I always think that reviews of the year should be written between Christmas and New Year rather than before Christmas, so here goes.
This has been the year I discovered jazz online and rediscovered my CD and vinyl collection. However, the year started well with a number of excellent live gigs: three gigs in the Paul Dunmall Invites series at the Eastside Jazz Club with the final one in March a reconfiguration of Coltrane’s Sunship album in which Paul led a quartet with Howard Cottle on saxophone, Olie Brice on bass and Tony Bianco on drums. They were joined by John O’Gallagher on alto saxophone for the title track. Then TDE Promotions were involved in two events in the wonderful Ideas of Noise Festival: The Tom Rainey Trio at mac with Tom on drums, Ingrid Laubrock on saxophones and Mary Halvorson on guitar, and a quartet with Percy Pursglove, Paul Dunmall, Olie Brice and Jeff Williams at the Claptrap in Stourbridge.
Since March I have been to one gig! Well, actually three on the same day in various bars in the increasingly hip Stirchley area of Birmingham presented by the new Composers Collective as part of the Ten Acres of Sound Festival run by the Artefact venue. This was the Triptychs event.
Since March my highlights have been:
- Listening to streamed concerts: the online Berlin Jazz Festival was a particular highlight with its link between the Berlin and New York scenes.
- Jazz Connective: this EU project led by Le Périscope club in Lyon connected Jazzlines Birmingham and the The Vortex London with like-minded promoters in Lyon, Helsinki, Dublin, Ljubljana and Łodz to present showcases of European bands and seminars on contemporary issues in jazz. The Birmingham and London events just before the March lockdown were great fun, and the online event from Lyon in December was a fitting end to the project.
- Creating the first of a series of recordings for online viewing: the Paul Dunmall Trio with James Owston and Tymoteusz Jozwiak at Sansom Studios (available at https://youtu.be/GjbY7tTeH7k).
- Downloading from Bandcamp knowing that a fair share of the payment goes to the musicians. I have particularly enjoyed discovering on Bandcamp a number of really interesting innovative big band albums led by Jacob Garchik (Clear Line), Anna Webber and Angela Morris (Both Are True) and John Hollenbeck (Songs You Like A Lot). I should add that I have enjoyed other interesting big band or large ensemble music on CD, specifically Maria Schneider’s Data Lords on the Artists Share label, Tenacity, Django Bates’ tribute to Charlie Parker with the Belovèd Trio and the Swedish Norbotten Big Band, and Rachel Musson’s I Went This Way on the Brooklyn based 577 Records.
- On Cds, a very enjoyable project carried out in early lockdown was working through the numerous albums I have on the Norwegian Hubro and Odin labels. Especially memorable are Lumen Dones: Umbra; Møster: Inner Earth; Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: The Music Is Yours; Erlend Apneseth: Fragmentarium and Mats Eilertsen: Skydive
- The reminder that jazz is a warm and friendly community. I have enjoyed my walks with Mark Sanders, and my colleagues from Jazzlines (Mary, Rohit and Richard) plus the weekly Zoom conversations hosted by Ollie Weindling.
- I found Duncan Heining’s biography of George Russell, Stratusphunk, fascinating and a wonderful way into rediscovering Russell’s music, much of which I have on vinyl.
- Two TV series that really captivated me were the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Steve McQueen’s Small Axe. I was fascinated to learn that the final episode of the latter was filmed in Bilston, Darlaston in the Black Country, and nearby to where I live in Edgbaston Birmingham.
- I was delighted that The Baggies got promoted to the Premiership, but sad that they are really struggling there and that Biliç has been sacked
- I got a lot of pleasure from watching Australian Rugby League on TV. It’s a fast, all action sport, in my opinion much more exciting than Rugby Union. I have always enjoyed the sport in UK, but have to admit that the Aussies are way ahead of us.