There’s a very special birthday to be celebrated on Saturday – the 70th of drummer Tony Levin. Sure, it’s not his actual birthday – that came much earlier this year, but Saturday is when Tony’s 70th birthday tour hits Birmingham.
Early on he was able to secure gigs at Ronnie Scott’s in London, so had the opportunity to play with such visiting greats as Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Art Farmer and Lee Konitz.
More importantly for British jazz was his presence in the Tubby Hayes band, and he also worked in the bands of Alan Skidmore and John Taylor.
Saturday’s concert, which starts at the MAC in Cannon Hill Park at 8pm, features two groups.
One is a trio with Tony joined by Japanese pianist Aki Takase and bass player John Edwards, the other is the group Tony is probably most strongly associated with, Mujician.
Mujician is something of an all-star band with Keith Tippet on piano, Paul Dunmall on saxophone, Paul Rogers on bass and, of course, the birthday boy on drums. It’s been going, off and on, since 1988, and is a strongly free jazz ensemble.
In fact, free of a lot of rhythmic and harmonic restrictions is how Tony has preferred to make his music for quite a few decades now.
He has also made a long jazz career without moving from the Midlands.
He teaches at Birmingham Conservatoire and also runs TL’s Jazz Club on the last Monday of each month at The Patrick Kavanagh pub in Moseley.
This is a Birmingham Jazz gig, tickets are £10 (£7 members and concessions). Book on 0121 446 3232 or via www.macarts.co.uk
* On Sunday a much younger but equally esteemed drummer brings his band to the Warwick Arts Centre. The drummer is Sebastian Rochford and the band is Polar Bear. Although the band has a new mini-album out, it’s a collaboration with Portuguese rapper Jyager Maktwist, using samples from the band’s previous CD Peepers.
So, it’s more likely that it will be Peepers material, as well as some of their now extensive back catalogue, that the twin saxophone, bass, drums and electronics ensemble will be playing in Coventry.
Whether on CD or in a live context, Polar Bear is one of the most interesting bands to have come out of British jazz in the last decade.
Tickets are £12.50 (£10 concessions) from www.warwickartscentre.co.uk or 024 7652 4524, and the gig starts at 7.30pm.
On Tuesday, Birmingham Jazz presents its regular Jam House free gig, with tenor saxophonist and recent Birmingham Conservatoire graduate John Fleming leading the band. His quartet has Andy Bunting on piano, Nick Jurd on bass and Chris Draper on drums.
The music gets going at 9.30pm. More at www.birminghamjazz.co.uk