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
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past