Stop mourning The Yardbird – start celebrating Fleet Street Kitchen

The Yardbird jazz wake is still being talked about: “Were you there? Wasn’t it great? So sad it’s gone…” And, as the full horror of seeing that security fencing around a derelict Yardbird sinks in, the next question is “Where will we go now on Thursday nights?”

That, anyway seems to be the wailing moan emerging from Birmingham’s dishevelled young jazzers as they cower from the winter chill in sundry steamy coffee shops around the city.

But hey, it’s February and the sun is about to shine. Beat City has been talking to the Fleet Street Kitchen in Summer Row, and the result is a new venue. On the upside it’s a little more comfortable and boasts a large chandelier; in due course, so I’m told, there will even be a real piano! On the downside, jazz fans might have to say goodbye to the old Yardbird added extra of having your pocket thrillingly picked while you were having an out-of-body jazz epiphany.

Ben Lee (Photo © William Ellis)

Ben Lee (Photo © William Ellis)

Beat City’s Ben Lee told me on Friday: “I saw the venue for the first time yesterday and it looks great. It’s a basement room with a good vibe and has a good size stage. Beat City’s new Thursday night session will fill the hole created by the closure of The Yardbird and will run with the same format: support act, then main act, followed by a jam session till 2am.”

Ben, who is currently in his fourth year at the Conservatoire studying jazz guitar, runs his own quintet and is also part of organ trio Three Step Manoeuvre, added: “The staff at Fleet Street are a lovely bunch and the management seems really keen to make live music a big part of their identity. It’s terrific to have an enthusiastic business that understands the value of putting on great music.

“They are keen for it to be a place where all sorts people can hang out together and enjoy music; students, locals, tourists and more. We are going to use the move to a new venue as an opportunity to aim high, booking and showcasing the best Birmingham based bands alongside fantastic bands from further afield.”

Beat City are certainly starting strongly with the first Thursday gig featuring the tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist co-leader of Partisans, Julian Siegel, with a top-flight Birmingham trio of Dave Ferris on piano, James Banner on bass and Jonathan Silk on drums. That’s on Thursday 12 February.

And before all that, there is a gig tonight! Yep, the Dunnett/Baxter Big Band was a first-Monday-of-the-month fixture at The Yardbird, and it takes more than a venue being torn down to stop them. They are downstairs at Fleet Street Kitchen tonight from 8.30pm.

Check it out…

  • For loads more February gigs, don’t forget to check thejazzbreakfast’s monthly Diary – the latest one is here.


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