It’s four decades since Jim Simpson had a hit with Rudi’s In Love – as a trumpet star in a band called The Locomotive.

But when the New Orleans Jump Band open this year’s jazz and blues festival at Harborne’s Blue Piano at 6pm tonight (Thursday) he’ll still be playing every note in his head regardless.

And then there’s the VIP launch from 12.30pm-1.30pm on Friday in the Crowne Plaza’s Vista Suite, featuring The Potato Head Jazz Band from Granada, Spain.

In total, there will be 185 mostly free performances at 80 venues until July 27.

It’s the sheer diversity of the festival which makes 76-year-old Jim an ageless presence in his long adopted home city.

A close friend of the late former Radio 1 DJ John Peel, he’s been running Big Bear Records from his Edgbaston base since 1968.

Like Peel, Jim will always take indelible notes of anyone who is any good – and give them a chance to play.

He closes his latest programme review with the words: “Birmingham is about new names, youngsters who play real jazz and blues, developing and drawing on an often surprising variety of influences, playing with an enthusiasm and clear understanding of the music with show-stopping musical ability.”

After several years of struggling through the credit crunch, Jim is now celebrating the fact that the festival has an enthusiastic sponsor again – the rapidly growing discount supermarket chain Aldi.

King Pleasure And The Biscuit Boys
King Pleasure And The Biscuit Boys

“Three countries are also investing in the festival, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Lithuania, which has doubled its support this year,” he adds.

“Giedre Kiliciauskiene came from Lithuania to open last year’s festival when we had 96,000 visitors in total and she’s coming back this time.

“People come to town, park their car and can walk round going from gig to gig. It’s very civilised.

“This year kids are flocking to buy tickets for Electric Swing Circus at the Botanical Gardens.

“I’m not sure what they are to do with jazz, but they are so much fun.”

What gave Jim the idea to launch the festival in the first place?

“I was 12 years old before I realised (trombonist / bandleader) Jack Teagarden wasn’t my uncle,” he laughs.

“Jack used to fill our house and Dad used to talk about these people like he knew them.

“In the early 1980s I was getting fed up with the fact that jazz didn’t have the spirt of jazz any more so I decided to put on a straight-ahead jazz concert in 1984 in the Old Arena Theatre.

“At an M&B Jam Session, there was a 12-piece band featuring all of the favourite British jazz musicians led by Humphrey Lyttleton.

“There’s nobody more English than Humph and we recorded it. It was the Sunday Times’ jazz album of the year.

“Benny Green, another hero, said: ‘You can’t just do this and go away’.

“And so in the first year we had Al Casey, who had played with Fats Waller when he was 15 years old in Harlem in the 1920s.

“The city council gave us £6,500 worth of funding and we had 12 years’ sponsorship through HMV. Other sponsors included Ansells and M&B and we moved from September to July to help hotels to fill rooms.”

The Jake Leg Jug Band
The Jake Leg Jug Band
 

Jim’s enthusiasm is not only refreshing, it’s infectious, too.

But then he started as he meant to go on.

Almost 60 years ago, the teenage Jim was sitting within touching distance of Louis Armstrong on May 17, 1956 when Satchmo appeared at the old Embassy Sportsdrome, in Walford Road, Sparkhill.

After his band played the intro and everyone wondered where he was, Satchmo began Sleepy Time as he walked down the aisle.

He stopped to have a larger-than-life photograph taken, right next to the seat where Jim was sitting next to his then girlfriend.

Twenty two years later, Jim began hosting blues nights at The Crown pub on the corner of Hill Street and Station Street.

Customers Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi had paid membership to watch several gigs over a few weeks.

They then asked if they could play an intermission gig, waiving a £5 fee in favour of two club T-shirts.

Next, they were asking Jim to be their manager and, after changing their band’s name from Earth, Black Sabbath was born.

Jim lost the band to a rival management group in the week Paranoid went to No 1 in the late summer of 1970.

“I still say those first two albums were the best they’ve ever done,” says Jim. “Last year’s album, 13, was their first No 1 since they left me.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Jim Simpson, who has been running Big Bear Records from his Edgbaston base since 1968, seen here with his prize picture with Satchmo
Jim Simpson, who has been running Big Bear Records from his Edgbaston base since 1968, seen here with his prize picture with Satchmo
 

Venues for this year’s festival range from public spaces like Victoria Square, Bounville Village Green, The Arcadian, The Waters Edge Bandstand, Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant and Martineau Square to megaplexes like Star City.

And from eateries like Cafe Rouge in the Mailbox to the Garden House on Hagley Road, Blue Piano in Harborne and Soloman Cutler in Broad Street.

It’s even expanding into the Black Country this year with a Sandwell Fringe including 16 events.

This year’s main concerts include The Magnolia Sisters, Electric Swing Circus, Bratislava Hot Serenaders and Tipitina.

