Live Music Returns to Birmingham Venues

It has felt strange to have been to three really enjoyable gigs this last week after a gap of 14 months. I’ll say more about the actual gigs below, but what is immediately noticeable is that audiences are coming out, and are clearly very enthusiastic, both about hearing live music and about sitting in a group of like-minded people in order to listen.

First up was the Fizzle gig on Sunday afternoon at Centrala. This was sold out in advance, albeit with restricted capacity. I was involved in the running of this gig, so I should leave it to others to comment. But a few things struck me: the balance between the two sets was really good. Bruce Coates played the first set with a quartet featuring Sarah Farmer on violin, Trevor Lines on double bass and Lee Allatson on drums to be followed in the second set by the Chris Sharkey Mark Sanders Duo. The first set was inventive with good interaction between all four players, while the second set was intense with outstanding interaction between percussion and electronics.

Also noticeable was the audience composition; quite a few new faces as well as well-established Fizzle regulars. Sunday afternoon at Centrala for an improv gig is clearly working and let’s hope it lasts.

Then on Tuesday it was back to the Spotted Dog, with the gig starting at 5.30pm in the outside area. This setting works really well, apart from the cold wind that whistled round the edges, and I for one welcome the early start. Saxophonist Xhosa Cole was playing an evening of Thelonious Monk tunes in a trio with Josh Vadiveloo on double bass and Jim Bashford on drums. I have already commented on Facebook how much I appreciate the way that Xhosa moves between straightahead jazz and free improvisation and clearly values both. A set of Monk tunes with a sax bass drums trio lies between the two and allows a lot of freedom for the soloists. Xhosa has the ability to develop long coherent solos, and has clearly been influenced by Sonny Rollins in this regard. He was strongly supported by Josh and Jim.

The Spotted Dog outside area was packed and full of the young people that Jazz At The Spotted Dog always attracts. Also the waiter service was very impressive; I shall miss being served at the table when ‘normality’ returns!

Then on Friday it was off to the Corks Club in Bearwood (so not actually a Birmingham venue) to hear a double bill with two guitar bass and drums trios. Again I think the event attracted the numbers permitted by the current regulations, but in the large room that the upstairs room at Corks it didn’t feel so packed. But the enthusiasm for the music was apparent.

The first set was played by Aidan Amann’s trio with Leo Morland on guitar, Josh Vadiveloo on bass and Aidan on drums. This was a tight group who have clearly been playing together a lot, and have built a strong understanding. They played material by Monk, Coltrane, Jeff Tain Watts and Sonny Rollins, and each member of the trio took strong solos. The trio is ably led by Aidan from the drums.

Then the Tom Ollendorff Trio played two sets. This is also a very tight trio with Conor Chaplin on double bass and Marc Michel on drums. The trio are currently on a 11-date tour, which must be the first jazz tour of this length anywhere in the world this year. They have also built up a strong understanding, and the music was very impressive with its mix of originals, either from Ollendorff’s debut album, A Song For You, or newly written, with jazz standards from Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. Ollendorff has an impressively original style in his solos and a nicely melodic approach in his compositions.

There is plenty of good quality stuff coming up. I repeat: Let’s hope it lasts!

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