Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra with Stan Sulzmann

Stan Sulzmann with Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra directed by Jeremy Price (Photo © John Watson/

Stan Sulzmann with Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Orchestra directed by Jeremy Price (Photo © John Watson/

Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham UK

The saxophonist, composer and arranger had been working with the student band all week, and this performance was the result.

Sulzmann had chosen music mainly from fellow British composers – Nikki Iles, Mike Walker, Gwilym Simcock, as well as a couple of his own – with two standards, and arranged them all for the classic big band line-up. Jeremy Price directed the band and Stan was star soloist.

I always enjoy these student bands, and they do seem to have got better down the years: more mature, more ambitious in the music they tackle, tighter in their ensemble playing and more sophisticated in their solos,

The one thing that doesn’t seem to have changed is the politeness of those solos. Yes, I know that it’s important to know how to play by the rules before you go breaking them, and this is a conservatoire band flying the flag for good, disciplined, responsible jazz eduation, but it would have been fun – I can afford to have these irresponsible desires – to hear a soloist break out with a bit of unruly passion just once or twice.

Of course, their mentor for this week is not himself given to unruly bursts of passion. Sulzmann is in many ways the ideal musical role model for these budding professionals: his tone is impeccable, his harmonic sensibilities highly sophisticated and his understanding of the music runs deep and, on top of all that, he’s a real gent.

He is also a walking encyclopedia of British jazz. He prefaced the set with his own feelings about playing in the ABH for possibly the last time. He recalled how many times he had played in this lovely little concert hall, that some of those he had shared the stage with – John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler – had passed on, how the days of the hall itself were numbered – it’s due for the demolisher’s wrecking ball in the coming months.

And then he put nostalgia behind him to pay tribute to the future of British jazz, gesturing to the Conservatoire Orchestra: “these remarkable young musicians – they are inspirational – working with them makes me want to go home and do some hard work”.

I think we all shared those views.

  • This concert was part of the Frontiers Festival. For more Frontiers events go here.

Categories: Live review

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1 reply

  1. Just to add that I’ve invited Stan to play at the last ever jazz gig in the ABH, June 24th 2016, so last night wasn’t his last appearance at our beloved venue. More news later on the rest of what we have planned for that night. Suffice to say at this stage that jazz fans will definietly want to ear mark this date in their diaries.
    It’s going to be a special night.

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