A group of young Birmingham musicians will be helping to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War by re-interpreting the jazz of that era in a series of free performances around Birmingham on November 13.
It’s all part of a project led by pianist Trevor Watkis. The performances form part of Expressions of War – a nationwide series developed by London-based arts organisation Small Green Shoots and funded by Arts Council England.
The initiative aims to “use art and creativity to explore the Great War’s 100th anniversary and to engage young hard-to-reach audiences around the time of Remembrance Day”.
This project, called The Jazz Sounds Of WW1, will see his seven participants – Samantha Wright, clarinet; Joshua Tagg, trombone; Xhosa Cole, tenor saxophone; Luke Atkinson, tuba; Aram Bahmaie, bass; Romarna Campbell, drums; Antonio Socci, trumpet; Arevie Nahvi, vocals; all selected from music groups and projects around Birmingham – perform music synonymous with the period at four locations around the city centre.
Trevor explains: “Because it involved an unfamiliar style of jazz that I didn’t grow up listening to, The Jazz Sounds Of WW1 has been a really challenging project.
"However, there is a clear social connection between this music and events in war-torn Europe, and you can definitely hear the foundations for what came later with pioneers such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.
“In effect, it set the precedent for the Roaring Twenties and the Jazz Age. I believe this offers some deeper insights into the 1914-18 era and, as Remembrance Day approaches, the project also opens a window to the young artists into some of the infectious new music that older generations of their families may have been listening to during the First World War.”
With the players breathing new life into pieces such as St Louis Blues, Royal Garden Blues and Back Home In Indiana, those watching the performances will be offered handouts detailing the historical background to each composition. They will also be encouraged to upload photos and thoughts to social media, using the hashtag #jazzsoundsww1.
The Jazz Sounds Of WW1 is the result of a series of intense research and compositional workshops which have seen the participants mentored by Trevor alongside other leading UK jazz musicians alto saxophonist and MC Soweto Kinch, trumpeter Byron Wallen and tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint.
You can hear The Jazz Sounds Of WW1 on November 13 at: Cannon Hill Park Bandstand - 12-12.30pm; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery - 1.30-2pm; Library of Birmingham - 3-3.30pm; Bullring (High St busking point) - 5.30-6pm.