I’m a community-builder who uses music. How am I doing so far?
By David Mowat, founder of BEJE and community worker 18/5/20
Main Questions to people who’ve attended gigs I’ve organised/played at, or who read about my work :
1. Has attending concerts at Saint Stephen’s or at Lincoln Gardens Care Scheme helped you connect more with others? Explain how.
2. Has the music programme at Saint Stephen’s reduced any barriers you may have felt between church-member/goer and non-church member?
3. Has the music programme at Lincoln Gardens helped reduce any barriers between this establishment and the neighbourhood, or between non-resident and tenant?
4. Does BEJE convey to you a positive spirit of internationalism that you feel emboldened by?
Last week ACE Arts Council England awarded me emergency funding to give me some time and space to explore my practice, given the nearly complete absence of live gigs during this pandemic on which much of my livelihood depended. This is part of what I told them I’d do if I received funding:
I’ll use the time to think critically about, blog and debate my role as a builder of community through the arts locally (as in older people’s work) and globally e.g. the political internationalism of BEJE.
I began this adventure of consciously fusing together my two practices of music and community work 20 years ago when I helped start East Bristol Jazz Club and produced King Cotton, a community jazz musical about the Great Western Cotton Factory in Barton Hill (cds for sale).
Now I’m thinking about the last 10 years or so. I’m blogging to generate dialogue and help my practice to improve.
Building community through music locally has had two main outlets in my practice. For 11 years I’ve curated mainly lunch time concerts at Saint Stephen’s Church in Bristol’s city centre. And for 5 years I’ve organised weekly musical entertainment at Lincoln Gardens Extra Care Scheme in Lawrence Hill.
I claim that what I’m trying to do in these two locations is not only give enjoyment to individuals who’ve attended gigs I’ve played in or curated. I hope I’ve helped connect people to others attending these events, perhaps because they’ve shared an enjoyable experience and memory, or realise their common love for a song, or see that lived through the same era evoked by a pop song. The concert may have helped create an atmosphere in which barriers between us are lowered.
If you’ve attended concerts at Lincoln Gardens or Saint Stephen’s can you say that it’s helped connect you more to others?
What was it about the event that did it for you?
Is there something else about building community through music at an event I’ve organised that I’ve missed out?
More than helping connections to increase between people present, I hope that my work has helped reduce barriers between the church and care home on the one hand, and ‘outsiders’ on the other. Both events have been public. In the case of Lincoln Gardens a few non-tenants have attended: family members, carers local residents and of course the performers themselves. In the case of Saint Stephen’s Church, both congregation members and others have come. I like to think that pagans and atheists and others have sat near to Christians without being bothered about any difference, but have been held together in the experience of the music.
Is this hope of mine true?
Are you a non-Christian who has perhaps looked more kindly on the building and the community (/ties) of Saint Stephen’s because of the concerts you’ve attended?
Does the church wall give less of a ‘keep out’ message to you than perhaps it once did?
If so, so what?
Would you put it another way?
Does Lincoln Gardens feel less a place-apart from the neighbourhood as a result of having public concerts there?
Building community on a global scale. This section may sound very grandiose. By it, I don’t mean I’m trying to replicate the United Nations. But whilst much of my life has been focused in the minutiae of neighbourhoods, I’ve also had a feeling for the ‘global village’, for how globalisation has pulled the web of humanity ever-closer. I am a strong believer in the cliché ‘There is only one race, the human race’. And that ‘we sink or swim together’. And I’ve tried to use music to do that. One of the bands I set up (it no longer feels ‘my’ band except in a parental sense) is Chai For All. Band members are equally interested in Middle Eastern music and politics as in Jewish music culture and politics. However I don’t want to focus on that here. Rather I draw attention to the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble (BEJE) founded 2013.
With BEJE I’ve tried to promote the idea that one English city, Bristol, is very much ‘a part of the continent’ to quote John Donne. Alongside giving enjoyment to audiences and players who love jazz I hope we’re conveying the idea that culture in general and jazz in particular (and our music particularly so) is border-less. And politically, it -and its makers- have to cross borders to breathe and flourish. BEJE pre-dated Brexit but anticipated it. More recently BEJE has become more international still in our collaboration with Yunmi Kang and Sangyeon Park of South Korea. Most of that collaboration, inshallah, is still to come.
