Steve Reich inspires some new jazz this week

The musical highlight of this week in Birmingham must be Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite, a concert at Town Hall on Wednesday evening, featuring not only this new work from the US composer, inspired by Radiohead and performed by London Sinfonietta just a day after its premiere , but also the man himself performing his classic Clapping Music.

But the concert on Wednesday, which is sold out, is not the only Reich event in town, with two Jazzlines gigs picking up the theme, a theme that is quite natural for jazz because Reich was influenced by the jazz he heard in New York in the 1960s as much as he is tapping into the intelligent modern rock-influenced music of Radiohead in 2013.

Chris Mapp

Chris Mapp

On Thursday at the Bramall Music Building on the University of Birmingham campus, bassist Chris Mapp unveils a new band and some strong Reich links. The band is called Buzzoig and features the eminent British saxophonist Iain Ballamy along with trumpeter Sam Wooster and drummer Tymoteusz Jozwiak.

Mapp says: ” Reich’s new work is inspired by the music of Radiohead; continuing on this theme, Buzzoig will play music inspired by Reich, and Radiohead as well as some of their influences.

“The music is a combination of improvisation, composition, audio samples and graphical notation. I’ve composed it to allow flexibility in the performance and let each individual improviser influence its direction. The cellular structure is influenced by Birmingham composer Steve Tromans and the Anthony Braxton/Derek Bailey duo record First Duo Concert. This will give the performance flexibility and also helps to maintain a lineage to the source material.

“Rather than a straight reworking of Radiohead’s music, this project attempts to pay tribute to it through sound, gesture and vibe. Elements of the original music will appear and disappear, shape the direction and act as inspiration for improvisation.”

Buzzoig play from 5pm and entry is free. What at treat to hear some exciting new music and Iain Ballamy to boot!

Mike Fletcher

Mike Fletcher

Also in the Reich Influences strand, saxophonist Mike Fletcher leads an octet looking again at John Coltrane’s Africa/Brass album and feeding both that music and Steve Reich’s influence (Reich frequently went to hear Coltrane in the New York clubs) into some new music of his own.

Fletcher is one of the most inventive and hard-working musicians currently working in Birmingham. His big band recently played an outstanding concert at the CBSO Centre in the company of New York saxophonist and composer Andrew D’Angelo.

This is part of the Jazzlines Free Jazz series at Symphony Hall cafe bar, which also starts at 5pm and is also free.

More about both these gigs at

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1 reply

  1. I found this quote from Steve Reich very interesting. He is talking about how he became interested in ‘harmonic stasis’.

    “The giant in all this harmonic stasis for me was John Coltrane in his Africa Brass album of 1961 where the title tune is 16 minutes – all on E! … the low E of the double bass played by Jimmy Garrison. How did he make 16 minutes on one harmony riveting? Well, first by remarkable melodic invention and sometimes by almost screaming through his instrument, then by incredible rhythmic complexity played by Elvin Jones, and finally by timbral variety arranged by Eric Dolphy for French horns playing glissandos that sounded like charging elephants. The constant harmony just highlighted the melodic invention, rhythmic complexity and timbral variety. Sound like a lesson for my piece Drumming?

    It’s from an interview with Phil Johnson in the Independent at–then-along-came-radiohead-8517901.html

    This is where Mike Fletcher started with his Different Trane piece.

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