But anyone who has ever seen the legendary King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, the Trevor Burton Band or Paul Carrack might fancy return appointments, never mind the chance to watch Hollywood star Steven Seagal’s Blues Band in Bilston.

Other known acts include the Arthur Brown Jazz Band, The Remi Harris Trio and The Digby Fairweather Quartet.

Then there are the less familiar ones, including Alligator Gumbo, Backyard Music Boys, Bekah’s Renegades, Chase Jazzmen, The Jake Leg Jug Band and Becky Brine & The Hot Club of Stonehouse

And even if you still can’t spell the name of returning Lithuanian star Giedre Kiliciauskiene, anyone who saw her last year will more than likely fancy second helpings.

Above all, Jim’s top tip is just to go with the flow – and to enjoy what you see rather than worry about what you miss.

“There are a lot of young bands around in this year’s festival,” he says.

“Have a listen to one that you have never heard of and be prepared to be surprised.

“And don’t forget to buy the trumpet player a drink.”

The Magnolia Sisters (USA) – four Grammy-nominated women who can play everything from southwest Louisiana: Cajun, Creole, dancehall favourites and front porch ballads.  July 26 (7pm) –  Botanical Gardens (£15).

Electric Swing Circus – a six-piece fusion of saucy 1920s’ swing and stomping electro beats which wowed Glastonbury in 2013. Fronted by a sassy female double-act. July 27 (7pm) – Botanical Gardens (£15).

Bratislava Hot Serenaders (Slovakia) – an 18-piece orchestra devoted to the hot jazz and “sweet and dance music” which arrived in Europe at the end of the 1920s from America. July 21 (7pm) – The Electric Cinema (£15).

Tipitina – a unique, New Orleans-style take on the blues thanks to Debbie Jones’ gospel-tinged vocals and Justin Randall’s piano. July  27 (7pm) – The Discovery Terrace, Library of Birmingham (£8).

Steven Seagal’s Blues Band – July 21 and 22 (8pm) at the Robin 2, Bilston (£30 / £27.50).

* Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival July runs from July 18-27. For details visit: www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

WHO'S ON - WHERE AND WHEN

Bratislava Hot Serenaders.
Bratislava Hot Serenaders.
 

THURSDAY 17 JULY

6pm Blue Piano, Harborne – opening party New Orleans Jump Band (Spain).

FRIDAY 18 JULY

11am Victoria Square – The Broombusters

11.30am Martineau Place – Arthur Brown Jazz Band

12.30pm Blue Piano – Tom Armitage; The Mailbox – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain); Red Rose Centre, Sutton Coldfield – The Jazz Ramblers.

1.10pm Barber Institute of Fine Arts – Bruce Adams Quartet

3pm Victoria Square – C-Jam

4.30pm Hampton by Hilton – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain)

5pm Crown, Corporation Street – Bekah’s Renegades; Brasshouse – The Jake Leg Jug Band; Chung Ying Central – Suzi Woods; New Street Station – The Precious Penny Pluckers

5.30pm Waters Edge Bandstand – University of Southern Florida Jazztet (USA)

6pm Victoria Square – Rudie & The Revolvers

7pm Blue Piano – Roy Forbes Duo; Café Rouge, Mailbox – Val Wiseman Quartet; Star City – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain)

7.30pm Garden House – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain); Lord Clifden – Bruce Adams Quartet; Cradley Heath Library – Whisky Brothers

7.45pm The Red Lion – Birmingham Jazz Presents: Chris Gumbley Quintet (£8/ £5)

9pm Grosvenor Casino – Ricky Cool & The In Crowd; Hampton By Hilton – Precious Penny Pluckers

9.15pm The Kings Head – Bobby Woods Duo

SATURDAY 19 JULY

11am Bert & Gerts, Sutton Coldfield – The Jazz Ramblers; Victoria Square – JazzBand Velke Losiny (Czech Republic);

12pm Cadbury World – The Chase Jazzmen

12.30pm The Mailbox – The Jake Leg Jug Band; The Electric Cinema – (Film) Cool Hand Luke £13.50/£9.80/£7.80

1pm Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery – The Precious Penny Pluckers

1.30pm Waters Edge Bandstand – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain)

3pm Victoria Square – University of Southern Florida Jazztet (USA); Brasshouse – Little Jo and The Misfits

4pm Bournville Village Green – The Chase Jazzmen

5pm Bournville Village Green – New Orleans Hotshots

6pm Victoria Square – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain); Arcadian – JazzBand Velke Losiny (Czech Republic); Bournville Village Green – The Chase Jazzmen

7pm Blue Piano – Harry Bolt Trio; Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant – New Orleans Hotshots; StarCity – Lady Sings The Blues – Tribute to Billie Holiday with Val Wiseman, Bruce Adams, Bob Sydor, Roy Williams, Brian Dee, Len Skeat, Bobby Worth; Thimblemill Library – Steve Ajao Blues Giants.

