PREVIEW : Legends Festival. (Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham 17-19 July)

Henry Lowther. Photo credit: Garry Corbett


A new "Legends Festival" will start in Birmingham in July. The first one is partly devoted to Miles Davis and will be 'guest-curated' by Henry Lowther. Peter Bacon writes about the background:


In the rock and pop world tribute bands seem to me a bit like a minor but spreading infection. It’s not exactly the plague and a healthy shot of original music will usually clear it up, but it’s still mildly irritating.

But in the jazz world, we don’t have tribute bands, or rather we do but the very nature of the music and the way its players remake what has gone before in their own interpretations makes paying tribute the noble exercise it should be.

Not in the jazz world do we have the (honestly) named Fake Festival - there is one in my Midland city in August. Nor do we see the poster with “JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE” in giant letters with the small print reading: “as played by the Timi Bendicks Expedience”.

Nope, we have bands like:

- Chris Biscoe’s Mingus Profiles Sextet
- Simon Spillett’s Standard Miles
- Chris Gumbley's Quintet playing their Tribute to Cannonball Adderley.


Those three bands can be heard at a new festival in Birmingham which runs over the weekend of 17 to 19 July in the city’s Jewellery Quarter. It’s called the Legends Festival and intends to focus on a particular “jazz legend” each year. This year it’s Miles Davis, but the programme has been widened to include other “legends” in order to establish the concept.

Guest curator is trumpeter Henry Lowther who actually got to meet Miles. It was in Los Angeles in 1969 and Henry, who was playing with the Keef Hartley Band at the Whisky A Go Go, was introduced to Miles by Dave Holland, Miles’s bassist at the time.

Henry will recall that meeting and his time working in the Gil Evans Orchestra in a Legends Festival talk called He Also Plays Trumpet, and will be leading his own Still Waters band on the first night of the festival.

In addition to the Biscoe, Spillett and Gumbley bands, up-and-coming Birmingham pianist David Austin Grey will be investigating the influence of the electric Miles in his Little Church band, formed for the occasion and featuring Aaron Diaz on trumpet and electronics, and Rachael Cohen on alto saxophone. The Jim Wynn Nonet will be playing Miles’s Birth Of The Cool music, and Sean Gibbs will be playing music associated with another trumpeter: Clark Terry.

So, lots of tributes being paid - but lots of new music being made in the process.

LINKS: Full listing of Legends Festival events go to Interview with Henry Lowther

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