The insufficiently sung heroes of British jazz and the week’s other great Midland gigs

Nikki Iles

Nikki Iles

When it comes to unsung heroes – or maybe insufficiently sung heroes – jazz, being itself rather an unsung art form, is likely to have a good few. One of this illustrious group’s UK contingent is undoubtedly the pianist Nikki Iles.

Now it may be that this is because Nikki spends quite a lot of time teaching, but she has from her early professional days in Leeds, playing with guitarist Mike Walker and saxophonist Iain Dixon among many others, to her busy time in London since the mid-90s, maintained a healthy diary of gigs alongside the lectures and workshops.

Not only is she a wonderful pianist with a great sense of the tradition as well as her own characteristic sense of harmony and a magically sensitive touch, but she is a fine composer and arranger too.

Her talents are under-represented in recordings, with her 2003 quintet album Veils and last  year’s New York trio date Hush (review here) being particular favourites in my house.

That dearth of recordings makes live dates even more important, and you have one this week.

Her Printmakers project, celebrating women in jazz, started as a suite for the Creative Jazz Orchestra, but it is now a group with vocalist Norma Winstone, saxophonist Mark Lockheart, guitarist Mike Walker, bassist Steve Watts and drummer James Maddren. Talk about a dream band!

They are on the road to celebrate Nikki’s 50th birthday, and arrive tomorrow night at the mac, courtesy of Jazzlines.

The concert starts at 8pm, tickets are £12 and you can book and find out more at and at

Charlotte Glasson

Charlotte Glasson

And with talk of celebrating women in jazz, let’s hear it for Charlotte Glasson: Brighton resident, multi-instrumentalist, session player to everyone from Nick Cave to Jah Wobble, and one of those musicians who gets every room she plays grinning with pleasure.

Among those grinning rooms will be the upstairs one at The Red Lion in Warstone Lane, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham on Saturday night.

With her are her brother Sam on percussion, the mighty Dave Holdsworth on tuba and pocket trumpet, Paul Taylor on trombone and guitar legend Chris Spedding on, well, guitar.

Charlotte herself is likely to spend most of the time on saxophone but is just as likely to turn her hand to violin, or flute, or the saw.

Expect some South African sunshine jazz along with other eclectic influences. And sheer delight in making music oozing from every pore.

This is a Birmingham Jazz event, it starts at 7.45pm and tickets are £10 (£8 for members) on the door. More at

Other gigs of note this week:

Tomorrow: A double bill of guitarist Alex Roth’s band Otriad and drummer Jonathan Silk’s Quintet play the Ort Cafe in Balsall Heath from 9pm. Entry is £5. More at

Tomorrow: The boys at the back get to lead with the Ben Markland/Neil Bullock band playing the Jazzlines Free Jazz session at the Symphony Hall Cafe Bar. With the bassist and drummer will be Lluis Mather on tenor saxophone and Gareth Fowler on guitar. Expect a possible guest appearance from alto saxophonist Chris Bowden. It’s at 5pm and entry is free. More at

Tuesday: An extra Jazzlines Free Jazz session in the same venue marks the anniversary of the sad passing of trumpeter Abram Wilson. On the stand will be the pianist he mentored, Reuben James, and others who felt the Wilson touch. Start time is 5pm and entry is free. More at

Tuesday: The Lottie Hodgson Band – featuring original compositions from singer Lottie – play The Spotted Dog in Digbeth. Starting at 9pm, recommended donation is £5. More at

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