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.

Jazz Stroud May 28 2017

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

Portishead Speakeasy June 16 2017

November, which takes us to 2018.


Bocabar Glastonbury Sept 8 2017

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

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

REVIEW OF BEJE ‘BITES’, the second album

A Review of ‘Bites’ by BEJE
(Bristol European Jazz Ensemble)
Written by Ben Williams, an independent writer on jazz.

‘Bites’ is the first studio release by the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble. Led by trumpeter David Mowat – also principal composer for the quintet – the sound of the group is influenced by the folk forms of Europe, blended seamlessly with the classic Modern jazz moods of Miles, Mingus, Monk and ‘Trane. As a whole, the music reflects Mowat’s extensive travels and immersion in the cultures Eastern Europe and the Middle East, together with his deep, abiding love of the jazz tradition. Recorded in Bristol, UK at Toybox studio, the album features some highly respected young players on the British Jazz scene – Julien Alenda (alto), Paulo Adamo (drums), Anders Olinder (piano), and Pasquale Votino (bass) – in a well written set that gives each of them ample opportunity to demonstrate his individual musicality.

‘Justin’, the lengthy opening track, has a rubato fanfare-like intro reminiscent of ‘Sketches of Spain’ and other Davis/Evans collaborations, moving into an ostinato bass and piano figure that supports a long, arcing, richly active melody, played in unison by the horns. This contains speech rhythms and motifs that evoke the middle east. It is a modal composition, but its modes incorporate a scale used in Kurdish music and Syria. The use of this scale creates a dramatic and melancholy atmosphere that speaks powerfully of the many tragic events in that region. The band members solo excellently throughout its 13 minutes, always intensifying the mood.

The bitter-sweet trumpet led ballad ‘Hymn for Mostar’ reminded this writer of some of Randy Brecker’s more poignant compositions. The Breckers’ Ashkenazy heritage may not be entirely coincidental in this impression. It has a sadness that is rooted in the urban experience, and its mood speaks of the aftermath of conflicts that once gripped the City named in its title.

‘Chai Za Dvoye’ Has a nostalgic yet upbeat mood, with a propulsive swinging 6/8 groove supporting some excellent straight ahead piano work from Olinder, and some elegiac themes from Mowat. I gather the title refers to the familiar European scene of old folks talking about what might have been over a glass of tea.

Then it’s up, bustle and out, with the hard swingin’ ‘Forward and Back’ – ushered in with some excellent drumming by Adamo, the punctuated rhythms and climbing figures of the head remind one of Mingus ‘Fables…’ and the entire band get a chance to stretch out the most on this tune, developing longer and more expansive arcs in their improvisations. The sax solo in this is particularly good. The trumpet also has some great dialogue with the piano before the recapitulation.

‘Redfield Carnival’ is exactly that – a Rollins type Samba meets Calypso tune – it adheres to these genres closely enough to create the Carnival atmosphere – but quickly becomes a vehicle for unfettered blowing in a style that reminds one of Richie Cole’s ‘Hollywood Madness’.

As a whole, ‘Bites’ admirably showcases both the compositional talents of the leader, and the improvisational strengths of all of the BEJE players. It is well paced, gradually picking up throughout, courtesy of Votino’s fine bass playing. Any stiffness at the start – owing to studios being some of the least conducive places in which to create a lively performance atmosphere – is soon dispelled by the increasingly intense performances. It is often the case that the logistical dilemma of whether to record first, then gig, which means that the band don’t know the material as well as they will in future, or whether to work new material in LIVE, then record it, is always a bugbear. With this release, you get accurate renditions of very original material that also lead to heartfelt and savvy improvisations, what’s not to like?

Ben Williams (21/04/15)

Review of BEJE at BIRMINGHAM SYMPHONY HALL Jazzlines Nov 28th

Bristol European Jazz Ensemble. Jazzlines. Symphony Hall. 28th Nov 2014. P1650100It was a hairy journey up as though the M5 wasn’t terrible the satnav directions to ‘Bay C’ at the back of the Symphony Hall were impossible to follow. We arrived and unloaded 10 minutes before we were due to start, nervous, before an expectant audience of 300 Mary from Jazz Lines later told us. Anyway, our choicest numbers went down very well and we quickly relaxed into it. On the Monday I reminded the South Bank London of our availability. I’m sure they can’t wait to have us…

