Swallow leads the week’s gigs

The big gig this week features a man who has been at the heart of American jazz for over 50 years, and one who really does deserve that horribly overused word: unique.

Bassist Steve Swallow is unusual in many respects. Among them are the sound that he gets and the role he plays in a group, be it small or large.

That sound comes mainly, of course, from the heart, mind and hands of Mr Swallow, but it is also down to the instrument he plays. He has played electric bass for as long as I can remember, but it is a very special electric bass, made for him to minimise the use of metal and to maximise the use of wood in its construction.

The result is a lithe and sinewy sound, but rooted and lyrical all at once.

And that is just how Steve plays, taking a role which mixes the traditional bass one of rooting the music in the chord changes while also contributing long, loping melodic lines to complement the foreground action of the tune or the improviser.

The Steve Swallow Quintet

For a long time now, Steve Swallow has been the partner of the jazz composer, bandleader and keyboard player Carla Bley, and while he is usually a member of her bands, on Saturday evening at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham she is the Hammond B3 organist in the Steve Swallow Quintet.

The band is completed by tenor saxophonist Chris Cheek, guitarist Steve Cardenas and former Brad Mehldau drummer Jorge Rossy.

This Birmingham Jazz gig is the penultimate one in a tour which started in Vienna and has taken them from Kiev to Istanbul and back via Athens, Amsterdam and Paris. It’s one of only two British dates, the other being in the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

The Steve Swallow Quintet is at the CBSO Centre at 8pm on Saturday, tickets and more information on 0121 780 3333 or at www.birminghamjazz.co.uk

Other gigs of note this week:


Gilad Atzmon

Gilad Atzmon brings his Quartet to Earlsdon Cottage in Coventry. The gig starts at 8.30pm and is a Jazz Coventry promotion. It’s a good upstairs room and the Atzmon atmosphere should prove heady indeed. Tickets on the door and more at www.jazzcov.co.uk

Bassist Andy Champion has a quintet called ACV and they are at The Yardbird in Birmingham from 9pm, with the usual jam session from 11pm. This is a Cobweb Collective gig, and entry is free. More at www.cobwebcollective.com

The Steve Tromans Quartet is playing the Rush Hour Blues session from 5.30pm to 7pm, in the Symphony Hall foyer bar. Top quality jazz of a searching nature. Free entry.

Saxophonist Mike Williams leads his Quartet, with Gareth Fowler on guitar at The Drum from 8pm. Tickets on the door and this is another Cobweb Collective gig.

Another bass-led band, this time Hamish Livingstone’s Spec Ed, at the Brown Lion in Hall Street, B18 6BS. Starting 9pm, this is yet another Cobweb Collective gig.

Saxophonist Chris Aldridge’s Beebe takes the regular Birmingham Jazz monthly Jam House slot, which was originally to have featured singer Lupa. It starts around 8.30pm, entry is free, and there is more at www.birminghamjazz.co.uk

The Chris Bowden Quartet, with Chris on alto, Andy Bunting on piano, Nick Jurd on bass and Miles Levin on drums, is at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth, from 9pm, with a collection taken to support the band. A Cobweb Collective gig, hosted by Mike Fletcher.

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  1. Birmingham Jazz » Blog Archive » The Swallow Quintet on Saturday 12th at CBSO Centre

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