Birmingham jazz festival keeps rolling

I haven’t been counting, but it’s likely that there have already been over a hundred 2012 Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival gigs, but it’s not over yet – not by a long chalk.

MP on song – John Hemming at the keys with The Sisters Of Jazz at Hotel du Vin last Sunday. (© Photo Jim Simpson)

The city keeps swinging until Sunday, and here are some highlights:

On the blues side of the programme, look out for Will Johns. Born in 1973, this is a man with the music in his blood. His parents are actress/model Paula Boyd, sister of Pattie, and record producer Andy Johns (who worked with the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton), and his uncles include George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Let it Bleed producer Glyn Johns.

A fully-formed and greatly experienced guitarist, he cites his main musical influences as Ry Cooder, Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Jimi Hendrix, and Uncle Eric, of course.

He has lived and worked in Los Angeles for some years, but is back here now and has a new album out, Hooks and Lines, we he launches at the Festival tomorrow. The gig is at the Brasshouse at 4pm.

He will also by special guest with the Emmanuelle Fizzotti Trio at the Arcadian at 4pm on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, Professional Music Technology is the venue for an all-day programme to introduce people of all ages to the pleasures of playing a musical instrument. From ten till four there will be professional musicians, instrumental teachers and players of Yamaha instruments on hand to help with free introductory lessons, clinics, seminars, workshops, performances, improvement sessions and equipment demonstrations.

Everything is free and, as Festival supremo Jim Simpson, points out “remember, a ukulele can cost as little as £25 and a model of almost any instrument can be bought for less than the cost of a laptop or iPhone”.

BBC Radio 2 blues guru Paul Jones called them “the hardest act to follow since the parting of the Red Sea,” so who better to close the Festival on Sunday than The Biscuit Boys and their hard-working leader, King Pleasure?

What eventually became King Pleasure & the Biscuit first played in public 25 years ago, when they were busking on the streets of Walsall. They were already fully zoot-suited and delivering those rocking, jumping blues, heavily influenced by Cab Calloway and the jump jive gang.

They have appeared in five episodes of The Teletubbies, in National Lottery TV Advertisements, played the music for The Paradise Club TV series, made loads of appearances on Blue Peter and been on 40 other TV shows. They have broadcast on radio on more than 70 occasions, toured every European country plus the US and The Emirates, played over 4,500 performances and have released 11 CDs on Birmingham’s Big Bear Records.

Over the years the personnel has changed, with some musicians leaving, returning and leaving again. Two of the originals remain: King Pleasure himself and guitar hero Bullmoose K Shirley.

Of the current band, the newcomer is drummer Gary “The Enforcer” Barber, who has been with the band for four years, lining up alongside Shark Van Stoop (double bass), “Mighty” Matt Foundling (piano) and Boysie Battrum (alto and tenor saxophone).

King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys play at the Botanical Gardens from 7pm and this is a ticketed gig, so don’t hang about. Get on to for full details.

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