If you’ve ever been to a gig or heard our music and read about us, does the BEJE project convey to you the positive spirit of internationalism?
If so how does it do it?
Do you buy into it?
Does the BEJE ‘brand’ add anything to the feeling of jazz as a political international force for good which is arguably a commonplace idea?
Is it a minor part of a bigger project, which is music pure and simple? Are these aspirations of mine just so much twaddle that get in the way of music?
That’s enough for a first blog. I hope you’ll respond. I’m not looking for praise, I’m looking for evidence and constructive comments to help me improve. Thank you for reading. David Mowat.
2020 plans and HEAR MUSIC from forthcoming album Modernised Sacrifice
Our plans are:
1. Regular UK gigs starting with The Canteen Stokes Croft Bristol Jan 15th. Next up currently is April 2nd at St George’s Bristol. This is the BEJE line up with Anders Olinder or Anna Gomez on keys and Len Aruliah alto.
2. A long awaited album launch; Modernised Sacrifice is the album made last year by Yunmi Sang and the BEJE trio. July 9th is the key date, at St George’s Bristol. If you’re a PR pro make a pitch to help us gain max exposure for our lovely album!
3. A Yunmi Sang and BEJE trio July tour in UK and Europe July 9 to 18th. If you’re a promoter or a venue, offer us a date in this window!
4. Gigs and festivals world-wide in late 2020 and 2021!
PREVIEW OF NEW ALBUM ‘MODERNISED SACRIFICE’ Yunmi Sang and the BEJE trio
Especially prepared for JazzAhead, in advance of the album release (we haven’t yet selected a label) here’s an mp3 from the album. We’d love to tour in Europe following our successful short UK tour in January 2019 supported by ACE Arts Council England.
BEJE 2019 gig dates
Bath Jazz Weekend January 6th 2pm
Yunmi Kang Sangyeon Park and BEJE Tri. Full details on dedicated page on this website.
Jan 21st St Stephen’s Church Bristol 1.10pm (work in progress performance)
Jan 23rd Fringe Jazz Bristol
Jan 25th Peggy’s Skylight Nottingham
Jan 26th Taunton CIC. TOUR END
Picture: The great Federico Leonori, a passionate engaging and risk taking bass player from Rome Italy and a frequent player with BEJE. Like Len and Ana hih biog will come soon!
March 29th Prema Arts Centre Uley (The date we all fall off a cliff?)
June 7th Bridport Arts Centre
BEJE Gig NEWS autumn 2018 and some NEW RECORDINGS
It’s tricky managing several bands and updating information on fb and elsewhere and I confess I have lapsed with this site. I was advised to get a more catchy address and while I now own bejejazz.com I haven’t gone further yet. If you’re not bothered with words, go for the link at the bottom of this blog.
Since the summer BEJE has been promoted again after a lull. For starters we made a show reel of our euRIP jazz suite performed at the March Bristol International jazz festival.
Following that we had a series of fabulous autumn gigs. First up was The Bocabar October 10th with Len Aruliah, quite a regular now, newly Ana Gomez Spanish pianist, Guillaume Ottaviani who did the same gig last year and Paolo Adamo on drums. We had a super time, slightly challenged by my inexperience in wearing varifocals.
Next An absolute gem of a venue, Peggy’s Skylight in Nottingham Nov 10 gave us a great welcome and we also went down a storm. On this occasion Al Swainger was on bass and Mattia Collu on drums.Len (pictured-not yet with his BEJE biog) has helped a lot by re presenting my o so last century hand written charts.
Seeing our availability for an edgy political statement/poem on Europe, Any Hague kindly booked us for Bristol’s Bebop Club (some band had let him down and we’re o so wiling) and we performed on Nov 23. This time that relaxed and buzzing Tony Orrell took the drum seat. That was a pretty good night too, not quite the fervour of Nottingham but then a prophet is not without except at home.
And last and not least, in an attemt to mark my 60th year and bring various BEJE family members together I held a BEJE party on Dec 9th at the Salt Cafe Bristol. Very warmly hosted by Alan with a great eye for economics. He’d sold out of food when the band came to have theirs. No hard feelings Alan, we’ll be back- and eat first next time. My friend and mentor pianist jazzicologist Ben Williams recorded the complete set, mixed it, and hey presto, I have a new live album for sale. On the occasion Julien Alenda played a blinder on tenor, Anders Olinder on keyboards was always elegant and Knud Stuwe played a couple of oud numbers. Len, Ana, Guillaume were there. I loved it all. Find three tracks below.