7.30pm Garden House – Little Jo and The Misfits

8pm Hampton By Hilton Hotel – University of Southern Florida Jazztet (USA); The Wellington – The Precious Penny Pluckers

8.30pm The Bureau – The Jake Leg Jug Band; Berkleys Lounge – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain)

SUNDAY 20 JULY

12.30pm Searcys at The Rep – Remi Harris Trio / The Mailbox – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain)

1pm Blakesley Hall – Arthur Brown Jazz Band

1.30pm The City Tavern – The Precious Penny Pluckers

2pm The Drop Forge – JazzBand Velke Losiny (Czech Republic); Hotel Du Vin – Alligator Gumbo; The Dog – Barbara & All That Jazz; 2pm Botanical Gardens – John Hemming & The Sisters of Jazz £7 / £4.75

3pm Brasshouse – New Orleans Jump Band (Spain)

5pm Slug & Lettuce – C-Jam; O’Neills, Broad Street – Steve Ajao Quartet

6pm Kings Head – Ricky Cool & The In Crowd; Miller & Carter, Hockley Heath – John Patrick Trio with Lluis Mather

6.30pm The Oobleck – The Precious Penny Pluckers (£5); Soloman Cutler – Alligator Gumbo

7pm Junction, Harborne – Trevor Burton Band; StarCity – King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys

7.30pm Lord Clifden – JazzBand Velke Losiny (Czech Republic)

8pm Robin 2 – Paul Carrack (£25 adv/ £27.50 on the door)

MONDAY 21 JULY

12pm Birmingham Cathedral Grounds – The Backyard Music Boys; St Paul’s Churchyard – Giedre Kilciauskiene Jazz Miniatures (Lithuania); 12.30pm The Gracechurch Centre, Sutton Coldfield – Bostin Brass

12.30pm The Mailbox – The Broombusters

12.30pm Brasshouse – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain) (Sponsored by Marston’s Beer Company)

5pm Church Street Square – Bostin Brass

7pm Electric Cinema – Bratislava Hot Serenaders (Slovakia) £15

7.30pm Lord Clifden – Millennium Eagle Jazz Band

8pm Soloman Cutler – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain); The Robin2 – Steven Seagal’s Blues Band (USA) (£30 / £27.50)

TUESDAY 22 JULY

11am Birmingham Markets – The Jazz Ramblers

12pm Birmingham Cathedral Grounds – Bostin Brass; St Paul’s Churchyard – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain)

12.30pm Brasshouse – Elvis Fontenot & The Sugar Bees (Sponsored by Marston’s Beer Company); The Mailbox – The Chase Jazzmen

2pm Hagley Road Village – Giedre Kilciauskiene Jazz Miniatures (Lithuania) £3.50

5pm Snow Hill Station Square – The Jazz Ramblers

6pm The Parkside Building, BCU – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain)

7pm Fiesta Del Asado – Giedre Kilciauskiene Jazz Miniatures (Lithuania); Don Diego – Remi Harris Trio; Wednesbury Library – The Whisky Brothers

7.30pm Lord Clifden – Elvis Fontenot & The Sugar Bees

8pm Robin 2 –Steven Seagal’s Blues Band (USA) (£30 / £27.50).

20:30 The Jam House – Maysa (£8)

The Magnolia Sisters.
The Magnolia Sisters.
 

WEDNESDAY 23 JULY

12pm Colmore Square – Kansas Smitty’s Big Four; St Paul’s Churchyard – Art Themen Quartet

12.30pm Brasshouse – Giedre Kilciauskiene Jazz Miniatures (Lithuania) (Sponsored by Marston’s Beer Company); The Mailbox – Budapest Ragtime Band (Hungary)

2pm Sutton Coldfield Library – Remi Harris Trio

5pm Church Street Square – Kansas Smitty’s Big Four inc Digby Fairweather

7pm Blue Piano – Strumpit; Lightwoods Park – Budapest Ragtime Band (Hungary)

7.30pm Lord Clifden – Art Themen Quartet; West Bromwich Central Library – Remi Harris Trio

8pm The Roadhouse – Grey Goose Blues Band; Big Wolf Band; Looking Back; Melissa Knight-Davies; The Hold (£5); Robin 2 – Eve Selis (USA) (£12.50 Adv/ £15 on the door)

8.30pm The Jam House – The Brothers Groove; Sutton Coldfield Trad Jazz Club – Chris Pearce’s Frenchman Street Jazz Band (£4)

THURSDAY 24 JULY

12pm St Paul’s Churchyard – Budapest Ragtime Band (Hungary); Cathedral Grounds – Saxitude (Luxembourg)

12.30pm The Mailbox – Becky Brine & The Hot Club of Stonehouse; Brasshouse – Pacifico Blues (Sponsored by Marston’s Beer Company); The Gracechurch Centre, Sutton Coldfield – Millennium Eagle Jazz Band; Blue Piano – Gary Williams.

