The Jazzlines month - December 2012

Tony Dudley-Evans picks his Jazzlines highlights from the last month and looks ahead to what’s coming up in the new year, as well as paying tribute to jazz pianist Dave Brubeck…

Jazzlines presented a wide range of music in November and it is difficult to pick out particular highlights. It was wonderful to have drummer Jack DeJohnette in town and he played an impressive concert in the Adrian Boult Hall to a large crowd. He led a really strong group with Don Byron outstanding on tenor sax and clarinet. This was the first time I had heard Don on tenor sax as on all previous occasions, either leading his own groups or playing with Bill Frisell, he played just the clarinet.

Also very special was The Impossible Gentlemen concert at the CBSO Centre. The quartet, then named just after the names of the four members, played their second ever concert here back in 2010, so it was fascinating to hear how the group has grown since then. They have recently recorded a new album, but still played a lot of their original material. What I find particularly pleasing about this group is the working together of the two Brits, pianist Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker with two leading Americans, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Adam Nussbaum. It is especially good to see Mike Walker play in this company; he has always been a fantastic musician, but somehow has never really been fully recognised. Gwilym and Mike seem to have written the greater part of the compositions and increasingly they seem to be collaborating on material for this group.

We’ve also had some top class free events: both the Rob Barron Trio and Andy Isherwood Sextet played very thoughtful and accessible sets at the beautiful foyer at Bramall Hall at the University of Birmingham. The Friday sessions at Symphony Hall continue to draw large and enthusiastic crowds; in recent weeks Martin Trotman’s mix of jazz gospel and soul and Sarah Ellen Hughes’ Sector 7 with its four singers made a very strong impression.

It was sad to hear of Dave Brubeck’s death. His quartet played Town Hall in the 60s, a later version of the quartet came to Symphony Hall in its very early days and his sons played a concert dedicated to his music at the Town Hall in more recent years. The quartet was hugely popular in the 1950s and 60s and this seemed to result in a certain disdain for his music amongst jazz fans, but gradually it came to be recognised that he was a truly distinctive and totally original composer and pianist. I particularly liked the tribute to Brubeck written by Liam Noble on the London Jazz blogsite

In January I am particularly looking forward to the concert with the Mike Fletcher Band working with two key members of the creative New York scene, saxophonist Andrew D’Angelo and drummer Dan Weiss. I heard the Andrew D’Angelo Big Band in New York in 2011 where they were the highlight of the Undead Jazz Festival. Their concert presented really exciting original music and it was all played with huge energy and passion. I immediately asked Andrew whether he would be interested in coming to Birmingham to work with a big band based in the city. So he will come with his drummer Dan Weiss, who will be making his fourth visit to Birmingham, rehearse his material and some of Mike’s with the band for three days and then play at the CBSO Centre on Saturday 19th January.

- Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Adviser

Mike Fletcher ECWM Project

Developing young musicians and investing in new work is at the very heart of the THSH Jazzlines programme.

This season Town Hall Symphony Hall has commissioned a piece of Big Band music by local composer and saxophonist, Mike Fletcher. Working alongside New York musicians Andrew D’Angelo and Dan Weiss, Mike will run run a series of workshops and rehearsals with eighteen young jazz players from the West Midlands, which will culminate in the world premiere of the piece on the evening of Saturday 19 January at CBSO Centre.

In total, the project will cost £10,000. So far we have raised over half of this amount, but we need your help to reach our target before the end of 2012. Could you help?

o Just £10 will pay for one-on-one rehearsal time that will help develop the career of a young jazz musician
o £25 would help pay for a sectional rehearsal of the Big Band (eg the saxophone or rhythm section)

There are lots of ways you can support the ECWM project – it is simple, and every donation will make a difference.
Online: to give quickly and securely please visit
By text: text ECWM01 and the £amount to 70070
By post: please send cheques made payable to ‘Performances Birmingham’ to: Jazzlines ECWM Project, Symphony Hall, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2EA
By phone: you can call us on 0121 345 0600 to donate with our Box Office team.