Happy New Live Jazz Year, and the first entry in the 2013 diary is possibly the longest-standing date in the Midland jazz calendar: the Oxfam Stomp.
It’s being held tomorrow, Friday 4 January, and this will be the 47th year that traditional jazz musicians and fans from throughout the West Midlands will be meeting up to play, listen and socialise.
Jim Denham, who is helping to organise it, tells me: “This year features, among others, the Sheila Fawkes Quintet, George Huxley’s Jazzmen with Caz Shennington, Brian Mellors’ Jazz Ramblers, and the man who initiated the event 47 years ago, John Minnion, making a rare appearance on trumpet with the Salutation Stompers.”
There will also be a jam session. It’ll be at the Kings Heath Cricket & Sports Club, Alcester Road South, Birmingham B14 6DT starting at 7.30 pm. Admission £10. Sounds like a great event for a good cause.
After that, while the rest of the jazz community shakes off its collective hangover, let’s see what we have to look forward to. We might not yet have as comprehensive a selection of delights to look forward to as is promised in the holiday brochures, but we can at least get a taste of 2013’s early months.
In amongst a lot of good free gigs in the Jazzlines calendar, including groups led by Asaf Sirkis, Hans Koller and Sara Colman, there are some ticketed concerts I’m really looking forward to.
First up is an exciting transatlantic collaboration called the EC WM Project, featuring the Mike Fletcher Big Band from Birmingham with saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo and drummer Dan Weiss from New York.
This one is at the CBSO Centre on Saturday 19 January.
On Saturday 2 February we get a chance to hear at greater length a relatively new name on the international scene: saxophonist Walter Smith III.
Smith is a Berklee graduate and, in addition to leading his own bands, he has played with Terence Blanchard, Ambrose Akinmusire and Christian Scott. For this gig he has a quartet with Michael Janisch on bass, Jamire Williams on drums and Matt Stevens on guitar.
And in Birmingham Town Hall on Thursday 21 February, we have not one but two fine jazz pianists: Brad Mehldau and Kevin Hays.
The pair made a very interesting duo album in 2011 called Modern Music, in which they not only played their own compositions and those of Patrick Zimmerli, but also Zimmerli’s arrangements of minimalist works by Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
This should be a really interesting evening of music in the “non-classifiable” category, interweaving classical structure with jazz improvisation.
Meanwhile, Birmingham Jazz starts 2013 very strongly with Tony Kofi’s Standard Time Trio on 11 January and the Ian Dixon/Mike Walker Quintet on 1 February.
Saxophonist Dixon and guitarist Walker go back a long way and are both players that speed my pulse and warm my blood. don’t miss it.
Birmingham Jazz also have the vibrant trio Partikel on 15 February.
The rejuvenated Bearwood-based Thursday evenings now called the Silvershine Jazz Club are all go with Steve Ajao and the Dutch Lewis Broadband part of their January offering.
Stratford Jazz is moving its events from every second Sunday to every second Wednesday but the venue remains The Chapel, part of No 1 Shakespeare Street. First up on 9 January is the twin-saxophone front line of the Alan Barnes/Chris Bowden Quintet.
On the recorded jazz front, there are some very exciting things to look forward to, including a new Wayne Shorter album, his first back on Blue Note after 43 years. Those who heard his quartet at Birmingham Town Hall in November will, I am sure, be pre-ordering to receive it in February.
And for guitar fans as well as anyone wanting to hear some technological wizardry in action, Pat Metheny’s album of music from his Orchestrion Project tour is released as a two-disc set at the end of January.
And, of course, another recording highlight is going to be the new Soweto Kinch double album, The Legend Of Mike Smith, a delicious taste of which we had at his mac gig in October. It’s out soon!