Now in its sixth year, Bristol Jazz & Blues Festival will take place across Colston Hall, the 02 Academy and The Folk House. This year’s programme includes over 20 ticketed concerts, a jam packed schedule of free concerts in the Colston Hall foyer, workshops in the Folk House and The Forge and nightly jam sessions.
Polly Gibbons is a British singer who incorporates jazz, soul and blues influences into her dynamic live performances.
She has performed at all the leading UK jazz clubs, international festivals and as a regular at the legendary venue Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, where she has sung with the All-Stars, led by pianist and house musical director James Pearson, a long-time collaborator. In 2016, she opened the sold out UK tours for George Benson and Gladys Knight and had two acclaimed performances at the Royal Albert Hall. She was also a featured singer with the Liverpool Philharmonic in a presentation of the music and life story of John Lennon.
Polly is quickly establishing herself in the States as well, with shows these past few years in Florida, Boston, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles and Birdland in NYC. She released her critically acclaimed UK debut album ‘My Own Company’ in 2014.
Her U.S. debut Many Faces of Love in 2015 was produced by George Klabin and released on Resonance Records. Klabin’s production on Is It Me…? has grown in line with the emotional depth of her voice and her innate musical curiosity. She’s especially excited by the buoyant seven-piece horn section, which enhances both her R&B and big band swing vibes. The piano and most of the arranging are shared by Pearson and Tamir Hendelman, the Israeli born, L.A. based jazz pianist to the stars, including Barbra Streisand and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.
A farmer’s daughter who grew up in Framlingham, a small market town in Suffolk, England, Polly is one of seven siblings in a family that shared all types of different musical loves. Her mum cherished classical and choral music (Bach, Mozart, Chopin), her dad was an electric bassist who played in bands in the 70’s, her brothers loved R&B and her sisters were all vinyl collectors, playing everything from hip hop and soul to jazz and folk. Polly took obligatory piano lessons at age four, but didn’t realize she could sing till she was around 13. Crippled by an initial shyness, at her first public performance at a school Christmas concert, she sang with her back to the audience. Though she sang hymns regularly at the Baptist church her family attended, her musical sensibilities were galvanized when her sister played Billie Holiday’s ‘I’m A Fool To Want You’ — which Polly found “extraordinary!”
Inspired by Billie, the budding singer experienced an initial flurry of excitement in discovering jazz and blues, listening to Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Donny Hathaway, Thelonious Monk, as well as classical music, and the likes of Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Rickie Lee Jones, Bob Dylan. Participating in a local music workshop, she met British singer Ian Shaw, who took Polly under his wing and secured her first gig in London when she was 17. Participating in other workshops, she cultivated her talent with bassist Gill Alexander, Jacqui Dankworth and James Pearson.
James Pearson is a British pianist and composer, and a creator of contempory music, jazz and classical. He graduated from the Guildhall School, having completed his degree and the Advanced Solo Studies Course. Whilst at college he studied with Robert Saxton, Francis Shaw, Peter Bithell and James Gibb. He regularly performed with the symphony orchestra, including a concert at the Barbican with Takemitzu. He is the Artistic Director at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club where his trio are the house band.
James has broadcast on all the major radio and television networks. Classic F.M broadcast his concert of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto, and BBC Radio 2 broadcast his performance of the Gershwin Piano Concerto and Rhapsody in Blue. He was the pianist in the Steve Martland Band. His work as a Jazz musician has taken him all over the world. This year his trio The James Pearson Trio played a four night run in Birdland Jazz Club in New-York. His fine piano playing and arrangements can be heard on over 50 albums
Amongst the many people James has worked with are, Dame Cleo Laine, Maria Ewing, Marian Montgomery, Petula Clark, Kevin Spacey, John Wilson, Elvin Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Joss Stone, Dave Stewart, Buddy Greco, Johnny Griffin, Joseph Horowitz, Richard Rodney Bennett, Ray Davies, Jeff Beck and Paul McCartney.