JAZZ / Counting bars, local heroes: Pubs not clubs are where it's at, argues Phil Johnson, who caught the Stan Tracey Quintet at the Albert in Bristol

In the etiquette of jazz, audience conversation is governed by rules of bewildering complexity. At Ronnie Scott's and the Jazz Cafe there are numerous signs telling patrons to shut up while the band is playing, but so constant is the noise you'd probably have to stand on your chair and scream before anyone told you off. At Bristol's jazz pub, the Albert, it's more straightforward. Stand at the back and you can normally get away with a whispered conference, but if you dare to talk during the quiet moments of a bass solo the reaction is instantaneous. First there's a sharp look from the formidably large landlord, then there's a loud shush; finally the ultimate sanction comes into play: the clip round the ear. Not surprisingly, it's an effective policy; the audience listens and the musicians love it, so much so that a while ago they named it as their favourite venue in a straw poll by the organisation Jazz Services.

Jazz in pubs is one of the great British institutions. While nightclubs get pride of place in the mythology of jazz venues, lowly, unloved pubs are where the majority of jazz actually gets played. Here, the music battles with the sounds of the juke-box and the gaming machine from the bar next door and when last orders are called, the last number is called too. Jazz promoters who sub-contract a room in a pub for gigs have to live with the hassle of unsympathetic publicans.

At the Albert, Ian Storror is almost unique in being a jazz fan first and a publican second. 'This is my front room,' he said from behind the bar earlier this month, before the night's band - the Stan Tracey Quintet - arrived. 'Having a pub means you can't get out much so I started gigs as a way of bringing jazz into my living room.' It's hardly an ordinary living room, although there is a television above the stage. There's a scattering of tables, a wall-full of jazz photographs and a chalked up list of the musicians who have played there, jostling for space with the notice-board for the darts and cribbage teams. The other walls are filled with pop single bags, (Storror's sister is a record company rep and it saves on wallpaper), allowing patrons the unusual pleasure of looking at Iggy Pop while listening to 'Body and Soul'.

Storror started putting on gigs 10 years ago and is now inundated with demo tapes from nationally known bands. He gets big names: the David Murray Quartet, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Andy Sheppard's In Co-Motion have all played in the last year or so. The gig by Stan Tracey, though, was something special - that week the veteran pianist celebrated 50 years in jazz with a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Arriving an hour before the gig, Tracey was every inch the classic, long-suffering British jazzman, natty in suede car coat, grey bouffant and puffing cigarette. He went immediately to the piano, like a surgeon about to probe some suspected malignancy, while Storror hovered ineffectually in the background. The piano, a Finnish Hellas overstrung upright, is a sore point between them. For Storror, it's his pride and joy and, at pounds 1,500, his biggest single outlay; for Tracey, who had played a Bosendorfer at the QEH, it was a cross to bear. 'It restricts you,' he said later in the dressing room-cum-function room upstairs. 'It's the difference between driving a Formula One and a Lada. They both go . . .'

Tracey exudes the weariness of someone who has measured out his life in two-sets-a-night gigs in variable surroundings. 'You're only as good as you played on your last gig,' he says, 'and you tend to convince yourself that the improvisatory muscle gets flabby, but after the first 32 bars everything is okay. On solos you can't predetermine your out-point but there comes a time when you feel you've said all you want to.'

Once on stage and behind the errant piano, the weariness slowly begins to disappear as, head down and shoulders heaving, his face almost touching the keys, Tracey gradually begins to animate the base matter of his band into something quite magical. It raises the inevitable jazz question about whether the second set is always better because the band has drunk more, or because you have, but by the time last orders have been called, the band is really beginning to swing. Guy Barker, the trumpeter, is sounding like Wynton Marsalis is supposed to but never quite manages, slurring and sliding his way through the history of his instrument in a series of quick-witted solos. The saxophonist, Art Themen - a surgeon by day - gets looser with every breath, as near to Ellington's Paul Gonselves as any British player can sound, while Tracey brings out a closing section of crowd-pleasing Thelonious Monk covers that sends the tacky room into ecstasy.

When he ends, long after time, Storror presents him with a framed photograph of Thelonious Monk. Tracey, in a rare moment of emotion, nearly looks pleased.

Albert Inn, Bristol, 0272 661968.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?