5pm Snow Hill Station Square – Saxitude (Luxembourg)

7pm Great Barr Library – The Whisky Brothers

7.30pm O’Neills, Broad Street – Pacifico Blues; Lord Clifden – Digby Fairweather Quartet

8pm Junction, Harborne – Saxitude (Luxembourg); Pushkar – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); Miller & Carter, Hockley Heath – Remi Harris Trio

8.30pm The Jam House – Mike Sanchez Band (£8)

9pm All Bar One – Budapest Ragtime Band (Hungary); Grosvenor Casino – Becky Brine & The Hot Club of Stonehouse

FRIDAY 25 JULY

11am Birmingham Markets – Digby Fairweather with Becky Brine & Her Rhythm Boys

12pm St Paul’s Churchyard – Derek Nash with the Lee Jones Trio; Colmore Square – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain)

12.30pm The Mailbox – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); Touchwood, Solihull – Remi Harris Trio; Sandwell Arts Festival – Saxitude (Luxembourg); Red Rose Centre, Sutton Coldfield – Backyard Music Boys; Blue Piano – Stuart Barker Duo; The Square Shopping Centre – Arthur Brown Jazz Band

1.10pm Barber Institute of Fine Arts – Budapest Ragtime Band (Hungary)

5pm Chung Ying Central – Bobby Woods; Snow Hill Station Square – Becky Brine & Her Rhythm Boys; Cafe Opus – Lee Jones Trio; St Paul’s Churchyard – The Broombusters; Crown, Corporation Street – Lewis Floyd Henry; Brasshouse – Budapest Ragtime Band (Hungary); New Street Station – Millennium Eagle Jazz Band

5.30pm Waters Edge Bandstand – Saxitude (Luxembourg)

7pm Blue Piano – Remi Harris Duo

7.30pm Ibis Birmingham City Centre – Ricky Cool & The In Crowd

7.30pm Garden House – Derek Nash Quartet; Lord Clifden – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); 7.30pm Blackheath Library – Potato Head Jazz Band (Spain)

8pm The Drop Forge – Rachel Hutchings Quartet

9.15pm The Kings Head – Digby Fairweather Quartet

SATURDAY 26 JULY

11am Birmingham Markets – Lewis Floyd Henry

12pm Museum of The Jewellery Quarter – Digby Fairweather Trio

12.30pm Sandwell Arts Festival – Backyard Music Boys; The Mailbox – Simon Spillett Quartet; The Gracechurch Centre, Sutton Coldfield – Bob Hall & Dave Peabody

1.30pm Waters Edge Bandstand – Florence Joelle (France)

2pm Custard Factory – Rudie & The Revolvers

2.30pm Touchwood, Solihull – Bobby Woods Trio; Jazz On The Water – Rachel Hutchings (£10)

3pm Brasshouse – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); New Street Station – The Rumblestrutters

6pm Arcadian – Simon Spillett Quartet (Sponsored by Southside BID)

7pm Chung Ying Cantonese Restaurant – The Jazz Buddies; Botanical Gardens – The Magnolia Sisters (USA) (£15)

7.30pm Alvechurch Village Hall – Bob Hall & Dave Peabody (£5); Blue Piano – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); Garden House (The Rumblestrutters; Radisson Blue – Rachel Hutchings Quartet

7.45pm Hagley Road Village – Bob Kerr and his Whoopee Band (£5)

8pm The Wellington – Lewis Floyd Henry

9pm Marco Pierre White – Florence Joelle (France)

SUNDAY 27 JULY

12.30pm The Mailbox – Dave Moorwood’s Rascals of Rhythm

1pm Sarehole Mill – The Chase Jazzmen

1pm Touchwood, Solihull – Strumpit

2pm Hotel Du Vin – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); The Dog – Bob Hall & Dave Peabody; Botanical Gardens – Simon Kemp Rhythm & Blues Orchestra (£7 / £4.75)

3pm Brasshouse – Big Joe Pleasure

4pm New Inn, Harborne – Steve Ajao Blues Giants

5.30pm O’Neills, Broad Street – C-Jam

6pm Slug & Lettuce – Pepper & The Jellies (Italy); Café Rouge, Mailbox – Bob Hall & Dave Peabody

7pm Discovery Terrace, Library of Birmingham – Tipitina £8; Botanical Gardens – Electric Swing Circus (£15)

7.30pm Lord Clifden – Dave Moorwood’s Rascals of Rhythm