PHOTOS/REVIEW: JQ Legends Festival, Birmingham

Alina Bzhezhinska paying tribute to Alice Coltrane
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk

John Watson captured some of the action at the 2017 JQ Legends Festival (19-21 May 2017), presented by Birmingham Jazz in various venues around Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Reports jointly by Peter Bacon and Ben Daniels.


How do you bring together the jazz audience that loves the music’s heritage with the listeners who thrive on the surprise of the new? Birmingham Jazz has come up with an ingenious solution in its Legends Festival, now in its third year. It gets contemporary players to celebrate the legends of the past but in their own contemporary manner.

Chris Bowden (unusually on tenor) and Legend guest curator Bryan Corbett
Photo credit: © John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk
Peter Bacon writes: 

This year’s loose theme was the Blue Note label and the players who recorded for it. Guest curator Bryan Corbett, a trumpeter who has been very much wedded to that idea of reinventing the past since his work in Us3 led four different bands over the three days, including one with powerful saxophonist Chris Bowden, himself something of a Birmingham legend. Meanwhile another good friend of Birmingham Jazz, saxophonist Tony Kofi, featured in tributes to John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.

Tony Kofi playing Coltrane
Photo credit: © John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk
The Ornette gig was my highlight. Kofi has a bona fide Coleman link - he played with him on a Jamaaladeen Tacuma recording session - and he, Byron Wallen on trumpet, Larry Bartley on double bass and Rod Youngs on drums made sure that they not only played true to themselves on a selection of Ornette tunes, they communicated their own brand of that visceral excitement stirred up by the Coleman Quartet at the turn of the ‘60s.

I also enjoyed two young bands, the David Ferris Trio playing the music of Jimmy Smith and the Nick Dewhurst Quintet playing Kenny Doreham tunes, both free entry gigs in Jewellery Quarter coffee bars.

Ben Daniels writes:

Two outstanding performances came from the brilliant harpist Alina Bzhezhinska, in a tribute to the work of Alice Coltrane, and from bassist Alec Dankworth's Spanish Accents.

Alec Dankworth adding the crucial flamenco rhythm
Photo credit: © John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk
Emily Dankworth in Spanish mood
Photo credit: © John Watson/ jazzcamera.co.uk

Alina, with saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Larry Bartley and drummer Joel Prime, demonstrated that the harp can be a tremendously expressive jazz instrument, while Alec's group strongly evoked the power of flamenco in a dazzling show, with superb singing from his daughter Emily Dankworth.

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