From Shatner’s Bassoon through Sulzmann to Empirical in seven days

Stan Sulzmann

Stan Sulzmann

There’s another of British jazz’s significant birthday this weekend – saxophonist, composer and bandleader Stan Sulzmann turns 65, and will be blowing the figurative candles out through his tenor at the CBSO Centre on Saturday from 8pm. With him will be his 20-piece Neon Orchestra, and they will be playing a specially commissioned piece for this birthday tour.

It’s called Up And Down, a title which, according to Stan, not only refers to life’s ups and downs, but also to the nursery rhyme Pop Goes The Weasel, which contains the lines “Up and Down the City Road, In and Out the Eagle” and reflects Sulzmann’s London heritage. The band will also be playing big band arrangements of other UK composers’ music.

Sulzmann has had a long career both as a session musician – he played the theme to the Poirot TV series and was on Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now recording – and as a key player in the British jazz scene since the 1960s, having played in the bands of Graham Collier, Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor, as well as leading his own groups.

He has also been a significant mentor and supporter of the younger generation of players.

With Stan on Saturday will be: Nick Smart musical director/conductor, Tom Walsh, Henry Lowther, George Hogg and Freddie Gavita – trumpets; Mark Nightingale, Robbie Harvey, Mark Bassey and Sarah Williams – trombones, Martin Hathaway, Mike Chillingworth, Josh Arcoleo, Pete Hurt and James Allsopp – reeds; Jim Hart – vibraphone; Alex Munk – guitar; Kit Downes – piano; Steve Watts – bass; Tim Giles – drums.

The Stan Sulzmann Neon Orchestra is at the CBSO Centre in Berkley Street, Birmingham on Saturday from 8pm. Tickets are £14 for this Jazzlines concert and are available here.

Before then, there is the chance to hear the marvellously named Shatner’s Bassoon this evening at The Hare And Hounds in Kings Heath.

The name might come from the dark comedy programme Brass Eye – shatners bassoon was the area of the brain affected by the drug called Cake, you might recall.

The band is easier to explain – it’s a six piece from Leeds, comprising Michael Bardon on bass, Ollie Dover on saxophone and clarinet, Joost Hendrickx and Andrew Lisle on drums, Jonny Richards on keyboards and Craig Scott on guitar. They also use electronics.

The sound they make is an eclectic mix of everything from Hindustani music to reggae, free jazz to metal, Brazilian music to musique concrete.

Playing a solo set first will be Birmingham bassist Chris Mapp, who is exploring electronics and electric bass in a fresh and free improvisatory way.

This Jazzlines gig starts at 8.30pm, tickets are £8, and there is more here.

The Young Pilgrims

The Young Pilgrims

Also this evening, celebrating Thanksgiving in the Birmingham version of New Orleans style, The Young Pilgrims will be strutting their stuff at The Big Easy, the regular Thursday evenings organised by David Austin Grey at the pub called The Church Inn in the Jewellery Quarter. More on Facebook here.

There’s a change of guitarist in the band playing The Red Lion for Birmingham Jazz tomorrow night. Out goes Nic Meier and in comes David Preston. Kevin Glasgow on electric bass and Laurie Lowe on drums and percussion remain on the bill.

Glasgow was recently in the same venue with the Asaf Sirkis Trio, and impressed, so it should be good night.

Tickets are £12 (£10 for members) and the music starts at 7.45pm. There is excellent food and beer available. For more information, go here.

Finally, the superb UK Quartet Empirical are at Warwick Arts Centre on Wednesday. Their fourth studio album, Tabula Rasa, shows that saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, vibes player Lewis Wright, bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Shaney Forbes are developing a very strong and personal style of acoustic jazz.

Their live performances are excellent. They play the WAC Studio from 7.45pm and tickets are £15.50 and there is more information here.

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