The week ahead in Midland gigs

The National Youth Orchestra are in town for a performance which includes Messiaen’s huge Turangalila-Symphonie on Wednesday evening, but this evening musicians from the orchestra show off their jazz chops at Rush Hour Blues.

Now there was a time when the idea of classically trained musicians playing jazz was justifiable cause for jazz hearts to sink and jazz heads to shake (and not in a good way). The kind of rhythmic education classical students received seemed to encourage them to work out swing in an intellectual way.

They seemed to be complicatedly trying to quantify it in a manner that might be appropriate for some timing nuance in a classical, fully notated work, but took no account at all of the “feel” of jazz. In fact, “feel” was what these musicians seemed bereft of.

With changing times and more sophisticated teachers who had themselves, perhaps, practised jazz as well as classical music, the young orchestral players have a better chance of adapting to the jazz approach.

Of course, there is still some way to go. Compare, say, the the Absolute Ensemble of New York, the Britten Sinfonia or the Dutch Metropole Orchestra (which identifies itself as a jazz/pop orchestra anyway) with any of the major orchestras tackling a jazzy piece, and you can clearly hear the difference.

Let’s see how the young NYO crew fare from 5.30pm to 7pm in the Symphony Hall foyer bar tonight – hopes should certainly be high. Entry is free, and this is a Jazzlines gig.

From there, I suggest you move south to the Ort Cafe in Balsall Heath (just opposite Moseley Baths) for the twin-tenor fronted Jonathan Silk Quartet.

Jonathan Silk

John directs and composes from behind the drums, but the message to bassist Nick Jurd, and tenor men John Fleming and Nick Rundle is to keep things pretty free and put the accent on personal expression.

Silk, one of the growing number of talented young Scots to have come through the Birmingham Conservatoire jazz course (think Ben Bryden and Euan Burton) won the 2011 Tony Levin Drum Prize, has been awarded a Yamaha Jazz Scholarship and was named by Jazzwise magazine as “one to watch in 2012”.

The Jonathan Silk Quartet is on from 8.30pm at the Ort, and although there is no charge on the door, you are encouraged to donate generously.

Stratford Jazz offers one last Sunday session before the summer break, and it’s the Mike Collins Quartet.

Mike is on piano Ashly-John Long on bass and Trevor Davies on drums and I understand this trio is doing good things with their album Suite Gorgeous described by Jazzwise magazine as “EST-like”. For Stratford they add saxophonist Lee Goodall.

Goodall is from Hampshire but has spent a fair amount of time in New York where he has recorded with Steve Gadd and Marcus Miller, and played with Jack Walrath and Melvin Gibbs.

The music starts at 8pm and entrance is £8. More at 

Although many jazz events take a break in the summer, Ray Butcher is feeding the jazz appetite right through with his Thursday night programme at the Yardbird, in Paradise Place.

Among August’s highlights are Simon Spillett next Thursday, the Tim Bowes Trion plus Tom Ford on 16 August and the Terry Clarke Band at the end of the month.

The music starts after 8pm and entry is free.

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1 reply

  1. Interesting and apposite comments about classically trained musicians playing jazz. The NYO Jazz Collective played two good sets last Friday and were clearly very enthusiastic about playing the gig. They restricted themselves to the standard repertoire, but showed plenty of swing and inventiveness in their solos. I understand that a number of the players are composers and I hope that they will get the opportunity to write for jazz groups. This was a good event enjoyed by the usual large Rush Hour Blues crowd

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