There are two great men of British jazz in town this week – one is the grand old man of the music, the other the best known of what we used to call the young lions and now must accept are the establishment.
Just about the only thing that links them is they have both been honoured by the Queen.
So on Saturday you have to take your choice: will it be the 80-year-old pianist Stan Tracey OBE, or the 42-year-old saxophonist Courtney Pine OBE?
Some might suggest that Stan Tracey has been an old man most of his life – they might say he exudes cynicism, grumpiness, a taciturnity and delight in dark humour and self-deprecation that might sum up his generation of British jazz musicians who honed their craft playing cheery dance music in the shadow of the Second World War.
Of course, this could all be a nonsensical cliche. But, then again, his playing has an edginess, a lumpy discomfort that shows a musician never content to take the easy road, strangely happy to be confronting difficulty and finding a way through.
He took the piano playing of Ellington, added some Monk and then imbued it with his own deep and determined personality, and it has seen him through over 60 years of playing jazz in Britain. Some might say you’d have to be grumpy to get through that.
And there’s nothing quite so satisfying as seeing a grumpy old man squirm with discomfort as he is feted and cheered for his achievements. Which is what we hope to see on Saturday at the CBSO Centre.
Stan will have Guy Barker on trumpet, Mark Nightingale on trombone, Simon Allen, Mornington Lockett and Nigel Hitchcock on saxophones, Andy Cleyndert on bass and his son Clark on drums, and will be playing some classics from his long and esteemed career, including The Bracknell Connection and The Salisbury Suite.
The Stan Tracey Octet is at the CBSO Centre on Saturday from 8pm. Tickets are #13 (#8) available from symphonyhall.co.uk or call the Symphony Hall box office on 0121 780 3333.
Courtney Pine exudes good cheer and optimism – he is larger than life, with a smile as wide as his saxophone sound.
His music has become more and more multi-layered as he has incorporated all his musical loves, from a Coltrane obsession when he was starting out, through the Caribbean roots of his culture and on to the ‘70s rock and funk of the music he heard in his youth.
It all bursts forth in a high-powered virtuosity that pleases the crowd as much as it does the saxophone aficionados, and it will be bursting out on Saturday at The Drum.
His most recent album, his 11th, was called Resistance, and came out a while ago now. Is he road-testing the next one? Is he playing some old favourites to coincide with the re-release of the excellent Modern Day Jazz Stories disc from 12 years ago? Does it matter?
No, of course it doesn’t. A grand time and a great show are always promised.
Courtney Pine is in concert at The Drum on Saturday from 9pm. Tickets are #17 (#14) if you book in advance, or #22 on the door.
Be a romantic and tie the concert in with a meal – the Valentine’s Deal – concert and three-course meal in the Frontiers Bar costs #29.50 (#26.50), advance bookings only. Box Office is on 0121 333 2444 or via the-drum.org.uk
Other gigs worth catching:
THURSDAY: Nuru Kane in the Africa Acoustic series at the mac from 7.30pm. Not jazz but a mix of West African blues and desert trance. Tickets at #8 (#5.50) from 0121 440 3838.
Frank Moon’s Desert Groove Ensemble is at the Rainbow in Digbeth from 9.30pm. Tickets are #2 on the door. Frank is a guitarist and feeds some Arabic influences into the jazz.
FRIDAY: Trumpeter Bryan Corbett and pianist Levi French make it a twosome in the Symphony Hall foyer bar for the Rush Hour Blues slot. Take note, you’ll have to work a little later as it starts at 6.15pm. It’s still free though.
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