PREVIEW: Jazz in Birmingham (Jan/Feb 2019)

Mike Williams
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The second city has a bubbling jazz scene and it's been quick to come to the boil in 2019. Peter Bacon browses the Jan/Feb listings:

The new year has already started busily for Birmingham jazz lovers, and it’s continuing that way. Here are few gigs to look out for:

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Eastside Jazz Club (the only purpose-built jazz club within an educational institution in the world?) has a strong programme of visiting artists in addition to its regular roster of student bands. Among those in the Thursday evening visitor slot are: Gareth Williams with Clark Tracey and Arnie Somogyi (this Thursday 24 Jan); a quartet led by much-admired Birmingham educator and alto player Mike Williams (31 Jan); drummer Ari Hoenig leading a trio (14 Feb); and vocalist Sara Colman performing music from her recent album What We’re Made Of (28 Feb). Sneaking in on a Wednesday evening is pianist John Turville’s quartet which features Julian Argüelles (27 Feb). Among the student contributions, the real peach is the RBC’s Ellington Orchestra playing the Duke’s Bard-inspired Such Sweet Thunder suite (Monday 4 Feb).

For more “out there” jazz with the abbreviation improv usually attached, Fizzle is the promoter to follow. Sessions happen nearly every other Tuesday early evening in a small, characterful pub called The Lamp Tavern in among the back street garages, metal bashers and discount textile suppliers at the less gentrified end of Digbeth. We’ve already missed a visit from pianist Veryan Weston, but it’s not too late to catch the Copenhagen-based duo of Natalie Sandtorv (vocals) and Ole Mofjell (drums) – they go by the name of Not On The Guest List – playing with locals Andy Woodhead (he’s the Fizzle main man) on keyboard and Lee Griffiths (alto) on 29 Jan. Fizzle are also collaborating with the Flatpack Film Festival for an evening of silent films accompanied with improvisers; it’s at Artefact on Tuesday 5 Feb.

Closely linked to Fizzle, both in stylistic leanings and because they often collaborate, is TDE Promotions, aka Tony Dudley-Evans. TDE puts on gigs in the minute but hugely effective Hexagon Theatre at mac on the south of the city. Tony says the early 2019 programme is probably his strongest yet. This Thursday 24 Jan he has the Cleveland Watkiss’ Allstars, featuring Jason Yarde, Orphy Robinson, Neil Charles and Mark Sanders; on 19 Feb he has Riot Ensemble in collaboration with the Evan Parker/Alex Hawkins Duo and with Kit Downes' ENEMY.


Jazzlines, the only Birmingham jazz promoter with Arts Council Portfolio status, is presenting Dizzy Reece Routes in Jazz Retrospective at the CBSO Centre on Saturday 26 Jan, the transatlantic band made up of Byron Wallen on trumpet, Ralph Moore (saxophone), Trevor Watkis (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass) and Willie Jones III (drums); Tin Men and the Telephone at Eastside Jazz Club on Thursday 7 Feb; and two solo pianists, Nikki Yeoh and Ivo Neame in a double bill at CBSO Centre on Saturday 9 Feb. Jazzlines’ regular free Friday commuter jazz sessions in the foyer of Symphony Hall include the University of Birmingham Big Band, directed by Jonathan Silk (25 Jan), the Nick Dewhurst Band (1 Feb)  and James Banner’s Usine (22 Feb).

The highlight of the Jan/Feb programme of Birmingham Jazz, which has regular Friday evening gigs at the 1000 Trades in the city’s Jewellery Quarter, is a repeat visit by the Alina Brzhezhinska Quartet on 8 Feb.

Jazz At The Spotted Dog, which happens every Tuesday evening in this sparky Digbeth pub, maintains its remarkably high standards, with the Chris Maddock Quartet (29 Jan); Hans Koller (5 Feb); and Rebecca Nash’s Atlas (26 Feb) the standouts.

LINK: These promoters all have websites or social media pages, but for these and all the other Birmingham gigs your one-stop guide is Jazz In Birmingham, a bi-monthly leaflet available at venues and as a PDF online here.

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