Another bumper year for jazz in Birmingham

Soweto Kinch at the launch of the Silvershine Jazz Club at Bearwood Corks Club last week (Picture © Garry Corbett)

Soweto Kinch at the launch of the Silvershine Jazz Club at Bearwood Corks Club last week. (Picture © Garry Corbett)

It has been another bumper year for jazz in Birmingham, primarily as a result of the continuing benefit the city reaps from the talented and motivated students emerging from Birmingham Conservatoire’s jazz course, but also as a result of the breaking into two of the old Birmingham Jazz.

They might have transformed themselves from the Cobweb Collective to Blam! but these twenty-somethings, having dutifully studied and now trying to scrape a living from playing out in the real world, have gone from strength to strength.

Their two main venues have been The Ort Cafe in Balsall Heath on a Friday evening and The Spotted Dog in Digbeth on Tuesdays, and they have provided some rich listening in both throughout 2012.

Jazz on Thursday evenings at The Yardbird had been under threat but thanks to the efforts of trumpeter Ray Butcher and Conservatoire student drummer Sam Marchant the Paradise Place pub has contributed a wide range of bands, from pro London visitors to student-led groups.

The intrepid young Marchant has also developed a regular Wednesday session in a room at Churchill’s Snooker Club – a venue with an authentic underground location – and Jazz Shark has made sure that jazz still has a home at The Cross in Moseley.

Former Birmingham Jazz promoters Tony Dudley-Evans and Mary Wakelam Sloan have continued their good works as the Jazzlines team within the THSH organisation and have been responsible for bringing jazz giants Wayne Shorter and Jack DeJohnette to the city.

There have also been some fine Jazzlines concerts at the CBSO Centre, their jazz club gigs and others at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, and the free early evening sessions have expanded to take in not only the Symphony Hall foyer each week but the new Bramall Building at the University of Birmingham each month.

Jazzlines is also developing its education side, although its development was marred by the very sad and untimely death of its first associate artist, the trumpeter Abram Wilson.

Following the development of Jazzlines, the directors of Birmingham Jazz found themselves left with the name and little else, but they have worked hard to get back on their feet and back to their origins with a strong programme of more modest gigs in pub locations.

And so the Red Lion in the Jewellery Quarter has become a jazz venue, and jazz has returned to the Barton Arms. Birmingham Jazz has also developed a more club-based regular Friday evening session at the Red Lion.

The Livebox sessions have moved from The Drum to the Hare & Hounds, but the Bearwood Corks Club remains the venue for jazz in that area with the late Andy Hamilton’s regular Thursday evening sessions now transformed into the Silvershine Jazz Club, and relaunched last week.

And, of course, jazz is still holding on in Coventry (just) and in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

While we were denied a Harmonic Festival in 2012 the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival still gets jazz into every corner of the city in July.

If 2013 is anywhere near as good as 2012 then the future looks bright.

Categories: Live review

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1 reply

  1. Thanks for this excellent round-up, and it’s impressive to see how musicians are taking responsibility for their own promotion and exposure, given the steady erosion of the funded scene.

    Since you mention Stratford and Coventry, may I mention Leam-Jazz in Leamington? Evolving out of my own jazz workshops this grouping has put on monthly gigs for almost 3 years, bringing such luminaries as Chris Batchelor, Paul Booth and Martin Speake to town as well as regional players like Ray Butcher, Wendy Kirkland etc. They also run a very successful monthly Jazz Jam at Wilde’s, an award-winning wine bar and bistro.

    More recently in Leamington the Clarendon, a long-established music venue, has begun funding a monthly jazz series with top guests and a local house band. Guests have already included Percy Purseglove, Alan Wakeman, Chris Morgan, Steve Steinhaus and Chris Ingham. The evening closes with a jam session so local players get to play alongside and learn from more established artists.

    Needless to say, any help the Jazz Breakfast can give to spread the word about these opportunities to hear high quality live jazz will be much appreciated.

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