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.

Lincoln Gardens community room during a gig. Pam drums a tambourine whilst the daughter of a visitor Aisha, interacts with Princess

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.

Dutch singer Anne Chris with BEJE at Saint Stephen’s in 2015-all my eggs in one basket: internationalism and secular music in a sacred space drawing diverse audiences together (I hope).

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.

BEJE at the Stroud Jazz Festival in 2016

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. 

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.



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


BEJE performed at the Bristol Music Club, a venerable institution, as part of its long-established series of chamber music, on Tuesday January 10th 2017. Though there have been occasional jazz concerts booked there at other times this was the first time ‘chamber jazz’ had been accepted as a sub genre of ‘chamber music’. The stipulation was to play entirely acoustically, so even Paolo Adamo’s drums let alone David Mowat’s trumpet and Federico Leonori’s sonorous bass played to the level of Knud Stuwe’s oud and his nylon strong cut away acoustic guitar (ironically designed with a direct input for an amp). Concert Secretary Dick Little commented:

‘Very many thanks for a most enjoyable concert last night, full of variety and great musical and technical skills. We classical musicians find your improvisational skills quite magical! Hope you didn’t find us too formal! The first jazz concert in 113 years I think!’
We played to a fairly full house and warm applause, including, in the jazz audience tradition, for sparky duet improvs by the Italian boys. Audience member (and pic taker) Peter Bruce commented
beje-at-bristol-music-club-jan-10-2017Great jazz performances and improvisations flowing together’
Later I received this full review from Alison Dodd, committee member who gave the vote of thanks



Recently Beje, represented by David Mowat (trumpet), Knud Stuwe (guitar and oud), Federico Leonori (double bass) and Paolo Adamo (drums) played Bristol Music Club, an audience perhaps more accustomed to listening to classical string quartets than a jazz group – but undeterred, Beje got on with what they do best, easy, relaxed playing that comes from long association and total enjoyment of what they do.


They gave us a wide-ranging programme, partly following the pilgrimage that David himself had made, on foot and at times quite alone, from Bristol to Jerusalem.  We travelled to Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and from mountains high above the Mediterranean to the Somerset Levels, David’s own music responding to the styles of music that he met as he journeyed and engaged directly with the people he encountered along the way.  There was superb playing with some great solos – David’s wonderfully smooth trumpet, intricate patterns from Knud on both his instruments, and a magnificent duet which had Federico and Paolo vying to outdo one another with ever more energetic and ambitious feats which the audience could not resist, at last bursting out, however diffidently, with admiring applause.


This was a captivating performance, propelled forward even through the pauses within melodies by an impeccable sense of rhythm.  One ‘gentle ambient piece’ from the Balkans was a Dance for Timshel, Timshel being Hope in the face of how things are.  We had felt very much aware of that vital hope during this exhilarating evening of playing, which was both sensitively  lyrical and full of zest.





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 entryhttp://www.southamptonmodernjazzclub.com/

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. http://www.bristolticketshop.co.uk/eventdetails.aspx?e=10635 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)


The interest from Prema Arts Centre [Fri May 22 8pm £12/9 in advance. Bethesda Chapel South Street Uley (Nr Dursley) Gloucestershire GL11 5SS] allows us to present ourselves as ‘world music’ whilst others see us as ‘modern jazz’. It all depends what a programmer thinks their audience likes. What people actually like when we get to a gig may be different to what we think we like as experience (usually) trumps preconception. I’m always trying to think how to present the band, whilst band members tell me not to compromise on the quality of the music that emerges on stage from the improvising dialogue that pushes us into ever more open and exciting places. It’s an interesting place to be as band leader, recpetive to the music making as a fellow musician, but also attentive to to the audience before they arrive and when actually there. http://www.prema.org.uk/whats-on/weekly-classes/Bristol%20European%20Jazz%20Ensemble/?prod=131

BEJE band leader co-exhibitor at JAZZ AHEAD in BREMEN GERMANY

Having launched our new cd ‘Beje Bites’ and made a new promo film of ‘Redfield Carnival’ www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIDmuRfYL1w David Mowat the BEJE leader is to travel to Bremen at European Jazz’s premier event, ‘Jazz Ahead’ on 23 to 26 April. His intention is to secure the first European gig for BEJE at a club or festival around which smaller gigs can be organised. And attracting the interest of an agent would be fabulous as well. Musicians may find him hanging out at the jam sessions (if they are to be had). He will be a co-exhibitor on the Jazz Services UK stand.