A Birmingham student is behind an exciting new jazz festival, which launches today. Peter Bacon reports.
The Beat City Jazz Festival hits Birmingham today and stays for three days of exciting music. Some of the finest practitioners for the art currently working in this country are ably supported by some of tomorrow’s jazz stars in a festival which is the brainchild of Sam Marchant.
Sam thoroughly confounds the idea of the jazz entrepreneur. He isn’t an old guy with a goatee and a cynical attitude; he’s young – so young he’s still a student at Birmingham Conservatoire – curly-haired and very enthusiastic.
This jazz drummer turned promoter has been organising the Wednesday sessions at Churchills Snooker Club and helping to programme the Thursday Yardbird Jazz Club gigs, all in Birmingham city centre, for over a year now.
He says: “Although I have a great love for jazz drumming and performing, I’ve found more recently that my real passion is promotion and arts management.
“Over the last year I’ve got involved in two jazz nights in Birmingham, one of which I started from scratch.
“These nights are now doing very well and I’ve had a great time being involved with them and feel very privileged to have had the chance.”
It’s a bit of a leap to go from organising a gig here and there to mounting a whole festival, but that became Sam’s ambition and the Beat City Jazz Festival is the result.
The headliners are the Zoe Rahman Quartet tomorrow, the Soweto Kinch Trio on Saturday, and, before them, the Ant Law Quartet today.
These gigs are all at 9pm, with the Zoe Rahman one at the British Midland Institute, and the Soweto Kinch one at the Copthorne Hotel. Ant Law is at The Yardbird.
Rahman is of course the pianist who was nominated for a Mercury Prize for her second album, Melting Pot.
Now she has released her fifth CD, Kindred Spirits, which further develops her jazz style to incorporate not only the Bengali music of her family tradition, but also a new-found interest in Celtic music.
For Beat City she will be appearing in her quartet which features Rowland Sutherland on flute.
Soweto Kinch is riding a wave of acclaim following the release of his new album, The Legend Of Mike Smith, which he will be presenting in full theatrical form later this year.
In the meantime, you can hear some of it in trio format for Beat City.
Kinch is an extraordinary live performer, melding the wit and verbal dexterity of a hip-hop artist with the instrumental prowess of the hottest jazz saxophonist.
His gigs are rip-roaring occasions and this will be just the right kind of festival finale.
Ant Law is an up-and-coming guitarist and he, too, has a new album out, made with a remarkable group of his peers.
Earlier in each day of the festival, The Yardbird Jazz Club is the venue for gigs at 3pm and 6pm, and there are also late night jam sessions planned for Churchills Snooker Club.
Featured in these are the Gareth Fowler Quartet and Tom Dunnet Quintet (today), the Chris Young Sextet and the Sean Gibbs Quintet (tomorrow) and the Jim Bashford Trio and the Elliot Drew Quartet on Saturday.
A lot of these musicians are either fellow students of Sam’s or graduates of the Conservatoire and all bear testament to the vitality of the young jazz scene in Birmingham in 2013.
These really are fine players, full of energy and creativity, not only working hard at their studies but also getting out there and putting all they have learned into practice for our enjoyment.
Of course you don’t get to be an effective jazz entrepreneur just by booking some good bands.
You need to be able to assemble a team to put your ideas into action.
When I spoke to Sam recently, he had been up all night getting the whole thing ready to go on sale this morning.
But he could still spare a moment to namecheck his friends and helpers:
“Guitarist Leo Appleyard (a recent graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire) has built the website and has shown unbelievable patience at my nit-picking,” Sam said.
“And alto sax player Ash Bonfante (also studying at the Conservatoire) has been a massive help and is running the Facebook and twitter accounts.
“Nicole Goddard has designed the festival’s logo and tickets.
“She has been a huge help and has shown more patience than anyone ever should.”
* Tickets for the full three days – today, tomorrow and Saturday – are priced £50, otherwise there are day tickets or individual tickets for the Law, Rahman and Kinch gigs. More details and booking at beatcityjazzfestival.com, or on twitter follow BeatCityJazz, or on facebook at BeatCityJazzFestival.