The establishment in the city of regular jazz nights in various pubs and other venues is not only a bonus for young players wanting to hone their skills out there in public, but it also provides opportunities for visiting players – some of them pretty illustrious indeed.
I’m thinking of past visitors like Greg Osby playing in the room above The Cross in Moseley, for example.
The highlight gig this week is just such an event. It’s the visit to The Ort Cafe in Balsall Heath for their regular Friday jazz evening of a marvellous trio from New York which includes one of the most extraordinary drummers you will ever see and hear.
The Tom Rainey Trio comprises the man himself on drums, the German saxophonist (and former London resident) Ingrid Laubrock and Mary Halvorson on guitar.
I’ve seen Rainey a few times down the years, always as part of a different band, and I’ve been fascinated by how he interacts with them, bringing to each group the most supportive pulse yet playing with such freedom and constant inventiveness.
He has such a mastery of time that I have heard him gradually slow or speed up in a piece and then just as gradually return to the original tempo, somehow squeezing and stretching the beat of the music, and making perfect sense of it.
Rainey, Laubrock and Halvorson all have highly original approaches to jazz and to improvisation which means they can work in a very loose way, mixing the sounds and rhythms up freely.
It should all make for a seriously refreshing evening.
The Tom Rainey Trio is at The Ort Cafe tomorrow from 8.30pm, and entry is just £5 on the door. More at www.ortcafe.co.uk or www.blambirmingham.co.uk. This is a Blam! gig with some assistance from Tony Dudley-Evans.
Before the Rainey gig, there is a chance to hear the runners-up in this year’s Jazzlines Free Jazz Audience Award: Steve Ajao’s Blues Giants.
With Steve on guitar and vocals, Mike Hatton on bass and Pete Hammond on drums, the Giants blow the week’s dust away from 5pm to 6.30pm in the Symphony Hall Cafe Bar. Entry is free. More at www.thsh.co.uk.
To return to the fine young local players and their regular haunts, the Lottie Hodgson Band – Lottie on vocals, Chris Young on alto, Andrew Woodhead on piano, Stu Barker on bass and Jonathan Silk on drums – play the Jazz Shark session at The Cross on Sunday evening. It starts at 8pm, not sure of entry fee but if there is one it will be modest, and you can find out more by going to @ Jazz Shark on Facebook.
As well as singing lyrics, Lottie also uses her voice as an instrument in the Norma Winstone tradition, and she has a really interesting harmony rapport with Chris Young.
The pianist Toby Boalch leads a Sextet on Tuesday at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth. On saxophones he has Chris Maddock and John Fleming, on trombone Richard Foote, on bass Nick Jurd and on drums it’s the in-demand Jonathan Silk once more.
Toby says his compositions are influenced by Bob Brookmeyer, Kenny Wheeler and his Conservatoire teacher Hans Koller. Excellent role models all.
The Toby Boalch Sextet is at The Spotted Dog on Tuesday from 9pm. £5 recommended donation. More at www.blambirmingham.co.uk or Jazz@The Spotted Dog on facebook.
Finally, on Wednesday Stratford Jazz presents the one and only Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble at The Chapel, upstairs at No 1 Shakespeare Street in Stratford-upon-Avon.
It all kicks off at 8pm, entry is £10 (students half price) and there is more at www.stratfordjazz.org.uk.