Back at the mac plus the week ahead

It’s jazz testing time for the mac in Cannon Hill Park tonight as the music returns to the mac theatre for the first time since the art centre’s major makeover. Will the seats still be as uncomfortable, will the air conditioning still be noisy, and, despite those minor drawbacks, will the space still have the intimacy we remember from some magical gigs down the years?

Drawing the jazz crowd there this evening will be a double bill of pianists: Robert Mitchell leading his 3io, which I think is the new trendy way of writing trio, and Ivo de Greef playing a solo programme inspired by the work of Keith Jarrett.

Mitchell is a strong composer and player who first came to our attention as a member of the Dune stable but has more recently aligned himself with that creative group of North London musicians known as the F-ire Collective.

The 3io’s 2008 CD, called The Greater Good, featured Tom Mason on bass and Richard Spaven on drums, and was named Album of the Year last year by Gilles Peterson. For this gig I understand the drummer will be Empirical’s Shaney Forbes.

De Greef is a classically trained pianist and graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire who leans towards tango and contemporary classical music. His interest in Keith Jarrett has inspired him to construct some music inspired by the themes Jarrett improvised in his legendary Koln Concert.

This Birmingham Jazz/mac gig starts at 8pm and tickets are £10 from or on 0121 446 3232.

Tomorrow, the London-based Italian saxophonist Tommaso Starace brings his band into the Symphony Hall foyer for a Rush Hour Blues session. It’s an all-Italian quartet with Michele Di Toro on piano, Attilio Zanchi on bass and Tommy Bradascio on drums. They sounded very classy on their recent CD Don’t Forget, with the entire band contributing original pieces. They also reinterpret music by Stevie Wonder and Ennio Morricone among others.

Starting time is 5.30pm and the music goes till 7pm. It’s a Birmingham Jazz/Symphony Hall production and it’s free.

On Sunday it’s the turn of the Russians at Stratford Jazz.  Well Stekpanna & The Russians, to be precise. Steve Kershaw is on bass with Peter Svard on drums, Mads Kjolby on guitar, Leonid Vintskevich on piano and Nikola Vintskevich on saxophone. These musicians always go down well in Stratford, the club meets at The Chapel in Shakespeare Street, starting time is 8pm and entry is £6 on the door. There is more information at

The music of Tadd Dameron should get an airing on Tuesday when the Jim Wynn Nonet takes the Jam House stage. The band is largely made up of Birmingham Conservatoire jazz course grads with Wynn leading from the piano, the Morgan brothers and Lluis Mather on saxophones, Kieron Mcintosh on trumpet, Rob Anstey on trombone and Tim Thornton on bass.

The music starts at 9.30pm entry is free and this is yet another Birmingham Jazz gig.

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