Audience comments on BEJE at The Porter Live Jazz and Blues Club

We all enjoyed playing here and hope to come again. The sound was clear and sound engineer really helpful. I particularly enjoyed the subtle colouring  by guest guitarist Knud Stuwe, replacing Anders on this occasion. There was a large contingent of jazz students from Bath Spa Uni so I was interested to see what they made of it. They gave the emails for future gigs, so that’s some kind of endorsement. Ali wrote “Intonation and timing between the whole band and especially the horns was amazing, made it groove so much!”. And George wrote “A very gentle yet vibrant sound, also very good lyrical phrasing” Phew! On to the next grade then…

Review of ‘live at the fringe’ CD by Jon Stein

BEJE ‘Live at the Fringe’ – CD Review by Jon Stein

If the name of Bristol-based trumpeter, composer and bandleader David Mowat is not better known it’s partly because his talents have been spread across a wide field. Apart from his various musical pursuits, he has been variously a social, political and spiritual activist (and is currently a dedicated family man).

So it is all the more welcome when he finds time to share his first passion – jazz. His CD with the Bristol European Jazz Ensemble showcases his thoughtful compositions and energetic playing. Mostly recorded live at The Fringe Jazz Club in Bristol in November 2013, the disc features a line-up of seasoned and younger professional sidemen, several with a continental European background.

The music is all original and ranges from the hard-bop of the opener ‘Easter Rise’, through to the latin-jazz/township feel of ‘All the Best’. Along the way there are nods to the great bands and players who’ve influenced Dave’s development: the Jazz Messengers, Mingus, Coltrane, and Miles Davis. But it’s not just an American sound. There’s a lyrical strain, as well as an occasional English eccentricity, in tunes like ‘The Rainbow’s Gift’ evoking UK-based musicians such as Kenny Wheeler and Keith Tippett.

Often the music reflects Dave’s own life and personal vision. The extended ‘Persephone’s Descent and Istanbul Jam’ features a spoken narrative and chronicles his pilgrimage from Bristol to Jerusalem in 2004-5, while the melodic and playful ‘Zozo’ celebrates his young daughter, Zoe.

The ensemble work is tight and the soloing fluent. French altoist, Julien Alenda provides a foil to Dave’s mellow sound with assured, angular lines. Keyboardist Anders Olinder lays down tight grooves as well as hot solos. The drum and bass pairing of Marco Anderson and Pasquale Votino negotiates frequent changes of feel and tempo with ease and confidence.

A minor quibble is the reprise of the opener to close the album. It might have been more interesting to hear the band’s take – however oblique – on a standard (which might also provide a reference point for the less experienced listener). It is also tantalizing to hear guitarist Knud Stuwe make only the briefest of appearances – on the infectious and funky ‘Saint Francis’.

All in all, BEJE bring a fresh view to the modern scene. Firmly-rooted enough in the tradition clearly to be modern jazz, the album is sufficiently diverse to attract anyone who appreciates well-played, original instrumental music. At just over 75 minutes, the album is also great value for money.

(415 words)

Jon Stein is a writer and musician based in Totnes, UK. Find out more at

Audience review of BEJE at Canteen Bristol 17th Sept

Great listening audience at The Canteen on the 17th Sept. The bar staff said it was an exceptionally high bucket-donations take. Some audience comments included

“Soft, sweet and plenty of rhythms” Sadi Zane.
“I’ve not seen any live jazz in ages and it really rekindled my love of it and made me want to see more!! Deep tight and contemporary with some hints of traditional styles as well!!” Owen Clarke
“Unusual, original, with the story telling. Surprising” Anna, jazz pianist


Mike Collins, well known jazz pianist and trio leader appearing in November at the Teignmouth Jazz Festival with long-standing collaborator Lee Goodall on saxes, is also a jazz writer, penning articles for Jazz Wise from time to time I’ve noticed. Here’s part of his review of our CD

“…there’s a lively groove round every corner whether its the samba like lilt of Easter Rise, the township inflected Cagoulie or the calypos like All the Best. In between there are more reflective moments with the rich harmonic textures of ballad The Rainbows Gift and the modal jazz vibe of Equanimity. The CD, produced as the band formed and started gigging, made me want to go and see them live. The energy of the collective, the fluency of the players (if you don’t know them already) are all immediately evident and its hard not to grin at the irrepressible optimism of Dave Mowat’s writing and playing”. Full review is on