A strikingly different event featuring two of jazz’s finest pianists, and an Afro-jazz group featuring a former rock supergroup drummer and a saxophonist who played for James Brown – these are the highlights of the Midlands jazz diary this week.
First the pianists.
From the time that he first came to our attention as pianist in the Joshua Redman band, through a series of compelling trio recordings exploring the great American songbook, to collaborations with classical singers and a wide range of original writing, both for his well-established trio and for chamber orchestra, Brad Mehldau is one of the most original of 21st century musicians.
Kevin Hays might not have achieved as high a status, but he was signed to Blue Note records in the early ‘90s and in addition to leading a trio he has been pianist of choice for many other band leaders, including Sonny Rollins and John Scofield. He is now a member of The Sangha Quartet which shares bassist Larry Grenadier with the Brad Mehldau Trio.
For their project, Modern Music, which became a Nonesuch CD in 2011, Mehldau and Hays collaborated with contemporary composer Patrick Zimmerli, as well as choosing to re-interpret the music of minimalists Steve Reich and Philip Glass and iconic jazz musician Ornette Coleman. They also wrote their own music and developed duo improvisations.
The best known piano duo in jazz has been that of Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, but Mehldau and Hays are trying something different, forging the links between jazz improvisation and contemporary composition in a compelling manner.
Modern Music should be absolutely fascinating witnessed in live performance, and that is exactly what is happening this evening in Birmingham’s Town Hall.
The concert begins at 7.30pm, and tickets are available at www.thsh.co.uk
The drummer Ginger Baker was always fascinated with African music and with jazz. Listening now to the extended live music created by him, bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton as Cream in the late ‘60s, it’s not hard to hear in it the jazz-rock fusion and electric jazz of the future.
Baker has always considered himself a jazz drummer at heart, and in his band Jazz Confusion he has assembled a great quartet of strong musical characters from a wide range of backgrounds.
From the jazz tradition comes double bassist Alec Dankworth, from the world of African percussion comes Abass Dodoo, and on saxophone is a man with two great associations in his past. Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis played in the James Brown Revue in the late ‘60s and is the co-writer of Brown classics Cold Sweat and I’m Black And I’m Proud; he was also a crucial part of Van Morrison’s touring and recording band in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Together this band makes a deeply propulsive and warmly toned jazz with tunes from Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, and Pee Wee himself.
Ginger Baker’s Jazz Confusion is at the Artrix Arts Centre in Bromsgrove on Saturday evening from 8pm and tickets are available from the box office on 01527 577330, or you can book online at www.artrix.co.uk