The saxophonist Charlie “Yardbird” Parker remains for many listeners, and for many musicians, the ultimate jazz musician. Not only did he compose and improvise on tunes that were fiendishly difficult, he did it with a kind of insouciance that suggested that it was all rather easy, really.
For him, maybe, but jazz ever since has been littered with those who have tried to do justice to his music and failed.
I have often imagined the ghost of Charlie Parker quietly leaving the room, head held low, when some naive bunch of jazzers has a go at a knotty tune like Scrapple From The Apple or Confirmation.
It just seemed so fully formed as Parker did it, that to attempt it again was pointless.
But if that ghost were in the room when pianist Django Bates, double bassist Petter Eldh and drummer Pete Bruun were playing, I have a feeling it would stick around.
You might feel that cool presence in the CBSO Centre tomorrow night, as this trio, Django Bates’s Beloved they are called, play a Jazzlines gig.
The band has been playing Bird’s music for the last five years and has two albums behind it, Beloved Bird and Confirmation.
As with all Django Bates’s music, there is a good deal of deconstruction and rebuilding that goes on.
He changes course, time-wise, harmony-wise, everything else-wise, at the passing of a bar line. He is likely to squeeze out a bebop piano phrase one second and a gently harmonised wordless-vocal the next, a neo-classical harmony here and a Latin rhythm there. And as for time, it’s extraordinarily elastic.
The uncanny elements of this music are not limited to what Bates is doing at the piano either; the interaction of this band beggars belief. To hear one man doing this is one thing – to hear three doing it as one is quite another.
I am certain that if you look into the dark, deep corners of the CBSO Centre at the end of tomorrow night’s concert you’ll be able to spot a ghostly smile in there somewhere. Bird would have been impressed.
Django Bates’ Beloved is at the CBSO Centre from 8pm tomorrow. Tickets are £14 plus transaction fee here or on 0121 780 4949.
Also this week there is a trio of superb free-entry gigs:
Tonight at the Bramall Building on the University of Birmingham campus you can hear the new Phil Robson Trio, with the guitarist joined by drummer Gene Calderazzo and Ross Stanley on organ. They play from 5pm.
Tomorrow saxophonist Tony Woods brings his Lyric Ensemble to the Symphony Hall Cafe Bar. The band was formed by the late Michael Garrick to feature his settings of poetry by Shakespeare, Blake and some original verse, and Tony continues to do the same with nelp from pianist Nikki Iles, Matt Ridley on bass, Chris Nicholls on drums and Nette Robinson on vocals. They play from 5pm.
On Tuesday, Bristol-based saxophonist Kevin Figes brings his quartet to the Jam House. Jim Blomfield is on piano, Will Harris on bass and Mark Whitlam on drums. Figes has an excellent new album out with this band called Tables And Chairs, and Blomfield is about to release a trio disc called Wave Forms And Sea Changes. I’m sure they’ll both be available at the gig. It starts at 8.30pm.
More on all these here.
Also this week:
Tomorrow: Pianist Steve Tromans takes his Golden Apples Of The Sun, Silver Apples Of The Moon band into The Ort Cafe in Balsall Heath. With Steve will be Ben Kane on voice and electronics, Tom Ford on guitar, Ash Trigg on bass and Tymoteusz Jozwiak on drums. It starts at 8.30pm and entry is £5/£3 on the door. More about the music is here.