Outer Mongolia is the sort of place people use in conversation to represent somewhere no one would think of going to.

But Mongolian, and more specifically Ulan Baator, a "laid-back city not without its charms" according to one guide, is where Birmingham jazz keyboard player, composer and bandleader, Steve Tromans, is heading this week.

According to my sources - well, Tony Dudley-Evans of Birmingham Jazz, actually - Steve will be taking up a job as an English language teacher and will be travelling east from Moscow on the Mongolian branch of the Trans-Siberian Express.

He's made a fair old musical journey already, from playing with the Biscuit Boys to turning Allen Ginsberg's poetry into his own Howl project, reworking John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, and most recently, making some remarkable new music with Church of Logick.

Now it's sabbatical time and a chance for new experiences and to concentrate on his solo piano project.

The Birmingham jazz scene will miss him hugely, though he should be back next year, doubtless bring-ing a Mongolian musical influence back with him. A throat-singing version of Howl, anyone?

Bon voyage Steve, and we'll keep up with your progress on www.steve-tromans.co.uk

Of course, for the rest of us the imminent journey is a shorter one - just as far as Cheltenham.

A reminder that it all starts tomorrow, runs till late on Mayday, and that in addition to all the big names of today there are some potential ones of tomorrow.

They all come together in the Jerwood Rising Stars series of concerts, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation.

This year's Rising Stars are:

* Lizzy Parks, the Birmingham-based singer who has just released her debut album and will appear with her five-piece band in the Town Hall Pillar Room tomorrow evening at 10.30pm.

* Julian Siegel, the saxophonist from Partisans, here leading a trio with Joey Baron on drums and Greg Cohen on bass, on a double bill with the Dave Stapleton Quintet, in the Everyman Theatre on Friday at 7.30pm.

* Fraud, a north London band lead by reeds player James Allsopp and Tim Giles on electric percussion, who are in the Town Hall Pillar Room on Saturday at 12 noon.

* Jonny Phillips, acoustic guitarist, with his band Oriole, which also features saxophonist Ingrid Lau-brock and drummer Seb Rochford, in the Town Hall Pillar Room on Sunday at 12 noon.

* Abram Wilson, American trumpeter now resident here and a driving force in Jazz Jamaica, here leading a large band in the Everyman Theatre on Sunday from 1.30pm.

* Julia Biel, singer and part of the F-ire Collective, with a group including half of Oriole as well as Idris Rahman on clarinet and flute, at the Town Hall Pillar Room on Sunday from 3pm.

* Gwilym Simcock, pianist with Bill Bruford's Earthworks and Acoustic Triangle and, this weekend, with Lee Konitz, at the Town Hall Pillar Room from 6pm.

* Sugarbeats, Birmingham-based broken-beat jazzers along with DJ Norman Jay and Leftfoot, in the Subtone on Sunday from 9.30pm.

* Paul Towndrow, saxophonist, leading a quartet that also includes Steve Hamilton on piano, in the Town Hall Pillar Room on Sunday from 10.30pm.

For full information on the Jerwood Rising Stars, go to jerwoodrisingstars.org.uk and for more info and to book for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival call 01242 227 979 or go to cheltenhamfestivals.com

One of Woody Allen's better recent films showed again the other night on TV. Sweet and Lowdown stars Sean Penn as a hugely talented yet troubled jazz guitarist trying to live with his reputation as the American Django Reinhardt.

The guitar playing was breathtaking in its fluidity and deep expression, and of course it was not played by Penn.

It was Howard Alden, a guitarist of immense musicianship not only in the swing guitar of Sweet and Lowdown, but in more contemporary jazz styles too.

It was a bit of a coup for Don Reynolds and his Lichfield-based West Midlands Jazz Club International to get Alden over here last year, and now he has done it again.

The George Hotel, Bird Street, Lichfield, is the place to be tomorrow evening from 8.30pm, when Alden will be playing with Ron Drake on reeds, Alec Dankworth on bass and Ralph Salmins on drums.

Tickets, if there are any left, are £8.50 from the Lichfield Tourist Information Centre on 01543 412121 or call the George on 01543 414822.

Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has branched out into Brazilian music with his group called iBossa Nova!

Included in the line-up is Acoustic Ladyland leader Pete Wareham on saxophone. The group plays the Artrix Centre, Bromsgrove, as part of the 2006 Bromsgrove Festival on Friday. It starts at 7.45pm, tickets are £16 (£15) and there's more information on 01527 876504.

Finally, it has never been a great leap from jazz to Indian classical music.

The extraordinary violinist Dr L Subramaniam, who has played with

Herbie Hancock and Stephane Grappelli among others, is at Symphony Hall on Sunday evening in the company of his wife, the Bolly-wood film vocalist Kavita Krishna-murti, and accompanying musicians from both Britain and India.

It starts at 7.30pm, the box office is on 0121 780 3333, or go to www.symphonyhall.co.uk/boxoffice

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