Gigs In October: Pendulums, Vula Viel, Xhosa Cole and Cleveland Watkiss

October continues to see an excellent number of jazz and improvised gigs round Birmingham; we’ve seen and heard a fine double bill at Centrala with Mark Sanders’ CollapseUncollapse and the Steve Saunders/Christos Stylianides Duo and two blistering sets from Paul Dunmall as the latest in the Paul Dunmall Invites series in the Eastside Jazz Club; his guests on this occasion were Percy Pursglove, Olie Brice and Jeff Williams. Then Ari Hoenig was at the Silvershine Club last Friday playing with Tom Ollendorf on guitar and Conor Chaplin on bass.

Pendulums Installation

Coming up this week, Andrew Woodhead is launching the album of his Pendulums project with two gigs, the first at Paul’s Church in the Jewellery Quarter Birmingham on Thursday 14th October at 7pm , the second in London at Clement Danes on the Strand on Saturday 16th at 6pm. There is an excellent taster for these concerts in the entrance to Symphony Hall by the new Box Office: an installation which creates the sound of bells, and develops an attractive 5-minute piece in which the bells create a number of different sounds ands rhythms. It is definitely worth catching on the hour at 9am, 11am and every two hours up to 5pm. It is in place up to 14th October, and of course it is free to the public.

The full Pendulums project is a wonderful, totally original concept which brings together an improvising group of two trumpets, four saxophones and Woodhead himself on electronics, and a group of eight bellringers. The album has been described as’ a quite stunning achievement’ (Richard Williams) and ‘one of the more unexpected and intriguing releases of the year’ (Adrian Pallant). The most impressive aspect of the music for me is the way that, as the music develops, the improvisers begin to take on some of the sounds of the church bells, and the bellringers take on certain rhythmic aspects of the improvisation. Moreover, it is great to hear the piece in its entirety plus an opening solo set from Lara Jones in the beautiful St. Paul’s Church. You can buy tickets here. London tickets are available here.

Two gigs that TDE Promotions is putting on at mac fit nicely with Black History Month. Saxophonist Xhosa Cole, winner of the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2018, plays the Hexagon Theatre at mac with drummer Mark Sanders and bass player Neil Charles on Thursday 28th October at 8pm. There will be a series of duos: sax and drums, sax and bass, bass and drums before all three come together as a trio in the second set. This is part of a project of Xhosa’s in which he works together with a number of drummers and percussionists in duos; one of those is with Mark Sanders with whom Xhosa has a very strong musical relationship, but on this occasion they form a trio with Neil Charles. You can book here.

Then just two days later vocalist Cleveland Watkiss brings his The Great Jamaican Songbook project to the Main Theatre at mac. He’s bringing an awesome band with Orphy Robinson, Jason Yarde, Ray Carless, Dennis Rollins, Byron Wallen, and will be performing songs of the great Jamaican singers, such as Dennis Brown, Jacob Miller, Delroy Wilson and Gregory Isaacs. Drummer Romarna Campbell, now back from her course at Berklee, will be in support with her trio. You can book here.

Jazzlines at Symphony Hall will be using another of the new spaces there on Wednesday 20th October, 8pm: the Justham Family Room, which is up on the top floor with a fabulous view of Centenary Square and the city centre. The gig is with Vula Viel, led by percussionist Bex Burch with two brilliant band members in electric bass player Ruth Goller and drummer Jim Hart. Bex spent a long period in Ghana studying African percussion and in particular the gyil, an West African xylophone, and this music is at the centre of Vula Viel’s repertoire. You can book here.

Stop press: Eddie Henderson, the great trumpeter who played with Herbie Hancock, and led his own projects will be in Birmingham on Sunday November 14th at the Pizza Express in Brindley Place. The Pizza Express there has an attractive upstairs venue, and this is where they will play. For the Birmingham we have reached agreement that the basic quartet with Eddie, M?tyas Gayer on piano, Arnie Somogyi on double bass and Stephen Keogh on drums will be joined by three of the most exciting Birmingham based players, namely Xhosa Cole and Chris Young on saxophones and Richard Foote on trombone. More details to follow.

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