Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival blasts off with Birchall, Brand and more


With its emphasis on adventurous programming and bids to redress the gender imbalance permeating current mainstream jazz summits, this two-day fest was a tonic to those seeking a genuinely leftfield option. The first night was largely given over to the aesthetically spiritual, with Woven Entity kicking off with a mouse seemingly trapped in their collective Jackson, conjuring a deep weave of ethnological textures, bolstered and partially given form by guest Julia Kjær’s necessary brassy interjections.

Sarah Gail Brand’s Sextet followed, showcasing a potent suite of polyphonic melodies, secreting a libidinous R.E.M. cover and some clownish crowd interaction amid a triumphant set of Ayler-inspired gospels. While some of Brand’s slapstick stagecraft might alienate some, there’s simply no denying the power of her compositions.

Transcension – the premiering hook-up between Mancunian saxophonist Nat Birchall (pictured top) and Canadian drummer Franklin Kiermyer – rode out the opening night with a dazzling take on Sun Ship-era Coltrane, buoyed by the rippling ivories of talented young pianist Davis Whitfield (pictured above). Birchall’s tone was pure and reverent throughout, a cleansing flame to anoint the after-show apostles.

– Spencer Grady

– Photos by Michael Putland

For the full festival round up see the November issue of Jazzwise – out 22 October – subscribe here to save money and get a fantastic jazz CD FREE