Guest writer Tony Dudley-Evans, jazz producer for Birmingham-based Jazzlines, which presents jazz gigs in the area, chooses his most memorable gigs of the last 12 months.
These are ten gigs that I either helped with the promotion or just attended. I have deliberately not gone back to the list of gigs, but just gone through my memory of what happened. I don’t want to put them into any particular order, but the first one has to be:
Wayne Shorter Quartet, 1 November, Town Hall, Birmingham: This has to be the gig of the year, and indeed one of my all- time favourites. Wayne continues to be amazing on his two saxophones and leads arguably one of the best jazz quartets of all time. The interaction between each member is amazing and the way they integrate their own voices to form an integrated group sound is unique.
Hans Koller Ensemble led by Mike Gibbs, 28 January, CBSO Centre, Birmingham, also 17 March at Kings Place, London, and 13 December, The Vortex, London: These celebrations of the music of Gil Evans, who would have been 100 in 2012, presented a wonderful opportunity to bring Mike Gibbs back to UK as the natural person to lead such a tribute. His arrangements of some of the rarer Gil Evans pieces and also of tunes by Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and Monk were a delight.
Peter Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet, 3 November, Tampere Jazz Happening, Finland: I was fortunate to be invited to a number of European festivals and The Tampere Jazz Happening was the one I enjoyed the most. I had heard Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet in its early stages; what I heard here at one of its last ever performances showed a huge development with seamless movement from gentleness to intensity, from small group interaction to whole group improvisation and from the rhythmic inventiveness of drummers Paal Nielsen-Love and Michael Zerang to the instrumental power of players such as Brotzmann himself, Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustaffson.
Neil Cowley Trio + Strings, 13 April CBSO Centre, Birmingham, and Phronesis, 15 May, mac, Birmingham: Two great jazz piano trios with music that has a very wide appeal and shows the renewed strength and also the variety of the jazz piano trio strand of jazz.
James Falzone’s Klang, 8 February, The Hideout Club, Chicago: This was the first gig of our visit to Chicago as part of the Birmingham Chicago project (which continues this year, also in February). James Falzone is a clarinettist who leads a very creative group featuring the amazing Jason Adasiewicz on vibes, Jason Roebke on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. I was very taken by Falzone’s approach as an improvising clarinettist and the wonderfully percussive approach of Adasiewicz to the vibes.
Shabaka Hutchings’ Sons Of Kemet, 6 June, Hare and Hounds, Birmingham: A large crowd enjoyed this double drum quartet with Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner, plus Oren Marshall on tuba. This is Shabaka’s best group to date.
Bill Frisell Trio, 6 May, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham: This was the highlight for me of this year’s Cheltenham programme, a wonderful mix of lyrical and “out” playing, jazz standards and Beatles tunes, a touch of Americana and great interplay between Frisell on guitar, Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums.
Fieldwork, 6 May, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham: This was a close runner for the gig of the festival; it was wonderful to hear these great three players, pianist Vijay Iyer on piano, Steve Lehman on saxophone and Tyshawn Sorey on drums live, and feel the intensity of their playing together.
The Jonathan Silk Sextet, 16 October, The Jam House, Birmingham: Drummer Jonathan Silk is one of the most promising of the recent graduates from the Birmingham Conservatoire jazz course. His compositions worked particularly well for this sextet featuring Percy Pursglove on trumpet, Mike Fletcher and John Fleming on saxophones, Andy Bunting on piano and Nick Jurd on bass.