Out on tour: JJ Wheeler Quintet

There must be nothing quite as exciting for a young band as the start of a tour. The final rehearsals, the as yet unheard new material still percolating in the assembled consciousnesses, the new reeds and sticks and strings bought and safely packed, then it’s on to the band bus and away. Well, maybe not the band bus, maybe into the individual old hatchbacks and hope and pray they don’t break down while batting up and down the motorways.

That’s what the JJ Wheeler Quintet will have been doing this morning. The Birmingham-based band led by the drummer, composer and occasional reviewer for thejazzbreakfast opens in Cambridge this evening and then it’s a pretty hectic two and a bit weeks, with more dates in April.

With him are  Charlie Portas (tenor saxophone), Chris Maddock (alto), Ralph Brown (piano) and Tom Moore (bass).

Here are those dates in full:

Tonight: Clare Jazz, Cambridge, 9pm

Tuesday: Dempsey’s, Cardiff,  8pm

Saturday:  The Hive, Shrewsbury (Jazz Network), 8pm

Tuesday 22 February: COPA, Oxford (University Jazz Soc), 8pm

Friday 4 March: Jazz At The Priestley, Bradford,  8.30pm

Saturday 5 March: Matt & Phred’s, Manchester,  8pm

Sunday 6 March: Seven Arts Centre, Leeds (Seven Jazz), 1.30pm

Sunday 6 March: The Dalton Rooms, Lancaster,  8pm

Friday 11 March: Symphony Hall Foyer, Birmingham, 5.30pm

After a successful 2010 which saw the band perform at Cheltenham Jazz festival, the Jazz And The Media conference, various club dates, an EP release and airplay on BBC Radio 3, 2011 looks set to be even bigger.

These nine dates are followed by a mini-tour in April, around the same time as the band goes into the recording studio to record their debut album, due for release in late 2011/early 2012.

The April dates are:

Wednesday 6 April: Swansea Jazzland, 8pm

Thursday 7 April: The Yardbird, Birmingham, 9pm

Sunday 17 April: Stratford Jazz, Stratford-upon-Avon, 8pm

I heard the band late last month at the George IV in Lichfield and it really was a fabulous evening. Strong material, great playing and a really infectiously good vibe in the group which they conveyed admirably to the audience. It’s also music and playing which appeals both to young and old ears, both in the tradition and pushing it forward.

You can find out more about the band at www.jjwheeler.co.uk – and do try to catch them when they are near.

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