My top ten jazz gigs of the year

The Impossible Gentlemen at The Arena Theatre (Picture © Garry Corbett)

The Impossible Gentlemen at The Arena Theatre (Picture © Garry Corbett)

It’s the right time to look back at the year’s live jazz highlights in the West Midlands. Feel free to add your own favourites in the comment section. Here’s my top 10 in countdown mode:

10 Rachael Cohen Quartet, Churchills Snooker Club, presented by Sam Marchant: Rachael on alto, Phil Robson on guitar, Nick Jurd on bass and Jim Bashford on drums were in storming form. The leader has a warm tone, with none of the stridency the alto can be prone to. Her playing has a melodic logic which is both fresh and at the same time easy to follow. Great little venue, too. Full review

9 Blue Note Celebration, The Barton Arms, presented by Birmingham Jazz: This was a chance for a bunch of Birmingham’s finest to pay tribute to the most influential jazz label of the 1950s and ‘60s. It was also a welcome back after illness for trumpeter Bryan Corbett who was on fiery good form. Pianist Steve Tromans was the marvellous wild card. Full review

8 Quercus, Warwick Arts Centre Theatre, presented by WAC: The three-rooted oak of pianist Huw Warren, singer June Tabor and saxophonist Iain Ballamy, are musical equals and have created a small body of work in which their contributions are in perfect balance, but Tabor has a power of presence that determines the mood in the room. It channels the sorrows and joys of the ages. Full review

7 Nikki Iles’ Printmakers, mac, presented by Jazzlines in associaton with mac: Nikki Iles on piano, Norman Winstone on vocals, Steve Watts on double bass, Mark Lockheart on saxophones, James Maddren on drums and Mike Walker on guitar. If the British Council wanted to share with the world the jazz of this country, then this would be the ideal band. Full review

6 Tom Rainey Trio, Ort Cafe, presented by Tymoteusz Jozwiak with help from Tony Dudley-Evans: Drummer Rainey, guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, each with their own special skills, created a united music of bumps and crashes, of slashes and groans, of beauty and ugliness, of light and shade, of joy and despair. Perfect match of music and venue too. Full review

5 Marius Neset Quartet, mac, presented by Jazzlines in association with mac: Imagine you had dropped in to Clark Monroe’s Uptown House in Harlem in 1942 and heard Charlie Parker creating a new kind of saxophone vocabulary. I reckon that if you were at the mac for this you could have been bearing witness to a similar step-changing moment. Full review

4 Django Bates’ Beloved, CBSO Centre, presented by Jazzlines: Charlie Parker would surely have been fascinated by the way the Bates trio has such fun and games with time, just as he did, with creativity, just as he did, and with moving the music forward into places it has never been before, just as he did. It astounded, delighted, amused and enriched. Full review

3 Liam Noble’s Brother Face, mac, presented by Jazzlines in association with mac: One gets the impression the pianist writes his music amid the domestic chaos of family life, with children consulted on song titles while the composer wrestles with Zen sayings. So quite where ever-so-slightly menacing undertones in the music come from is anyone’s guess. Full review

2 The Impossible Gentlemen, Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, presented by Jazz@TheArena: A packed house, two generous sets from this Transatlantic supergroup, a lovely acoustic space, great sound, audience faces shining with delight in the foyer afterwards – the band chatting to the audience, signing CDs – all the hallmarks of a great gig were here. Full review

1 Arve Henriksen and Jan Bang, Birmingham Town Hall, part of the Risk! weekend presented by thsh: Using Town Hall in the round was ingenious, and what the Norwegian trumpeter and his gadget-genius collaborator made was similarly so. Some of the most sublime and innovative improvisatory music I’ve ever heard. Full review

And here they are in action shortly afterwards:

Of course, since it was the only one I attended I have to say that the Cheltenham Jazz Festival was my favourite. I suspect that I might still come to that conclusion had my festival-going been more expansive. There were superb performances by the Dave Douglas Quintet, the New Gary Burton Quartet and Jason Adasiewicz’s Sun Rooms. The full reviews are all here



Categories: Live review

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1 reply

  1. I wish I’d made more of these gigs with my camera Peter. I’ll try to do better in the new year. I have to agree on the Impossible Gentlemen gig & would personally have included Magnus Ostrom in my own list.

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