An Excellent Week of Intriguing Music in Birmingham

I think it’s right to say that the jazz and improvised music scene is back to something like normality. Evidence of this is that there are four amazing gigs taking place in various venues across the city from Thursday to Sunday this week, Is it a new normal? To a certain extent it is, as the focus is very much on Birmingham and British musicans rather tha touring international bands. It’s good to be celebrating the local scene.

First up is Xhosa Cole playing in the Hexagon Theatre at mac on Thursday 28th October, 8pm. For this gig Xhosa will be playing with Neil Charles on double bass and Mark Sanders on drums, and playing two improvised sets. Xhosa is equally good at and keen on free improvisation as he is on more straightahead jazz, and here he will be playing initially in duos with Neil and Mark. There will also be a duo betwen Mark and Neil before the final set in which the trio will play together. This is selling fast, so early booking is recommended; you can do so here.

On Friday 29th Rachael Cohen plays the Friday 5pm session on the new foyer, which now has the rather bizarre name of Housekeeping. Rachael is originally from the Shetland Islands, but did the jazz course in Birmingham, and is now based in London. She is a fine player and leads a strong group. The session is still free entry, but you need to book a ticket, which you can do here.

Then on Saturday 30th, 8pm Cleveland Watkiss will be bringing an all-star band with Orphy Robinson, Jason Yarde, Ray Carless, Byron Wallen and others to the Main Theatre to celebrate the music of Jamaica and particularly the songs of Gregory Isaacs, Delroy Wilson, Burning Spear, Dennis Brown and others in a project with the title of The Great Jamaican Songbook. Cleveland is one of UK’s finest singers and it’s a great band, so I consider this an unmissable gig. Romarna Campbell will support with her trio. Tickets are available here.

Finally on Sunday 31st October, 7.30, the Jazzlines programme at Symphony Hall presents two new commissions for Birmingham based artists. Jazzlines has a commitment to nurturing Birmingham artists, particularly those who have recently graduated from the jazz course at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and stayed in the city. The commissions are for pianist/composer Piera Onacko and saxophonist/composer Chris Young. Piera has been playing and composing with saxophonis/composer Cassie Kinoshi who also leads the large Seed group. They will be joined by Nathan England-Jones on drums and percussion to perform a piece with the title un.procedure that draws on the music of Krautrock, Delia Derbyshire and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and also free improvisation. Chris Young will be leading a quintet named Orbits CQ with a front line of Chris himself on sax, Riley Stone-Lonergan, also on sax, Richard Foote on trombone, plus Nick Jurd on bass and Jim Bashford on drums.

This will be on the flipped stage in the main auditorium at Symphony Hall. I will be posting a longer piece about these commissions, probably on the BMusic website and also possibly on this site, so look out for that. Tickets for this concert are here.

Also look out for the next Paul Dunmall Invites session at Eastside Jazz Club in Birmingham Conservatoire, featuring Paul on saxophones, Phil Gibbs on guitar, James Owston on bass and Jim Bashford on drums. This is on Thursday 4th November, more details later.

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