Three reasons to head for Stratford

A lot of jazz people take August off, heading for the festivals like Brecon, in Wales, or further afield in a wide range or jamborees, from the George Wein Festival (formerly Newport) in the US, or Oslo Jazz Festival in Norway to the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Israel, the Summer Jazz Bike Tour in the Netherlands and even MuzEnergo in Dubna, Russia. Yep, it’s very much an internationally practised art form.

But some jazz people are homebodies, which is good news, too, and some of them run Stratford Jazz. In a generally strong programme, this Sunday still stands out.

Leading the band is guitarist Nic Meier. The man with a trio of CDs out on the prestigious Naim label produces an exotic sound, strongly influenced by Pat Metheny and by Middle Eastern music.

Born in Switzerland, he now lives in London and in addition to conventional guitar he also sometimes plays a fretless guitar (yes, the mind boggles!), which helps him get that sliding, and microtonal range heard in music from countries like Turkey.

But it’s not just Meier who is the draw card to the White Swan in Stratford on Sunday. With Nic for this gig are Dave O’Higgins on tenor saxophone and Asaf Sirkis on drums.

O’Higgins was once the wild kid on the block; now he is one of the established players of the establishment, with a regular chair in the BBC Big Band. He has an extensive discography behind him, from lively small combo sessions of original material to a with-strings set of jazz classics.

With a group of dancers he developed the Jazzcotech project, and his most recent is a rambunctious live set that sets his tenor against that of mainstream US tenor man Eric Alexander. He might be a slim man of average height, but O’Higgins has a huge musical personality and easily fills a small room.

Sirkis, originally from Israel, enlivens the London scene and, in fact, the whole country in a wide range of bands, from his own trios and duos, but also as a long-time member of Gilad Atzmon’s band and more recently in Tim Garland’s Libra trio with the saxophonist and pianist Gwilym Simcock.

This is a very special back-room gig for Stratford Jazz, so there’s a £10 ticket rather than the usual free entry and raffle. But, as usual, it starts at 8pm.You can find out more at www.stratfordjazz.org.uk and it is heartily recommended.

Looking ahead, news from the London Jazz Festival is slowly emerging in an enticing dribble. Highlights so far include Sonny Rollins, Carla Bley, John Scofield and Tomasz Stanko, as well as two performances by Kurt Elling and the always-intriguing Bill Frisell playing with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. To keep tabs on developments and to be alerted of booking opening, add www.londonjazzfestival.org.uk to your favourites.



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