Birmingham Jazz has certainly set itself a bit of a challenge for 2009 – how to maintain such an exceptionally high standard when it is opening on Friday with what has the potential to be a gig of the year.
Nottingham-born saxophonist Julian Siegel got the chance to form a trio alongside New York drummer Joey Baron and double bassist Greg Cohen with help from the Cheltenham International Jazz Festival in 2006 and this led to a 2007 national tour and a double live CD. That is Live At The Vortex on the Basho label – my 2008 CD of the year.
Some of the more interesting bands are put together by jazz organisation or festival support but it is rare for them to last beyond one or two performances – sometimes this is a tragedy, sometimes a blessing. It would definitely have been the former with this band.
Baron and Cohen were already well -established: the drummer with many leaders, including guitarist Bill Frisell; the bassist with Ornette Coleman and Tom Waits, among others.
The interplay between Cohen’s strongly grounded bass lines and rich, bowed sound and Baron’s endlessly creative percussion [he is one of those players who not only plays the velum and cymbals but the stands as well!] is a joy to witness.
What is equally satisfying is hearing a strong young player on the British scene raising his game to match these more experienced New Yorkers and gaining international stature in the process.
It seems to me that Siegel, on saxophone and clarinets, has always shown Wayne Shorter tendencies in searching for the unusual phrase, the oblique perspective.
What the sparse and exposing setting of this trio shows is that he has taken inspiration from the melodic free jazz of Coleman and the gutsier, more direct approach of Sonny Rollins and formed it all into his own very personal sound. He writes great tunes, too.
The last time the band played the CBSO Centre, we were able to get right up close, so let’s hope there is that chance again. I count the opportunity to hear this band live not only a treat, but also a real privilege.
The Julian Siegel Trio are at the CBSO Centre from 8pm on Friday. Tickets cost £13 from thsh.co.uk or by calling 0121 767 4050.
Tomorrow night, the Bryan Corbett Quartet are the Jam House in the Jewellery Quarter, which seems to me like the ideal setting for his rich, romantic and effortlessly cool trumpet playing. The music flows from 9.30pm and it’s free.
* For more about both these gigs, go to birminghamjazz.co.uk