REVIEW OF BEJE GIG at Black Mountain Jazz, Abergavenny, 30 April, 2016. was another great evening of jazz put on by Black Mountain Jazz at Abergavenny, this time on a Saturday to coincide with International Jazz Day. Today’s ensemble was very appropriate, given its international roots and the vast range of cultural and geographical sources for the compositions of its leader, the Swiss/English trumpeter/flugelist, David Mowat. The ensemble consisted today of Mowat, the superb Len Aruliah (UK/Canada) on alto and soprano saxes, the excellent guitarist and oud player, Knud Stüwe (Germany), on Strat and effects, an unusual and welcome setup in jazz clubs, and the fantastic duo of Paolo Adamo on percussion and Pasquale Votino (both Italian) on double bass. I had had the pleasure of hearing Adamo and Votino twice already this month – with the Davide Logiri/Ben Thomas UK tour – so I knew that I was in for a treat this evening.
The Bristol based ensemble did not disappoint, providing an exhilarating mix of compositions, including ones based on ragas, oud tunes collected in Somalia, and themes collected on Mowat’s wandering in various countries, including Syria. One composition provided a musical backdrop to Mowat’s recounting of the hospitality and friendship he had been shown on a journey across various countries, including Syria, such warmth having been shown by those of Muslim, Christian and other religions – particularly apt on International Jazz Day, which, as Mowat reminded the audience, was not just about music, but about bridging cultural gaps.
Most striking about the performance was the successful mix of clearly stated, internationally flavoured, themes with quite free form improvisation, conjuring up tastes of the creativity of such predecessors as the Chicago Art Ensemble, Mingus’s ‘Tijuana Moods’, and many others, while retaining its own unique identity.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end of the performance, but I left very satisfied and clutching both CDs that were available. If you get the chance to catch this band of fine, musically gifted, creative and technically excellent musicians, grab the chance with both hands! One of the most creative musical evenings that I have experienced recently in a jazz club.

Those attending were also lucky to be entertained by the local singer/songwriter/guitarist Mansel Davies. Davies provided a great contrast to the main act, and produced a very polished performance of his own compositions to a very attentive and appreciative audience. He has a solid guitar style, with a very full sound, and a great voice for his genre.
All in all, a very enjoyable night! David Hobbs, club posted on Black Mountain Jazz FB


European jazz conjures up a melange of unamerican images: strong classical grounding, heavy concept/light intuition, cerebral, austere, rigidly unswinging, masterful technique… and so on. Of course a rash generalisation, but we’re talking here about what many people think, not about what is.

The Bristol European Jazz Ensemble, hereinafter to be called BEJE, is a definition of the falsity of these rash conclusions. They are indeed European even if one, Cameron-like, places Britain outside of Europe. Drummer Paolo Adamo and double bassist Pasquale Votino are Italian, alto saxophonist Julien Alenda is French, pianist Anders Olinder, Swedish; all are musical migrants to the jazz Mecca that is Bristol. Trumpeter/composer David Mowat is the reverse of the others, an Englishman who has trekked the world, fallen in love with and learned Eastern European and Middle Eastern music; a citizen of the world.

The music, however,is resolutely American, a recognition, I think, of the natural African American roots of jazz. David Mowat is, if anything, a Miles-influenced player. Julien Alenda has roots that travel all the way through the earth, finding a home in John Coltrane’s footsteps. He has been compared to Kenny Garrett, but I think the comparison rests on Kenny Garrett playing alto sax with a big Coltrane influence. Bassist Votino is effective playing in a Ron Carter walking bass style that really drives the music. Drummer Adamo shines with a nicely forward but not overwhelming style. He comes across all Tony Williams on ‘Justin’ and contributes a timbale sounding driving Latin feel to the lively closing tune, ‘Redfield Carnival.’

David Mowat’s compositions often are inspired or directly influenced by world music sources. The first tune, ‘Justin’, is built on an Arabic scale Mowat learned in Syria; ‘Chai za Dvoye’ is a Montenegran folk melody; ‘Hymn for the Mostar’ inspired by a Muslim cemetary in Bosnia-Herzegovina. But after the themes are established it’s all American all the way whether it be Alenda’s Coltranish sax, Mowat’s post-Milesian trumpet or Anders Olinder’s Bill Evans-like piano. A word about Anders, who is the favoured accompanist of seemingly everyone, from Pee Wee Ellis to Tony Kofi. Here he is similarly supportive in that role, but he also stands out as a soloist. It is one of his strongest outings playing acoustic piano and soloing. Very nice to hear.

