Of the many young jazz players who have emerged from UK music schools in the first decade of this century, surely a contender for brightest and highest shooting star must go to pianist Gwilym Simcock.
The young Welshman took his time before leading his own bands and making his own records. Having followed the classical route and an education at Chetham’s in Manchester, he took the fork marked jazz and went on to the Royal Academy to study with John Taylor and Nikki Iles among others.
Meanwhile, out on the road with Acoustic Triangle and Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, and getting picked for bigger ensembles peopled by much more experienced players, like that of Kenny Wheeler, he had the heads of musicians like Lee Konitz turning to take note as easily as he was attracting the rapt attention of audiences.
He has kept his crossover skills in shape by composing a piano concerto and a horn sonata among other commissions.
His most recent recording, Blues Vignette, is a double disc, one featuring his trio, the other of solo piano and piano/cello duet.
So, one might have expected his appearance on Saturday evening at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham to be with this trio. But Simcock keeps moving on.
The Gwilym Simcock Quartet is a perfectly balanced transatlantic band with Manchester-based guitarist Mike Walker joining the pianist, together with, from the US, electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum.
They play the first date of a European tour in Southampton tomorrow night and after Birmingham they take in Ronnie Scott’s in London, followed by gigs in Norway, Austria and Hungary.
Who knows what we can expect, but with these four exceptional musicians on stage it is bound to be exciting. Tickets (£14) for this Birmingham Jazz gig are available from thsh.co.uk or on 0121 780 3333. It starts at 8pm. More information at www.birminghamjazz.co.uk
Other gigs this week:
Sunday: The Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra have a very special guest in the form of ex-Buddy Rich Band baritone saxophonist Jay Craig for their lunchtime session at the Westley Hotel, Acocks Green, starting at 12.30pm. Tickets cost £9 on the door, and you can find out more about MYJO at, strangely, andyderrickjazzquartet.com/myjoblog
On Sunday evening South African vocalist Esther Miller takes her quintet, which includes trumpeter Steve Waterman, into The Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon. It’s the latest in the regular Sunday slots of Stratford Jazz, it starts at 8pm, tickets are £10 and there is more at www.stratfordjazz.org.uk
Wednesday: The last Wednesday of the month means it must be Jazz Club at the Rainbow in Digbeth. This time the band is led by London-based guitarist Jonathan Bratoeff and it comprises Birmingham Conservatoire grad Mark Hanslip on tenor saxophone, Tom Mason on bass and the ubiquitous James Maddren on drums. The Quartet has a new CD out on F-IRE Records, called Mindscapes, and doubtless you will be able to hear what is all sounds like live at this Birmingham Jazz gig. The band goes on at 9pm and entrance is £4. More at www.birminghamjazz.co.uk
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