A summer lull and planning ahead

Clearly jazz needs a summer holiday, because the live gigs start to dry up over the next few weeks, though nobody seems to have told trumpeter Ray Butcher about the vacation concept, so he continues to fill The Yardbird’s Thursday evening jazz slot for the next few weeks, with a particularly special player on the compact stage this evening.

Simon Spillett is a saxophonist of great character and talent. He has become known for being something of a reincarnation of that legendary ‘60s sax firebrand Tubby Hayes, and it’s a role Spillett has been happy to fill, for why ever would you not want to carry on the work of one of your heroes?

But Spillett is his own man, too, and increasingly shows that. Indeed, many younger fans don’t know who Tubby Hayes is, so for them Spillett is no other than Spillett.

He’s a tenor man with a great big tone, a great knowledge of the jazz tradition, and one who has come up the more traditional way, rather than through the jazz academies. He did it by learning solos from his dad’s record collection, and from lessons with the grand old man of the BBC Big Band, Vic Ash.

The winner of the British Jazz Award for 2011 in the tenor saxophone category is at The Yardbird this evening from after 8pm, and entrance to the bar is free.

Meanwhile, over at the Bearwood Corks Club, young pianist Reuben James brings Bearwood Jazz’s pre-summer sessions to a close.

Reuben came up through the Birmingham Jazz (now Jazzlines) education programme and is seriously paying his dues by being very active on the Birmingham scene. He was playing in the Symphony Hall foyer after the recent Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra gig, and here he is again, from 9pm this evening. Entry is £4.

The brief lull in August gives us some time to plan our live jazz listening for the autumn, and Jazzlines has its major concerts for the latter part of the year now up and on sale.

Among the highlights are visits by Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark and the legendary Wayne Shorter Quartet, as well as a collaboration between the Norwegian improv group Supersilent and the Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.

Vandermark has been a regular visitor from our US twin city, and for this gig at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath on Wednesday 26 September, he plays in a trio with British-based bassist Olie Brice and drummer Mark Sanders.

Support on this night comes from pianist Steve Tromans and his quartet, featuring Mike Fletcher on alto saxophone and flute.

The Wayne Shorter Quartet, with Danilo Perez on piano, Brian Blade on drums and John Patitucci on bass, is for me one of the most special bands in the world. It’s difficult to overstate Shorter’s place in modern jazz, as a vital part of both Miles Davis’s famous second quintet and as a co-leader of Weather Report.

As he gets older, his playing gets more concise, more elliptical, and, for all it’s brevity, more profound.

This will be a very special gig indeed, and it’s at Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday 1 November.

Supersilent has had a changing personnel but has a very specific way of working: total improvisation with no rehearsal. The fact that they follow this path and that it never ends up sounding like any other free jazz is, for me, it’s great attribute. The band currently comprises Helge Sten on electronics, Stale Storlokken on keyboards and Arve Henriksen on trumpet. It’s going to be fascinating to hear how they interlink with the bass of Jones.

This gig is in the Town Hall on Wednesday 14 November.

For all these Jazzlines gigs, go to www.thsh.co.uk


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