BEJE:Bites may not break any new ground, especially in that rigourous European manner (okay, imagine a smiling emoticon here), but it is filled with lovely playing and a very nice rapport between these migrants in a green and pleasant land.

Charley Dunlap

BEJE performing at CICIC Taunton Feb 19th 2016

CIC Taunton poster

We’re looking forward to our first gig of the year at ‘the south west’s new leading jazz venue’. It’s what they say about themselves and having trawled around the region I believe it! There’s only St Ive’s Jazz Club, of long repute, to compare really. (Go on, tell me I’m wrong). There’ll be some new material, including a spiritual chant for the audience, but let that not put you off! The ever-elegant Anders Olinder on piano, the increasingly wonderful and powerful Paolo Adamo on drums, the passionate and risk taking Federico Leonori on bass and searing altoist Julien Alenda, who will bring his tenor sax as well and is studying Sony Rollins especially, will be the BEJE line up this time. We look forward to seeing our friends and fans and keep solos shorter than my sentences (maybe).

review of BEJE with Anne Chris Nov 28 2015 Bristol

“The Bristol European Jazz Ensemble with special guest Dutch singer Anne Chris, gave an evening of jazz (Nov 28 2015) which served to warm the slightly cold surroundings of St. Stephen’s Church.  The majority of the tunes were originals penned both by Anne Chris and the group’s trumpeter,
David Mowat.  These tunes were both funky, yet featured melodic turns and harmonic twists that were redolent of both the late, great figures
of pianist John Taylor and Kenny Wheeler. To afficiandos, Anne Chris’s mellow voice and inventive phrasing may well have brought to mind vocal associations of Norma Winstone, too. All the songs were charmingly introduced by both Anne and David and the ensemble provided
subtle and complementary support.” Richard Leigh Harris, classical and jazz pianist , visiting tutor at Birmingham Conservatoire, member of contemporary jazz/freeform ensemble ‘Oxjam’.Anne Chris with BEJE at Saint Stephen's Bristol

autumn gigs 2015

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 21st 9pm The Canteen Stokes Croft Bristol 9pm free entry. BEJE with Knd Stuwe on guitar replacing Anders Olinder. Expect a more Middle Eastern and Balkan slant than usual (even) as Mr Stuwe gets out his oudh, used to great effect in his band Mr Dowland’s Midnight with tenorsax man Jake McMurchie.

FRIDAY NOV 6th 8.30pm BeBop Club Entry price tbc, Around £7.50. Hotwells Bristol. Back with Anders at Bristol’s premier jazz club. We’ll be  swinging for England with the incomparable locked in rhythm section of Italians Pasquale and Paolo.

SUNDAY NOV 22nd 8.30pm Southampton Modern Jazz Club free entry

SATURDAY NOV 28th 7pm Saint Stephen’s Church BS11EQ BEJE with The dazzling Dutch jazz singer Anne Chris coming to Bristol especially for this one-off gig. Tickets on the door £10/£5 students or buy ahead for £8.75 from Bristol Ticket Shop. A Jazz Vocals MA graduate from Amsterdam’s Conservatory Anne has 3 albums and a trail of international gigs behind her, not least in her native top venues, Bimhuis and North Sea Jazz Festival. She’s a highly rated up and coming singer with a youthful somewhat melancholic voice. BEJE will back her for 6 of her songs as well as play their own material.


prema arts centre“It’s always a good and healthy thing when a programmer of a venue is proved wrong and tonight’s performance at Prema from the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble serves as a prime example of that very phenomenon. Having booked live music for this venue for twenty years and in spite of various attempts to bring jazz into the centre’s music programme, the audience’s booking preferences led me to believe that “you can’t sell jazz at Prema”. Well, we took a punt and it seems that our audience (who are always used to sharing a punt with us) really do rather like jazz. Especially when it’s played by a bunch of amazing musicians. Tonight’s line up offered a broad spectrum of musical styles, genres and flavours – each one executed with flawless precision and absolute passion. The performance from the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble will help us to rekindle an audience for slightly more experimental music and allow us to have some fun in bringing in an even broader live music programme for this remarkable arts centre – Gloucestershire’s most intimate performance venue.” Gordon Scott Prema Arts centre Director (pic-  not of BEJE)