I have enjoyed 2018! Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2018 was one of the best yet and it’s great that the programme with its mix of cutting-edge jazz, more mainstream jazz and jazz related musics continues to attract big audiences. In Birmingham I have the privilege to be advising on the Jazzlines programme, working initially with Phil Woods and then with Mary Wakelam Sloan on her return from maternity leave. I always feel that a year round programme is more difficult to run and to attract audiences to as compared with festivals, but Birmingham has a thriving scene and a loyal following. It has fascinating to observe the upsurge in audiences for the current wave of young bands, such as Sons of Kemet and Ezra Collective; these concerts attract young diverse standing audiences at the Hare and Hounds who cheer and whoop during solos. It has been great to work with Leftfoot on these gigs.
I have also enjoyed working with Andy Woodhead on the Fizzle programme and on the TDE Promotions events in the Lamp Tavern, the lovely Hexagon Theatre at mac, in the Eastside Jazz Club at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and at the Hare and Hounds.
These were my favourite gigs and events in no particular order:
The 4-date tour with Paul Dunmall Quintet with Percy Pursglove, Steve Tromans, Dave Kane and Hamid Drake (TDE Promotions)
Two residencies for American artists in the Jazz Department at the Conservatoire: Peter Evans and Sam Pluta in February, and Tim Berne and Matt Mitchell in October. Both culminated in wonderful gigs with the jazz students. (Jazzlines and TDE Promotions)
Mark Guiliana Quartet at CBSO Centre (Jazzlines)
Jim Bashford Quartet at Eastside Jazz Club (Jazzlines)
Rachel Musson’s It Went This Way commission (TDE Promotions in the Surge Festival)
Lucia Cadotsch, Kadri Voorand and Elaine Mitchener/Alex Hawkins Quartet at Cheltenham Jazz Festival
Yazz Ahmed’s Hafla Band at CBSO Centre (Jazzlines)
The two tours set up by Jez Matthews of Jazz at the Lescar and the Jazz Promotion Network with Samantha Wright Quintet, Bela Horvath Trio, Josh Schofield Quartet and Morpher
A whole series of European bands in the Hexagon Theatre at mac : Malaby/Bonnet/Darrifourcq, Leila Martial’s Baa Box, Velvet Revolution (all TDE Promotions) plus Pablo Held Trio with special guest Percy Pursglove at Eastside Jazz Club (Jazzlines) and Tin Men and the Telephone’s residency in The Lab at the Conservatoire.
The 6 co-promotions at the Hare & Hounds between Leftfoot and Jazzlines with Sons of Kemet, Youssef Dayes, Kamaal Williams, Alfa Mist, Ezra Collective and Soweto Kinch
Luis Vicente and Lori Freedman at Lamp Tavern, both playing with Mark Sanders (Fizzle Gigs)
Amir el-Saffar’s Rivers of Sound at Kings Place (London Jazz Festival)
Jason Moran’s tribute to James Reese Europe and the Harlem Hellfighters at the Barbican (Serious)
A few negatives:
The loss of the Jazz Breakfast blog site
The ever decreasing coverage of jazz in the national media
The small crowd for Snack Family at the Hare and Hounds in October; it’s a great band mixing a kind of gothic rock with free improvisation. It was one of my gigs of the year.
I go to so many gigs and prefer to get my fix with live music, so do not have much time for listening at home. So I am yet to catch up with recent discoveries of albums by Coltrane, Dolphy et al. and the latest from Wayne Shorter. But in recent weeks I have enjoyed albums from the Hubro label in Norway, especially one entitled Brødløs by guitarist Geir Sundstøl and another entitled Building Instrument by the Mangelen Min group. I have also listened to and enjoyed an album led by Samuel Hällkvist, the guitarist who appeared at the recent gig with Yazz Ahmed’s Hafla Band. It’s on the Swedish Boogie Post label and features a large ensemble which includes guitarist producer David Torn, who has had a clear influence on Samuel’s wonderfully expansive writing.
Some Nice Surprises
I picked up two albums on vinyl with Stan Sulzmann in duo format at the celebration of Stan’s 70th Birthday, both with pianists, one with John Taylor and the other with Tony Hymas. Both are delightful albums: the one with John Taylor is called Everybody’s Song But My Own, an album of tunes written by Kenny Wheeler, and the other with Tony Hymas is called Krark on which Tony Hymas plays some stunning solos on keyboards as well as grand piano.
At the time of writing The Baggies are third in the Championship and scoring goals!