If you are arriving at Snow Hill Station this morning, Becky Brine will be jazzing you in, if you are doing business around the Colmore Row area at noon, step aside and let The Shuffling Hungarians through, and if you fancy some spot-on, home-grown sounds a mere £5 paid at the door of Wine Republic gets you an evening with MJHQ.
Yes, the 25th Birmingham International Jazz Festival gives you wall-to-wall, foot-tapping fun from not long after dawn to not long after dusk. You can find the full programme at birminghamjazzfestival.com or pick up one of the booklets you should find around town. Or just let the music come to you – that’s the beauty of this festival.
And there is still some action elsewhere. The Lichfield Festival opens for ten days on Thursday and although the jazz content is more limited this year, things start in fine style with the mighty Ray Gelato and his Giants at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre.
Ray’s latest album, Ray Gelato Salutes The Great Entertainers, has this great entertainer revisiting the songs made famous by those great entertainers: Louis Prima, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Nat Cole and, of course, Frank.
For me the delight lies not only in the way Ray brings that larger-than-life, old-fashioned kind of showbiz back to the stage, but the quality of the jazz musicians he gathers behind him. The Giants are no slouches, that’s for sure.
And a band that does such a great cover version of Donald Fagen’s Walk Between The Raindrops is always going to hit the soft spot.
Ray Gelato are at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre on Thursday at 8pm. Tickets are available from www.lichfieldfestival.org and on 01543 412121.
Other gigs as part of the Lichfield Festival well worth considering are klezmer-meets-modern London outfit Oi Va Voi on Saturday and 16th-century Goan church music-meets-modern Anglo-Indian in the form of Mantra on Sunday.
Birmingham Jazz has been dedicated to working in schools for a few years now and, in addition to regular in-school sessions and workshop Saturdays at the CBSO Centre, they occasionally perform for the public.
Friday is just one occasion and the Birmingham Jazz Youth Group play the Symphony Hall Rush Hour session from 5.30pm.
Masterminding the whole thing, and using a highly individual and successful teaching technique, Sid Peacock encourages the young players from all kinds of backgrounds not only to “make up stuff” by improvising on their instruments but also to make up their own tunes.
The big band he directs is particularly impressive, creating some wild and wonderful sounds and bringing great energy into any room they play in.
Check them out on Friday, and if you want to know how you can help further Birmingham Jazz education happen, go to www.birminghamjazz.co.uk