B:Music Jazz (Jazzlines) has a nice set of gigs coming up in various venues in Symphony Hall in the period from February to April. They reflect the strength of the Brtitish scene with a range of styles and formats, from great big band jazz through to two small groups, one coming from the thriving Bristol scene with a great guest from the USA, the other coming out of the very lively London scene that is blending jazz with elements of African music, especially Afrobeat.
Two aspects of the gigs catch the eye. One is that the three bands are led by women bandleaders who have composed the music for the group. Jazzlines under the sadly missed leadership of Mary Wakelam Sloan has always had a commitment to gender balance in its programming, and I believe that this set of gigs shows that it is becoming easier to achieve that balance. The other is that the programme is being presented in innovative ways in the spaces of Symphony Hall. We think of the Main Hall as a large venue suitable for orchestral concerts and other events such as pop concerts or comedy shows. However, the ‘flipped stage’ that will be used for two of these concerts offers a much more intimate experience that is more suitable for jazz. The flipped stage in the Hall has both the band and the audience on the stage, the band with its back to the main auditorium and the audience facing the band with its back to the choir seats and the organ. The other concert will be upstairs in the Justham Family Room; this room is small and intimate, and has something of a club feel. It also has a great view over Centenary Square and is often referred to as the Glasshouse.
More details on the gigs:
Olivia Murphy Jazz Orchestra Sunday 27th February 8pm
Symphony Hall Flipped Stage
Olivia Murphy is a recent graduate from the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire, but she is rapidly becoming a known figure on the UK scene, especially for her composition work. While on the jazz course she won the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) Jazz Composition Prize two years running, in 2018 and 2019, and is the only person to have achieved that. She has arranged Amy Winehouse songs for the NYJO (the National Youth Jazz Orchestra), and that show toured last year, and will continue to do so this year. Also in December 2021 the University of Birmingham Big Band premiered a number of Olivia’s own compositions. These were impressive and showed that she has developed her own voice, but that she also acknowledges influences from composers such as Kenny Wheeler, Maria Schneider and Miho Hazama, the latter the New York-based Japanese composer. Many of these compositions will be featured in the February show. The band is made up of top players from both the Birmingham and London scenes; it’s slightly invidious to mention just a few of the line up, but it will be good to hear trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe, pianist Olly Chalk and vocalist Becca Wilkins in the context of a big band. The concert will be recorded, and the whole project is being supported by a Help Musicians Peter Whittingham Development Award
Camilla George Quartet Tuesday 15th March, 8.30
Symphony Hall Flipped Stage
Camilla George is a Nigerian born, London based saxophonist and composer whose music draws on her African heritage as well as jazz. Her album The People Could Fly brings together these influences, and is dedicated to the Ibibio people in Nigeria. Described as the ‘golden girl of jazz’ by the Evening Standard, she is also a key member of Jazz Jamaica and the Nu Civilization Orchestra. It is expected that the quartet will be joined for part of this gig by Birmingham’s own MC Lady Sanity who performed in Australia at the launch of Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games. Expect upbeat jazz and the rhythms of Afrobeat plus rap from Lady Sanity.
Rebecca Nash Quintet Thursday 21st April, 8pm
The Glasshouse (Justham Family Room)
In this concert Rebecca Nash presents her Bristol Jazz Festival commission Redefining Element 78, a project that builds musical themes around the topic of Plutonium and related elements. This composition shows influences from various classical composers, e.g. Debussy, Tavener and Michael Tippett, as well as from contemporary jazz. Rebecca’s quintet has a really strong line up with Nick Malcolm on trumpet, Jamie Leeming on guitar, Paul Michael on on bass and Matt Fisher on drums, and for this special gig they will be joined by alto saxophonist John O’Gallagher, formerly one of New York’s top players, then tutor on the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire, but now based in Portugal.
There is a special offer for these gigss, which you can access here.
The new foyer, the Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space, is working well for the Friday Housewarming sessions. Housewarming is the new, rather odd name for the Friday 5pm sessions that used to be called Rush Hour Blues. These sessions are working well in the new foyer despite some rather unusual architectural features; the sound is good and it is an attractive space.
Coming this Friday Chris Bowden returns after a long absence with a great quartet with Jim Watson on piano, James Owston on bass and Jiom Bashford on drums. Booking is recommended at https://bmusic.co.uk/events/housewarming-sessions-chris-bowden-quartet, but come even if you don’t have a booking.
Coming up in future weeks:
28/1 Steve Banks Group
4/2 Maria Grapsa Quintet
11/2 Kate Luxmore Group
18/2 Rosie Frater-Taylor (Stepping Tiger)
25/2 Jazzlines Ensemble Showcase
4/3 Rise Up
11/3 Gabriella Liandu
18/3 Nishla Smith
25/3 Ibou Tall
1/4 Delano Mills Group
8/4 Bryan Corbett Group
I should mention that I am still Programme Adviser to the Jazzlines programme.