BEJE Colston Hall film 2017
Promoters and Venues: Book EuRIP project for 2018 to 2019
Venues and promoters looking for new acts for the autumn of 2018 and beyond, note that BEJE is preparing a performance project called EuRIP. To be premiered at The Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival on March 15th this is a spoken word and jazz story based on band-members’ formative memories, in Switzerland Italy Sri Lanka and The Netherlands. It’ll be a unique look at the interwoven fabric that is today’s Europe, as the fabric is torn by Brexit. More details in the months ahead. See http://www.facebook.com/Bristol.European.Jazz.Ensemble1
Review of 2017
“The BEJE (Bristol European Jazz Ensemble) is the brainchild of Bristol jazz trumpeter David Mowat. Their distinctive sound is a combination of David’s lyrical trumpet,
Knud Stuwe’s masterful guitar and oud fused with the sympathetic rhythmic section of bassist, Federico Leonori and drummer, Jon Clark.
Their culturally diverse repertoire comprises elements of American jazz, contemporary folk and beautifully re-harmonised classical music; an uplifting journey across musical boundaries”
Andy Christie composer on hearing BEJE at Bristol Music Club Nov 28th 2017
BEJE has had a less busy year in 2017 than in the preceding three on account of David Mowat’s focus on his Arts Council England-funded project ‘Longing Belonging and Balfour’, a music with spoken word take on The Balfour Declaration of 1917 which has traveled around the UK. There’s some crossover with BEJE as Knud Stuwe is involved as arranger composer and oud player and the jazz has seeped into the Yiddish song and Arabic maqaams.
After The Bristol Music Club gig in January came a gig at a hot pub party with Senegalese kora Master Moussa Kouyate, then a Bristol Fringe gig at the same time as the Bristol Jazz and Blues Festival in March and a Colston Hall gig in May (where the video and recording were done). These last two were in stark contrast of personnel, with Julien on tenor, Paolo drums Daan keyboards and Federico bass, whilst the May gig Jon Clark was on drums, Al Swainger on bass and Len was on alto and soprano. There were more recent originals played in Colston Hall than the grooves we layed out with Moussa.
In May at The Stroud Jazz Festival BEJE went down very well and in June a large audience at The Portishead Speakeasy loved us. Hostess-singer Kate O’Loughlin wrote after “What a joyous night last night.David Mowat and BEJE played extraordinary takes on regular Jazz standards along with some very moving, contemporary own compositions, beautifully executed”
Despite a long summer gap and one one on one rehearsal with bass dep Guilaume our gig at The Bocabar in Glastonbury in September was as free-flowing as ever with bassist-promoter Adrian Smith writing “It was a great gig on Friday 8th at the Bocabar with BEJE – Beautiful compositions and some really top notch playing. The audience loved every minute of it. If you get a chance you should definitely go see the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble”
By request we were invited back to the slightly less pristine (having had us jazzers once already) classical Bristol Music Club, developing a taste for reflective jazz and story telling in
November, which takes us to 2018.
BEJE at TAUNTON CICCIC
I’ve been preparing this morning for the TAUNTON CICCIC gig this Friday Jan 20th 7.30pm doors open £10 on door. £9 conc. http://www.creativeinnovationcentre.co.uk for address. Back by popular request as they say. Len Aruliah on sax, Knud Stuwe guitar and oud, Paolo Adamo drums, Federico Leonori bass. This’ll have a different feel to the gig with Anders on kb of last year as Knud is a very different player. His oud playing will bring real authenticity to the Syrian groove tune ‘Justin’ and the Somali desert blues ‘Mustapha’s Song’ and I always dig his guitar voicings.
The ‘Italian boys’ on bass and drums are in fantastic form with sparky duets expected, and Len on sax is always on fire and ever sinuous. I’ll have my warm steady cooler sounds in the mix (David Mowat on trumpet/flugel), and am looking forward to this gig! All pics from our fab gig at the same venue a year ago bar Knud’s.