This jam-packed West Midland jazz week shows the full range of the genre with music from acoustic to electronic played by musicians from Birmingham students to some of the biggest international names in the business. Here are the highlights.
First up, tonight, is the Robert Glasper Experiment. Pianist Glasper operates in the area between jazz and modern soul and R’n’B, and is, appropriately, not appearing at a conventional jazz venue but at The Institute, in Digbeth.
His recent albums Black Radio and Black Radio 2 have featured his core quartet with a wide range of guest vocalists from Jill Scott to Snoop Dogg. For his live shows, saxophonist Casey Benjamin does the vocal honours through a vocoder, and tonight’s date has the additional attraction of Soweto Kinch as special guest.
The Robert Glasper Experiment + Soweto Kinch – doors open at 7pm, tickets £15 in advance, with more here.
Tomorrow evening’s band at the Town Hall is The Spring Quartet. That name might be unfamiliar but it hides some very well-known musicians: drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Joe Lovano, bassist Esperanza Spalding and, not quite so well known, pianist Leo Genovese.
DeJohnette is renowned from countless groups, most especially Keith Jarrett’s Trio, while Lovano has been a major player and band leader since the early 1980s. Spalding seemed to explode onto the international jazz scene just a few years ago, though she had been paying her dues long before that. She won the 2011 Grammy Award For Best New Artist – the first time the award had been made to a jazz musician – ahead of Justin Bieber. Genovese, from Argentina, has been a frequent collaborator of Spalding’s.
Put them all together and you have an all-star occasion as well as jazz of the highest order.
This Jazzlines concert at Birmingham Town Hall is at 8pm, tickets are £25 and there is more here.
On Saturday we leap from those a long way along the jazz road to those just starting out.
Bassist James Banner is studying classical and jazz composition at Birmingham Conservatoire but is also managing to run a couple of bands at the same time. His most ambitious project to date is called Jamboree and, borrowing a sub-title from a Kenny Wheeler album, he adds Music For Small And Large Ensemble to the title for this concert at the Birmingham and Midland Institute.
The group – a quintet for the first set and and octet for the second – comprises James on double bass, Thomas Seminar Ford on guitar, Chris Young on alto saxophone, Nick Dewhurst on trumpet, Tom Dunnett on trombone, David Ferris on piano and James Anderson on drums. The featured soloist is the man who last Friday showcased his own new music, saxophonist and Jazzlines Fellow Lluis Mather.
James describes the music as having influences from Kenny Wheeler through to Stravinsky. The concert will be recorded with help from Beat City for CD release in a couple of months’ time.
The Birmingham and Midland Institute is in Margaret Street, the gig is at 7.30pm, tickets are £5 on the door and you can find more here.
News that guitarist Phil Robson has formed an organ trio is most welcome, and even more welcome is the fact that the band is now on the road, calling at Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday.
On the mighty Hammond organ is the equally mighty Ross Stanley with Phil’s fellow Partisan, Gene Calderazzo, on drums. With these three musicians in this format I think I can pretty safely predict a very exciting evening indeed.
This Stratford Jazz gig is at The Chapel, No 1 Shakespeare Street at 8pm, tickets are £12 and there is more here.