It’s hard to believe, but one of British jazz’s most innovative and distinctive bands is ten years old. Polar Bear, led by drummer Sebastian Rochford, has toured extensively over this decade and released its fifth recording at the beginning of the month. The band is at the Hare And Hounds in Kings Heath this evening.
Polar Bear is on the surface a twin-tenor saxophone, bass, drums and electronics quintet, but that doesn’t begin to give any idea of what the band sounds like.
It might have started out with distinctive, slightly mournful two-horn harmonies over a sometimes circus-band beat, but with the creativity of Rochford, bassist Tom Herbert, saxophonists Mark Lockheart and Pete Wareham augmented by the sound manipulation of multi-instrumentalist Leafcutter John and moving inexorably forward it was never going to stay like that.
The music on the latest release, In Each And Every One, the band’s first since 2010, shows the most dramatic leap yet. Conventional band roles are played with, and Rochford is often adding decoration around the edges to beats laid down by Leafcutter John. (Full review here.)
Polar Bear’s live performances are legendary so expect the unexpected at this evening’s performance.
Providing support on this Jazzlines gig will be Birmingham-based bassist Chris Mapp and his band Gonimoblast. The band shares a Polar Bear band-member in Leafcutter John and is completed by Sam Wooster on trumpet, Dan Nicholls on keyboards and Mark Sanders on drums.
An electrifying night is assured, the fun starts at 8.30pm, tickets are £12 and there is more here.
Tomorrow the second of the Jazzlines Fellowship showcases features saxophonist LLuis Mather. The Lluis Mather Nonet is at the CBSO Centre in Berkley Street at 8pm, tickets are £12 and there is more about that concert here.
Before that Lluis conducts the Birmingham University Big Band, squeezed onto the stage at the Yardbird this evening, playing some music by Kenny Wheeler, Mike Gibbs and Bob Brookmeyer. It starts at 9pm, and there is support from 8pm, and a jam session afterwards.
Back to Friday and Birmingham Jazz is presenting the Just Us Quartet, led by bassist Larry Bartley, at The Red Lion in Warstone Lane.
With Larry are saxophonists Tony Kofi and Ed Jones with Rod Youngs on drums. It should be an explosive line-up in the intimate setting of this room.
The music begins at 7.45pm, tickets are hans £12 and there is more here.
Also on Friday evening, amid the contemporary art of the Ikon Gallery, organiser David Austin Grey has a particularly apt player for this month’s Kontrast evening: the Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum. Stuart’s music conjures up images of its own with its spacious sound stage and compulsive beats.
The music starts at 8.30pm, tickets are £10 and there is more here.
Lluis Mather’s sometime boss, pianist Hans Koller, appears at the CBSO Centre on Saturday evening in a quartet with US saxophonist John O’Gallagher, drummer Jeff Williams and another Jazzlines Fellow, Percy Pursglove on bass.
Koller writes and arranges highly original music and the chance to hear O’Gallagher, a powerful player of increasing stature on the New York scene, is always a treat.
This concert is in association with the Frontiers Festival, which started last week and runs until 5 April and then again in early June. It draws connections between Birmingham and New York.
Find out more about the Frontiers Festival here.
The Hans Koller concert starts at 8pm, tickets £15, and there is more here.