Back from a good break in Spain where I heard some very interesting music, mostly from the flamenco tradition. The highlight was hearing a duo of singer Antonio Reyes with the great guitarist Tomatito in a beautiful garden in Almeria in Andalucia. It was fascinating to hear how Tomatito was improvising in reaction to the songs from Reyes using the musical language of flamenco.
Early June on the Birmingham scene sees two equally amazing improvisers playing in small groups using the musical language of contemporary jazz and improvised music. First up is Michael Moore, an American saxophonist and clarinettist, who has made his career in Amsterdam, notably with the ICP (Instant Composers Pool) group founded by Misha Mengelberg, and his own group Available Jelly. He will be playing with bass player John Pope and drummer Johnny Hunter, two players who are always involved in creative projects, for example John with the Archipelago trio, and Johnny with Article XI. This will work well in the intimate space of the Hexagon Theatre at mac. It’s on Friday 3rd June at 8pm, and you can book here.
Then on the Sunday, 5th June at 2pm in the equally intimate space of Centrala, we present a double bill with a trio led by saxophonist Tom Challenger with bass player Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders, and in support the duo of pianist Tom Harris and drummer Kai Chareunsy called Canyon. I regard Tom Challenger as possibly the most interesting improviser of the generation of players that have emerged since the beginning of the century, and it will be fascinating to hear him in this trio with Olie Brice and Mark Sanders. I’m confident that these two will combine with Tom to create some very exciting and creative music. You can book for this concert here.
Towards the end of June we have gone a little mad and book three concerts in three days! It’s not really a festival, but a snapshot of the contemporary scene in Birmingham with three very different and varied events featuring Birmingham artists. It begins on Tuesday 28th June at mac with local hero saxophonist Xhosa Cole playing with Blacktop, which is Pat Thomas on piano and Orphy Robinson on vibes, electronics and percussion. Blacktop’s policy is to set up special sessions in which they they interact with a particular artist. They have done this with, amongst others, Shabaka Hutchings, Evan Parker, Steve Williamson, and it is very much to Xhosa’s credit that the latest project is with him. This really is unmissable!
Equally unmissable is Steve Saunders’ Abstract Visions of a Foreign Land on Wednesday 29th June on the flipped stage at Symphony Hall. I regard Steve as one of the most exciting players to emerge from the Conservatoire jazz course in the last few years; he has great imagination, and is both an excellent improviser and an inspiring composer. He has been playing with Paul Dunmall quite a bit recently, and Paul has said that his own Yes Tomorrow album is very much the guitarist’s album. In this project we will hear Steve’s compositions, originally performed as his final recital at the Conservatoire, and this was regarded as the oustanding recital of the year. The group is a 11-piece group with a string section. The concert is a co-promotion between B:Music Jazz and TDE Promotions.
Finally it is very exciting to be presenting a new project by alto saxophonist Chris Bowden. Chris built a big reputation with his Time Capsule album on Soul Jazz Records, and Slightly Askew and Beautiful Nasty albums on Ninja Tunes. He’s back with a wonderful new project: The Hypnos Files. The new album release featuring Louise Warren’s vocals and the rhythmic intensity of drummer Neil Bullock marks a new and intriguing direction for Chris Bowden. The music of The Hypnos Files is performed using vocals plus brilliant electronic arrangements for sextet and Chris Bowden’s characteristic funky and bluesy saxophone. The full line up also includes David Austin Grey on keys and James Owston on bass. In support will be Echo Juliet playing her composed and improvised set rather than her DJ set.
More details on all these to come in future posts, but in the meantime for tickets go to the Fizzle Birmingham site here, and go to Upcoming Gigs. Or go to the venues’ websites.