The last weekend in July is becoming renowned for a special mainstream jazz gathering in particularly picturesque surroundings. The fourth Titley Jazz Festival (tomorrow to Sunday) happens at a spot called The Rodd, just a mile south of Presteigne on the Welsh Marches – that’s only 50 miles from Birmingham.
Everything happens on one site with a concert marquee, a fine bar manned by the Hereford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, and hot and cold food available throughout the weekend. There is a hog roast on Saturday and Sunday.
So that’s the physical sustenance sorted; what about the musical menu?
This year there is a leaning towards tributes to great musicians of the past, all paid by some of today’s great players.
So tomorrow evening we have a tribute to Elvin Jones and Martin Drew, as well as Terry Seabrook’s Milestones band, which harks back to Miles Davis’s late ‘50s music.
On Saturday the Art Themen/Steve Waterman group plays music linked to two tenor greats, the late Dexter Gordon and the very much still with us Sonny Rollins, while guitarist Gary Potter plays music by Django Reinhardt 60 years after the gypsy maestro’s death.
Sunday’s tributes are to Gerry Mulligan in big band format, led by tenor saxophonist Robert Fowler with Karen Sharp taking the Mulligan baritone role, and to Tubby Hayes, the group naturally led by that modern Hayes advocate Simon Spillett.
There are a lot more sessions than just these tribute ones, however, and while in the end it might be easier to name the mainstream British players who aren’t making the trip to Wales, here are some of the ones who are: Alan Barnes, Don Weller, Dave Newton, Stan and Clark Tracey, John Critchinson, Alec Dankworth, Dave Green, Martin Shaw, Steve Melling, Spike Wells, Peter King, Alan Skidmore, Mark Nightingale, Chris Biscoe and Andy Cleyndert. Phew!
You can buy individual afternoon or evening tickets (from £25), all-day tickets (from £42) or weekend ones (from £112), and there is on-site camping. All the information is at www.titleyjazz.com
If you opt not for the rural idyll but for the urban sprawl, then jazz relief comes to you tomorrow evening in the Symphony Hall cafe bar from 5pm courtesy of pianist Steve Tromans and singer Alison Symons.
They explore their own new arrangements of the vocal classics from the Great American Songbook with support from Matt Finlay on double bass and Euan Palmer on drums.
Entry is free for this Jazzlines gig. More at www.thsh.co.uk
From there take the natural route to Balsall Heath and The Ort Cafe for the Toby Boalch Sextet. Toby is on piano with Chris Maddock on alto, John Fleming on tenor, Richard Foote on trombone, Nick Jurd on double bass and Jonathan Silk on drums.
It starts around 8.30pm and entry is £5, and for the true jazz club experience where the players feel relaxed enough to take even more chances The Ort is hard to beat. More at www.ortcafe.co.uk or www.blambirmingham.co.uk
On Sunday there is the chance to hear two excellent Birmingham-based singers, both of whom have studied at Birmingham Conservatoire.
The place to be at lunchtime is The Old Joint Stock in central Birmingham where Four On The Floor – Holly Thomas with Andy Bunting on piano, Nick Jurd on bass and Jonathan Silk on drums – provide the music from 1-3pm.
Holly does nice stuff with poetry, setting the words of Wordsworth or Leonard Cohen to her own compositions or arrangements. She also writes her own words, and delivers them all with impeccable diction and cool care. Just perfect for Sunday lunchtime.
There is more at www.hollythomas.co.uk
Then at 8pm head for The Cross in Moseley where the Lottie Hodgson Band presents a highly approachable kind of contemporary jazz.
Lottie is a fine and adventurous singer who is as happy tackling her own compositions as the great jazz standards, and as comfortable wordlessly harmonising with alto saxophonist Chris Young (she has written A Singer’s Guide To Scat – available at her website www.lottiehodgsonjazz.com) as she is wrapping her lips around some lyrics.
Completing the band are Andrew Woodhead on piano, Stuart Barker on bass and Jonathan Silk on drums.
For more information go to www.facebook.com/jazzshark