|Bryan Corbett – four Legends gigs over three days|
It celebrates the legends of jazz while aiming to be more than a nostalgia exercise. Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon previews Birmingham Jazz’s Legends Festival for 2017.
Birmingham Jazz is presenting its fourth Legends Festival in three years – there were two last year year – in May, and the theme for the 2017 incarnation is Blue Note Records.
Festival artist in residence is trumpeter Bryan Corbett – a man with more than a few classic Blue Note albums among his treasures, one suspects – and he will be delivering four gigs over the weekend of 19-21 May with Blue Note themes.
Also appearing in the customary rich mix of established British jazz players and young musicians just starting out are saxophonist Tony Kofi, bassist Alec Dankworth, pianist Kate Williams and Partisans representing the former, and keyboard player David Ferris along with trumpeters Sean Gibbs and Nick Dewhurst the rising stars.
Corbett is one of Birmingham’s favourite sons. He first came to prominence as the MD of a jazz programme at an Indian restaurant in the city – I seem to remember he was living upstairs, which is really taking the job seriously! – and his quartet with bassist Ben Markland, drummer Neil Bullock and pianist Levi French must surely have played more gigs in the early 2000s than any other band in the area. Bryan has made a living out of touring internationally and recording with Us3, Brand New Heavies and others, while leading his quartet and other bands when he’s back home.
For the 2017 Legends Festival he will be leading a National All Star Band – with Paul Booth on saxophone, Mark Rideout on guitar, Chris Dodd on bass and Luke Flowers on drums (The Red Lion, 8pm, Friday 19 May); a trio with Al Gurr on piano and Stuart Barker on bass (Saint Kitchen, 10.30am, Saturday 20 May); his current quartet with Gurr, Markland and Bullock, plus special guest saxophonist Ed Jones (The Red Lion, 5pm, Saturday); and a Local All Star Sextet – with Chris Bowden on alto, Fred Thelonious Baker on bass, Chris Taylor on keyboards, Pete Harris on guitar and Ian Palmer on drums (UCB, 3.30pm, Sunday 21 May).
The Legends Festival concept is a clever one. Birmingham Jazz has taken the music of the jazz legends as its theme – the first festival celebrated Miles, with Henry Lowther as artist-in-residence – and then encouraged new developments and some re-inventing, especially from the younger participants. As a result it has managed to attract a mixed audience of those who like their jazz “old school” and those who seek the thrill of the new.
It’s an initiative which has drawn the backing of the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham where Birmingham Jazz has its home and runs weekly gigs – and it’s to be thoroughly applauded.
The full programme is on the Birmingham Jazz website and booking is now open.