Birmingham’s 30th International Jazz Festival – in recent years expanded in stylistic range to include one of jazz’s parents, and so adding “& Blues” to its title – begins today (Thursday) with an opening party and then runs in earnest from tomorrow (Friday) for 10 days with loads of mostly free events all around the city and even beyond.
BIJBF Patron, the trumpeter Digby Fairweather, sums up his recipe for a good jazz festival in his programme introduction like this:
“First of all, keep the music entertaining. Profound yes – but entertaining too; that’s important. Oh, and stylistically and culturally broad so there’s something for everyone. Then take the music and place it in a huge variety of free settings; everything from starry concert stages to street events so that everyone has a chance to hear the happenings.”
That’s this festival’s ethos in a nutshell, and while there are far too many events to mention here’s a guide to some of them in the next seven days.
Tomorrow: Trumpeter Bruce Adams’ Quartet is at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts on the University of Birmingham campus at lunchtime (1.10pm to be precise) while saxophonist Chris Gumbley’s Quintet bring its Cannonball Adderley-inspired music to The Red Lion in Warstone Lane, Jewellery Quarter, from 7.45pm. (This one is presented by Birmingham Jazz). Between them, outdoors in Brindley Place, you can hear the University of Southern Florida Jazztet at 5.30pm.
Saturday: Look out for Jazzband Velke Losiny in Victoria Square at 11am and at the Arcadian centre at 6pm, as well as Steve Ajao’s Blues Giants at Thimblemill Library at 7pm.
Sunday: The superb young gypsy-jazz guitarist Remi Harris starts the day with his Trio at Searcys at The Rep at 12.30pm, Steve Ajao switches from blues guitar to jazz saxophone at O’Neills at 5pm, and the John Patrick Trio has Lluis Mather as saxophone guest at Miller & Carter in Hockley Heath at 6pm.
Monday: There are lots of them and they make a big, big sound – the Bratislava Hot Serenaders are at the Electric Cinema at 7pm (tickets £15). Meanwhile, over at the Robin 2 in Bilston, action film hero turned blues man Steven Seagal is on at 8pm (tickets from £27.50).
Tuesday: Lithuanian singer Gierdre Kilciauskiene returns having proved a hit at last year’s BIJBF with her Jazz Miniatures, and is at Hagley Road Village at 2pm (£3.50) and at Fiesta Del Asado at 7pm (£3.50).
Wednesday: Saxophonist Art Themen and his Quartet play St Paul’s Churchyard at 12 noon and the Lord Clifden at 7.30pm. Festival Patron Digby Fairweather joins Kansas Smitty’s Big Four at Church Street Square at 5pm.
Meanwhile, over in Coventry there is a weekend fest called Togethernest with a strong jazz gig today (Thursday). It’s in the continuing Match & Fuse series which pairs British bands with European ones in double-bills.
The event brings London trio Troyka – Kit Downes on organ, Chris Montague on guitar and Josh Blackmore on drums – together with Pulcinella, from Toulouse in France. Using fruity saxophone and accordion, Pulcinella bring a tongue-in-cheek attitude to French jazz. Following separate sets, the bands will combine for some impromptu fun.
This gig starts at 8pm at The Tin, Coal Vaults, and tickets are £6 in advance, £8 on the door.
Togethernest continues with saxophonist Colin Stetson (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver) tomorrow (Friday) and Trembling Bells on Saturday. More on all this at tinmusicandarts.org.uk.