Two of the country’s best pianists go head to head tonight, so the choice of which West Midland city you head for is not an easy one.
If Coventry is your destination, you will be treated to the latest installment in the ever-creative journey Zoe Rahman is making in incorporating all kinds of musical influences into her jazz.
The piano trio with Gene Calderazzo on drums and, usually, Oli Hayhurst on bass has grown to a quartet with Zoe’s brother Idris in on clarinet, and with the band’s latest CD, not only are the Bengali influences from the Rahman family background still being more tightly integrated but we can also hear new Celtic touches in the jazz mix.
The band’s new album, Kindred Spirits, was released in January and it includes a traditional tune picked up from whistle player Michael McGoldrick and the band Lunasa, as well as some great reworkings of Rabindranath Tagore songs, and even Stevie Wonder’s Contusion.
Davide Mantovani is in for Oli on bass, but the rest of the band is as on the recording, and is bound to be playing most of that material on this date at Warwick Arts Centre, which starts at 7.45pm.
If, on the other hand, you head for Birmingham and the Flatpack Festival, at the Birmingham and Midland Institute in Margaret Street you will find Kit Downes’ expanded band, plus animations and images from Lesley Barnes.
With Kit on piano are Calum Gourlay on double bass, James Maddren on drums, James Allsopp on bass clarinet and Lucy Railton on cello.
They will be playing music from Kit’s most recent album, Quiet Tiger, and Animation Migration, a piece commissioned for last year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
It’s absorbing music, with the original piano trio still very much the heart of the band, and Kit using the woodwind and strings to add almost orchestral atmosphere to the musical settings.
This delight for ears and eyes starts at 7.30pm, and you can find out more at www.flatpackfestival.org.uk
Next Tuesday the place to be is Wenlock Edge, and more specifically The Edge Arts Centre, where the Tord Gustavsen Quartet will be drawing live improvisations from the depths of their new ECM album, The Well.
The Norwegian pianist, who has championed the quiet storm in his own very particular way, has built a great following from regular touring in this country, so if you can’t get tickets for this intimate room, the band is also coming to Birmingham’s slightly more spacious CBSO Centre on Friday, March 23.
For more information and to book tickets for The Edge, go to www.edgeartscentre.co.uk
Finally, there are two chances to see former Birmingham Conservatoire student and now London post-grad JJ Wheeler leading his Quintet from the drums. He is at The Yardbird this evening from after 8pm, and at the Rush Hour Blues, Symphony Hall foyer bar, at 5.30pm tomorrow. Entry at both venues is free.