Bandleader and musician Bryan Corbett was the first artist to play a free jazz gig in Symphony Hall Cafe Bar with his quartet - ten years ago

The Jazzlines Month - April 2014

This month sees the 10th anniversary of what has become the Jazzlines Free Gigs Friday session in Symphony Hall Cafe Bar.

We well remember the very first one with the Bryan Corbett Quartet and the very large crowd that came that night. Large crowds have continued to come to the session and, of course Bryan remains one of the top bandleaders there.

Since then we have presented many excellent bands week in week out with up to 45 sessions a year with the only breaks coming in August and around Christmas.

The focus has always been on Birmingham bands and providing opportunities for both the more established bands and the young contenders. But we have also established informal links with the scenes in Manchester and Bristol and of course London so that we have presented bands from those cities and even the occasional visiting American or European band or soloist.

It has been fantastic to observe how loyal the audience is, and how they have embraced local heroes such as Bryan Corbett, Steve Ajao, Sara Colman and Martin Trotman, but also kept an open mind with unknown bands. Many players comment that the Friday session is one of the most rewarding gigs on the touring circuit.

View photos from Jazzlines Free Gigs/Rush Hour Blues/Commuter Jazz over the years, by Garry Corbett on Flickr

We were inspired to set up the session by observing a similar event at the Royal Festival Hall in London and initially we stole their name Commuter Jazz. However, we noticed that most people were coming especially for the session, often from some distance, and we dropped the name in favour of Rush Hour Blues. Recently, as we branched out into programming free gigs at The Jam House and the University of Birmingham’s Bramall Music Building, we renamed it simply Jazzlines Free Gigs.

We will mark the 10th anniversary this Friday 4 April when Steve Ajao Blues Giants play the Annual Poll Winners’ concert.

The series of showcases for the Jazzlines Fellows have proved a great success so far with storming gigs from the Jonathan Silk Big Band and the Lluis Mather Nonet. On Friday 11 April it is the turn of Dan Nicholls, who will be leading his Point X band at the CBSO Centre. As part of his Fellowship Dan has taken a great interest in West African music and was able to visit that part of the world last year. The Point X band is a new departure in which he incorporates that interest and the results of his visit.

Our sessions in Venue 1 at the Hare & Hounds are proving very popular with big crowds for Get The Blessing and the double bill of Gominoblast and Polar Bear. There’s bound to be a big crowd for Shabaka Hutchings and Sons Of Kemet on Thursday 24 April too.

This month we also launch our new Women In Jazz project which will support the professional development of young female musicians and help to create more female role models in British jazz.

Thanks to the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation this year round programme is available for free to Birmingham based female instrumentalists and vocalists aged from 16-25 with an interest in jazz music. Further information on Women in Jazz

The deadline is looming for applications for this year’s Summer School programme (4 – 8 August 2014), available free to young musicians from Birmingham aged 11–19.

Further information on the Jazzlines Summer School.

- Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Adviser and Philip Woods, Project Manager Jazzlines Education

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