Astral Tusk Launch Event | Live Review & Photoset

5th April | Gallimaufry

Photos: Khali Ackford

Thursday night saw the phenomenal launch of Astral Tusk, a collective which aims to galvanize the experimental jazz scene, along with offering an insight into improvised contemporary jazz. The night consisted of three stellar bands who have all carved their names on the Bristol jazz circuit and gained a deservedly heavy following as a result. The Gallimaufry was jam-packed.

There was a buzz in the air and there was a lengthy queue forming outside (you know it’s gonna be a good night when this happens). DJ Notsoever provided some atmosphere-building tunes. I can’t say I’ve ever heard a DJ play a Jacob Collier number before, but it was very fitting for the events which were about to unfold.

Starting the night with swirling jazz futurism, drenched in sonic synths, were three-piece Hippo. Toby Perrett was at his kit, Henry Binning was the keeper of the keys and Doug Cave manned an impressive synth station, his sax always at the ready. Doug looped an infectious sax line to open, over which they built a prog-jazz-style number.

“Astral Tusk is the future of jazz; we’re gonna put Bristol on the map,” Doug announced, eliciting a roaring response. Hippo then cranked things up with ‘BJP,’ with flairs of electro-psych and dream-like chord sequences meshing, culminating in a great interstellar beast, in the style of Tennyson. After teasing us with some material from their debut EP, due for release in May, Hippo ended their set with ‘Gromet,’ climaxing with a screaming sax solo. It was a full-on frenzy, leaving its mark.

Next up were Gallimaufry residents, Waldo’s Gift, who delight every Wednesday, with their improvised jams and reworked renditions. Their impressive and exhilarating 30-minute improvised performance was mind-blowing. A Harry Stoneham bass line kicked things off, joined by James Vine’s drums and Alun Elliott-Williams shredding on guitar. At points seeping with math rock and jazz elements, they sounded similar to a Physics House Band tune.

You had no idea where the track was taking you next. You could be simultaneously anxious and excited. To walk in and hear it, you’d be convinced that it was a pre-rehearsed, polished tune, not an improvised 30-minute jam. In this capacity, Waldo’s Gift are truly in another league. See them at The Galli for free next Wednesday – no excuses.

The final band was Bristol’s favourite buskers, Snazzback. They are frequently on the harbourside with their vibrant jazz and soul sound, combined with afrobeat and electronica. Excitingly, they have just completed their forthcoming album, which will be released on June 22nd. Dave Sanders led in with a smooth sax intro, with some dream-like, entrancing chords from Eli Jitsuto on guitar.

Their beastly number, ‘Mr. Frimp’ was a prime example of Snazzback as true heavyweights. With Chris Langton’s irregular drum patterns and Rich Allen’s slick and smooth double bass, they created a contemporary math-jazz vibe with plenty of guts. Teasing us with fresh material from their upcoming album, Snazzback delivered an enticing and gripping set.

They finished with the mighty ‘Sandal’s Disaster’ which, as Dave explained, “is a song about repetitive strain injury and bad footwear.” Using an octave pedal on his sax, Dave amplified a massive sound throughout the venue. With an electro feel and glittery-psych chord structure, ‘Sandal’s Disaster’ was a modern take on traditional jazz which borrowed from all of the variety of world sounds.

What to expect from Astral Tusk heading forward? Who knows? But it’s likely to be exciting. You’d be a fool not to be watching closely.