He is equally skilled on trumpet and double bass, he has played with Elbow and Amy Winehouse and he is about to debut his suite inspired by Malala Yousafzai and Joan of Arc. Just a regular jazz musician, then? Peter Bacon chats to Percy Pursglove.

Music is in Percy Pursglove’s blood. It goes way back in his family, and when he was asked at primary school what he wanted to be when he grew up he asked his teacher: “How do you spell ‘musician’?”

So it’s perhaps no surprise that he is one of the premier jazz musicians to have come out of Birmingham in the last half century.

An exceptionally fine trumpeter and double bass player, Percy can be heard most Monday evenings at Yorks Bakery Cafe in Newhall Street (he hosts these sessions along with drummer and good friend Andrew Bain), he teaches at Birmingham Conservatoire, and on October 17 he will present the world premiere of his suite for jazz ensemble and choir, Far Reaching Dreams Of Mortal Souls.

So what about that musical lineage?

“My grandfather played saxophone and directed a number of dance bands (under numerous names for tax reasons!) in and around Birmingham, and my grandmother was the lead violinist in a local orchestra. She won a place at the Birmingham School of Music (now the Conservatoire) but the family couldn’t afford for her to study, so she went to work at Cadbury in Bournville instead.”

Percy was already playing the trumpet at the age of six, and the first music he really remembers – probably as a result of his grandfather’s influence – was that of the dance bands, particularly Glenn Miller.

“From there the big bands we’re my earliest obsession. I was lucky enough to work my way through the ranks of the Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra with John and Nichola Ruddick, and then the National Youth Jazz Orchestra.”

At 14 he was awarded a scholarship to study at the Conservatoire Saturday junior school. This was before a jazz course had been established but Percy threw himself into everything: classical trumpet, musical theory, playing in the wind band and orchestra, and singing in the choir.

“This was a wonderful experience and during these formative years it became clear to me that whereas I thoroughly enjoyed studying the classical trumpet repertoire, it didn’t seem like it was enough. I no longer wanted to just play prescribed pitches from a page. I knew there was so much more to music making than this, but I didn’t really know what it was yet.”

While some musicians have a second instrument, few pursue more than one to the extent that Percy has . And few play such contrasting ones to such a high level. How did that come about and does he have a preference?

“I took up double bass during my undergraduate degree at the Conservatoire. Someone recommended that I check out the Oscar Peterson record Night Train. I couldn’t believe my ears. Such joyous playing, a deep infectious swinging groove and a beautiful balanced sound between the ride cymbal of Ed Thigpen and the bass of Ray Brown.

“I wanted to make that sound and be a part of the rhythm section creating that swinging groove.

“As for the two instrument thing, I’m still striving (and struggling) for mastery of them. I don’t want to feel that I’m restricted by a lack of instrumental facility. The more I learn about my instruments the less I try to think about them. I don’t really prefer either; I’m fortunate that I have different ways of accessing the music.”

Following study at the New School University in Greenwich Village in New York and some life-changing experiences playing there, Percy returned to Birmingham to forge his musical future back where it all started.

For the modern pro jazz musician, the “portfolio career” is the only realistic way to survive. So how does Percy do it?

“The reality of being a musician these days is like that of a juggler with many balls in the air. I’m probably within the average bracket in that I do about 25,000 miles driving a year. I have a lovely regular visiting tutor position for the Conservatoire.

“Teaching and Monday nights at Yorks Bakery Cafe aside, my week to week schedule changes enormously. There’s normally a couple of gigs on the horizon, often a recording session, or leading an educational workshop and always on a daily basis some personal practice and writing.”

In the process Percy has played with many of the jazz greats, including Andy Sheppard, Peter Erskine, Evan Parker, Django Bates and Chris Potter, as well as in Koln, Germany, with the WDR Big Band. Pop sessions have included Elbow and Amy Winehouse.

“I was lucky enough to play a live broadcast with Amy. She was a lovely person. She had a great energy and a beautiful, unique, melodic phraseology,” says Peter.

And somewhere in amongst this busy working life, Percy has found time, as part of his tenure as a Jazzlines Fellow, to write a new work for jazz ensemble and voices.

“Far Reaching Dreams of Mortal Souls is a project that has been playing on my mind for a few years now. I never quite got over the experience of singing in choirs early on. Works like Handel’s Messiah and in particular Faure’s Requiem have never left me,” he explains.

“There’s nothing quite like the human voice – which shares many parallels with trumpet, incidentally – and specifically the sound that massed, unified voices creates. I knew that I wanted to set words to music for choir and a chamber ensemble of contemporary classical and improvisers.

“In terms of text I’ve always been inspired by human achievement in the face of adversity, so I selected nine people of significance, people who have made a real and considerable difference to the world.”

The text of Percy’s piece is drawn from the writings or speeches of Aung San Suu Kyi, Benjamin Franklin, Joan of Arc, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, Charles Darwin, Anne Frank, Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei.

“The text often has a further underlying significance to me, challenging and questioning my own beliefs and their contradictions,” Percy adds.

Once the text and music were decided, it was easy.

“I simply called some of my favourite musicians. Thankfully they said yes!”

* Far Reaching Dreams Of Mortal Souls can be heard at the CBSO Centre on October 17 at 8pm. It is presented by Jazzlines and for more information go to thsh.co.uk

Peter Bacon’s pick of the November jazz gigs

November 8: Troyk-estra - Powerhouse trio expands into a big band. Jazzlines at the CBSO Centre, 8pm. £15. More at thsh.co.uk/jazzlines

November 14:  Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet – former Orient House drummer, Asaf Sirkis, teams up with Polish singer Sylwia Bialas. Birmingham Jazz at The Red Lion. £12. More at birminghamjazz.co.uk

November 15: Phronesis – one of the most exciting piano trios in modern jazz. Jazz At The Arena, Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, 8pm. £12. More at wlv.ac.uk

November 22: Steve Coleman & Five Elements – The US saxophonist is a key figure in contemporary jazz and makes his first Birmingham visit in over 10 years. Jazzlines at the CBSO Centre, 8pm. £15. More at thsh.co.uk/jazzlines

November 26: Simon Spillett’s Standard Miles - Miles Davis tribute from saxophonist Spillett. Stratford Jazz at The Chapel, No 1 Shakespeare St, Stratford-upon-Avon, 8pm. £15. More at stratfordjazz.org.uk

More at thejazzbreakfast.com