The Midland jazz world catches its breath this week before the festival season and two big Birmingham events running simultaneously. But first, tomorrow presents a fine pair of pianists leading bands in different venues.

Reuben James emerged from the Birmingham Jazz/Jazzlines youth ensemble to become one of the Jazzlines Trio which performed in support of Wayne Shorter at Birmingham Town Hall, and also appeared at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

For the Jazzlines Free Jazz session at the Symphony Hall Cafe Bar tomorrow from 5pm, the pianist reinterprets soul classics with the help of star trumpeter Jay Phelps, Tom Ford on guitar, Kristopher Currie on bass, Moses Boyd on drums and Emma Smith on vocals.

The band is called Soul Train and this gig is part of the 2013 Bass Festival. Entry is free and there is more at

From there, head south to Balsall Heath and the small, friendly Ort Cafe where Andrew Woodhead will be the pianist, with James Banner on bass and Jim Bashford drums.

Andrew is an exceptionally gifted pianist with classical studies behind him and a sophisticated understanding of song and standards.

Having started out exploring the Great American Songbook with this group, the repertoire quickly grew to include lesser known jazz material, and now the natural progression to original compositions has been realised.

The band gigs regularly at Matt and Phred’s Jazz Club in Manchester and has also played Wakefield Jazz Club, The Grove Inn in Leeds and the The Yardbird here in Birmingham.

The Andrew Woodhead Trio is at The Ort Cafe tomorrow from 9pm. Entry is £5 (£3), and there is more at and at

And so, we now gird our loins for festival time with two big events that mix the jazz in with music of a different label - a few different labels, in fact. On Friday, July 5 both the three-day Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival, and the 10-day Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival kick off.

The former offers three days of musical grooves all in one contained space, the small but exquisitely formed Moseley Park, an area with a natural amphitheatre and a bizarrely bucolic vibe that is out of bounds to all but local residents for most of the year.

In among the star names from other genres – Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, Soul II Soul and Candi Staton, for example - the jazz highlights include my favourite jazz-funkers, Snarky Puppy, as well as Go Go Penguin, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and a whole Sunday of up-and-coming bands on the Jazzlines stage.

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The Birmingham International Jazz And Blues Festival, is anything but contained – it spreads far and wide, from pubs to shopping centres and out into the street, from the centre of Birmingham all the way to Dudley, Walsall, Sutton Coldfield and Solihull. This year the festival will also incorporate the British Jazz Awards.

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More on all that’s happening at these festivals next week.