The Jazzlines Month - January 2013

As we look back to 2012 and forward to 2013, it is right to feel very optimistic about the jazz scene in the UK and in Birmingham. The move of Jazzlines into THSH has stabilised its funding situation and we have the resources and capacity to run an ever more exciting and innovative programme.

It is also quite right to be encouraged by what is happening in the jazz scene in UK. Despite the limited attention paid to it in the media, there is a healthy jazz scene in this country with both the mix between year-round programmes and festivals, and the constant emergence of great young players with interesting projects. The amount of touring of US and European bands is healthy and it is possible to hear both the big names and the new talent on a regular basis.

We see all this in the Jazzlines programme for early 2013. The Mike Fletcher Big Band concert on Saturday 19 January at the CBSO Centre sees two leading lights of the creative jazz scene in New York, Andrew D’Angelo and Dan Weiss, come over to work with Mike and his band. Jazzlines has always had strong links with the New York scene and has often been the first to bring to the UK, new young players from that scene. It has also sought to play a major role in developing the Birmingham scene and nurturing the many talented musicians graduating from Birmingham Conservatoire’s jazz course.

We have mentioned the constant emergence of new talent in UK, in London of course, but also in other big cities. Our first Jazz Club concert of 2013, on Wednesday 30 January at the Hare and Hounds, welcomes two strongly innovative bands from London: James Allsopp’s Golden Age of Steam featuring Kit Downes on organ and Chris Montague’s Troyka, also featuring Kit Downes on keys. These are bands that have the potential to break through to much broader audiences.

We have always been impressed with both the bass playing and the organisational skills of Michael Janisch, a young American now based in UK. His latest tour features another emerging young talent, this time from New York. It’s saxophonist Walter Smith III, visiting Birmingham on Saturday 2 February, performing at the CBSO Centre with his touring quartet – Michael Janisch on bass, Matt Stevens on guitar and Jamire Williams on drums. Further information on that gig can be found here.

Jazzlines is also keen to showcase more of the different European jazz scenes. Nearly every country in Europe has its own scene and this leads to a huge variety of music across the continent. Michael Wollny’s [em], a jazz piano trio with double bass and drums is a leading German group who play on Wednesday 13 February at the Adrian Boult Hall.

It is sometimes argued that nearly all the massive names in jazz have passed away. For example, there will never be another Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck. But there are many artists who over time are replacing these major figures. One is pianist Brad Mehldau who is both a great pianist and one who can draw large audiences. On Thursday 21 February, Brad comes to Town Hall in a special two piano project with a fellow American pianist, the equally brilliant Kevin Hays.

We also continue to draw good audiences to its free entry gigs in Symphony Hall Cafe Bar, The Jam House and the Bramall Music Building at the University of Birmingham.

– Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Adviser