Welcome to Jazz & Blues City

Birmingham becomes a thoroughly jazzy city tomorrow and will stay that way for the next week and a bit as the 28th Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival rolls in.

Director Jim Simpson has cooked up the usual rich mix of old friends and new faces, with bands coming in from all of the country and, almost more importantly, from all over the world.

Playing for the home side are some mighty instrumentalists no BIJBF should ever be without. We’re talking sax-players Alan Barnes, Simon Spillett and Art Themen, pianist Brian Dee, trumpeters Digby Fairweather and Enrico Tomasso, trombonist Roy Williams, bassists Len Skeat and Tom Hill, and drummer Ralph Salmins.

Among the visitors are some familiar names, like US saxophonists Greg Abate and Carol Sudhalter, and some pretty intriguing names too, like Jazzband Velke Losiny from the Czech Republic, Les Zauto Stompers de Paris from France, the Budapest Ragtime Band from Hungary, singers Lili Feng from China, Daryl Sherman from the US and Maja Szymczyk from Poland, the Pat Giroud Trio from France, and Shreveport Rhythm from Germany.

Representing the blues-and-beyond side of the festival are the home-grown young bluesman Ben Poole, the wizard of the acoustic guitar Brooks Williams from the US, and blues/rock aficionado Emanuele Fizzotti from Italy.

There are bands here that represent the whole history of styles over the century and a bit since jazz began, including The Brownfield Byrne Hot Six who have moved back in time from bebop to Bix Beiderbecke, The Dixie Ticklers who play a very intelligent form of that ol‘ time jazz, Birmingham favourites the Dr Teeth Big Band, the marvelously named Ricky Cool & The Hoola Boola Boys, and the equally intriguing Swing Ninjas.

And how could we possibly leave out Spats Langham’s Hot Fingers.

There’s a saxophonist jazz critic in the form of Dave Gelly, and there is even a jazz-playing MP in the form of John Hemming, with his Sisters Of Jazz.

The venues are just as diverse as the jazz and blues styles, and include Dudley Zoo, the Lightwoods Park Bandstand, The Barber Institute of Fine Art, the Botanical Gardens, the Central Square in Brindley Place, the Chung Ying Garden in Thorp Street, the Northfield Shopping Centre, The Public in West Bromwich, Sarehole Mill, Starcity and Selfridges & Co in the Bull Ring.

The vast majority of the gigs are free and here are few suggestions for the first six days:

Tomorrow – Jazzband Velke Losiny at the Barber Insitute at 1.10pm; and The Starcity Swing Session with festival patron Digby Fairweather in the driving seat, from 7pm.

Saturday – Shreveport Rhythm at the Sack Of Potatoes at 12.30pm; and the Dave Gelly Quartet at The Garden House at 19.30pm.

Sunday – Daryl Sherman at the Marriott Hotel at 1.30pm; the Alan Barnes Quartet at The Lord Cliffden at 7pm.

Monday – The Dixie Ticklers at The Mall, Sutton Coldfield at 12.30pm; Digby Fairweather’s Chinese Jazz Party at the Lychee Garden at 7.30pm.

Tuesday – The Budapest Ragtime Band in the Cathedral Grounds at 12noon; The Brownfield Byrne Hot Six at The Junction at 8pm.

Wednesday – The Simon Spillett Quartet at the Brasshouse at 12.30pm; Maja Szymczyk at Nuvo at 8pm.

Find out more at www.birminghamjazzfestival.com or look out for a programme, available around the city now.



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