paying tribute to Thelonious Monk, through to the extraordinary Viennese trio Blueblut that includes possibly the world’s only jazz theremin player, to Brooklyn-based drummer Sean Noonan working with a Polish string quartet. It’s jazz, Jim, but maybe not as we know it!

Paul Bream, from promoters Jazz North East, says: “There’s so much exciting new jazz on the scene today, but a lot of it was never getting to Tyneside. Now you can go to The Bridge every Sunday and know that you’re going to hear something different. And with the constantly changing range of guest beers at the bar, you can enjoy a new taste experience as well. I can’t think of a better combination.”

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Alastair Gilmour

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