Festival time x 2 in the Second City

Festival time is here! There are probably more gigs happening in the next week than in the other 51 of the year, and this year the choice is even greater due to the overlapping of the Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul Festival and the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival.

So, to Mostly in the lovely little Moseley Park. Although there are jazz inflected performers all through the three-day festival, with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble tomorrow evening a particular attraction, Sunday is really jazz day.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy

On the main stage the completely marvellous Snarky Puppy, from the US, has to be my pick of the whole affair.

The band started out at a Texan jazz college but, under the tireless leadership of electric bassist and composer Michael League, it has developed not only into one of the most exciting live acts around, but has carved out a whole new jazz fusion music for this century.

Snarky Puppy bring indie attitude and great drive to some sophisticated music which ticks all the boxes in the Mostly festival’s title.

Also on the Mostly main stage on Sunday are Gogo Penguin, a piano trio from Manchester. They bring an eclectic mix of influences, from Shostakovich to Massive Attack, to their equally hip contemporary jazz.

And all that should get you into full party mood for Mostly’s headline act on Sunday, the brilliant Chic. I know it’s not jazz, but from my viewpoint on the sofa at home, the highlight of this year’s Glastonbury was not the lacklustre Stones but Nile Rodgers’ bright and shiny band.

Meanwhile, on the Jazzlines stage on Sunday the line-up includes trombonist Richard Foote’s Young Pilgrims, a brass and drums outfit which includes Sam Wooster on trumpet and Euan Palmer on drums. And don’t you just love a bit of sousaphone!

Birmingham Conservatoire jazz student Anthony Marsden is a jazz singer with all the right tastes in this field – he rates Kurt Elling and Tony Bennett, and he does them justice with a repertoire that includes jazz classics and his own excellent original compositions.

Also on this stage, pianist Stella Roberts presents new music from her Quintet, and Lokkhi Terra mix a whole bunch of Bangladeshi folk tunes, Afro-beat and Cuban rumba in with the jazz.

For more on all these artists and how to book tickets, go to www.mostlyjazz.co.uk

The Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival starts tomorrow, goes till Sunday 14 July and offers 209 performances by 105 groups, playing in 85 venues and mostly for free.

Alan Barnes

Alan Barnes

The customary Star City Swing Session tomorrow night features Festival patron Digby Fairweather on trumpet with Mark Nightingale on trombone, Alan Barnes on saxophone, Brian Dee on piano and Len Skeat on bass.

Meanwhile, over at The Old Joint Stock, Birmingham Jazz’s contribution to the festival is a performance by saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and his Orient House Ensemble. This one is £12 (£10 for members) and well worth every penny.

Saturday offers King Pleasure & The Biscuit Boys, Dix Honeybear Watson, The Great Birmingham Trombone Company and Sheep Got Waxed (they like strange band names in Lithuania).

On Sunday you can hear the Fat Chops Big Band with saxophonist Greg Abate at lunchtime, and spend the rest of the day dipping into The Grey Goose Blues Band, The Good Lovelies from Canada, and The Sambuca Diaries.

Favourites of this jazz festival, the Tim Kliphuis Trio, from Holland, are all over the city on Monday, while local poets Apples And Snakes are bringing some spoken word to the party.

Tuesday features a special benefit concert for Birmingham saxophonist Mike Burney, currently recovering from treatment for cancer, with the Roy Wood Band, the Steve Gibbons Band and King Pleasure all taking part.

And on Wednesday the big event is the 2013 British Jazz Awards with presentations and performances from some of the winners.

For full details of these and the many, many more gigs that form this festival, go to www.birminghamjazzfestival.com

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