Up in Birmingham, Tony Dudley-Evans (TDE Promotions) and Andrew Woodhead (Fizzle) have a new programme of experimental music for their autumn season. Peter Bacon asked them about it:
Tony introduced the season on his blog, thus:
There are 14 gigs taking in all kinds of experimental music: free jazz, electronics, improvisation to silent film, British and Swedish electro-acoustic music, a residency with the Archipelago group, solo and duo performances through to large ensembles.
The programme has been supported for the third time by an Arts Council England Project Grant and we are very grateful to them for this support.
The programme takes place in three main venues: the regular Fizzle programme takes place at the Lamp Tavern, a lovely intimate pub on the edge of the Digbeth area and this season they will run on both Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons, both on a monthly basis. The TDE Promotions take place in the unique Hexagon Theatre at mac (Midlands Arts Centre, Cannon Hill Park) and also in the Eastside Jazz Club at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Other occasional events take place at the Artefact venue in Stirchley – the silent film improvisations – and in the BEAST studio at the Bramall Hall at the University of Birmingham for the electro-acoustic concert.
LondonJazz News: This season’s programme takes in quite a wide range of music. How did you both choose the bands?
Tony Dudley-Evans: Essentially Andy books the Fizzle gigs and I book the TDE Promotions gigs, but we meet regularly and discuss future plans and ideas. With special projects such as the silent film + improv, we both sat down with Sam Groves of Flatpack and reached decisions about the musicians.
Andrew Woodhead: Improv/Jazz is a pretty wide church these days, and I try to put together a programme that shows off the various different corners of the scene. This season we’ve got spiritual free-jazz inclined offerings from a new quartet led by Paul Dunmall (6 October), no-input mixing board noise from Toshimaru Nakamura (8 December), pin-drop minimalist strings-and-flute quartet Halftone with Hannah Marshall, Tina Hitchens, Caitlin Alias Callahan and Yvonna Magda (19th November), multi-channel soundscapes in a collaborative concert with BEAST (Birmingham Electro Acoustic Sound Theatre, 8/9 November) and intense post-rock/improv collisions with Archipelago in a new collaboration with Birmingham-based musicians (3 November).
I love all these different incarnations of improvised/ experimental/ whatever-you-want-to-call-it music and the creative challenge and excitement for me comes from trying to combine them in interesting ways, pairing up spacious/intense, loud/soft, acoustic/electric to try and keep the audience on their toes…
LJN: Do the venues and their different characters play a role in programming decisions?
TDE: Yes, we make careful decisions about the venue… The Hexagon is larger than the room at the Lamp and that has an impact. Sometimes the consideration is that a band might feel better in a busy small venue than in a half full larger venue. The need for a piano is sometimes an issue. The decision to put the Paul Dunmall Quintet in the Eastside Jazz Club last year and also this November with the latest version plus brass section was partly due to the wish to have a top class grand piano.
AW: It’s interesting wearing both hats (musician and promoter) in the various venues, and how different it feels to play in a space versus watching a gig there. The Hexagon is a former puppetry theatre in the Midland Arts Centre and the steep seating rake feels like the you’re kind of floating above the stage as an audience, there’s great separation in the acoustics there and you can pinpoint exactly where each sound is coming from on the stage which I really love for the more minimal “improvised music” type groups; Angharad Davies’ solo in there last spring was absolutely spellbinding.
As a contrast The Lamp Tavern has the stage and audience at floor level with a great bouncy room sound which really funnels the sound towards the crowd and is great for the more group-energy based “free jazz” based stuff. I always love hearing Mark Sanders in there, especially with Paul Dunmall (another great reminder of the world class musicians we’ve got living here on our doorstep).
More recently we’ve started branching out to other venues in the city including the lovely artist co-op cafe Artefact in Stirchley, Digbeth DIY artspace Centrala.
LJN: The Lamp Tavern is a key venue for Fizzle. Why? Describe it for those who have never been.
TDE: It is a small room and the pub itself is that rare thing in Birmingham: an intimate pub with excellent beers and a landlord of some character! I will often arrive there to be told that Andy has left the country and that the band has gone off to a massage parlour. One new audience member arriving for the first time asked whether this was where the music takes place got the answer that he, the landlord, didn’t regard it as music.
AW: Going to the Lamp is a bit like stepping into a time warp; it’s the last pub standing on a street that once housed eight watering holes for workers pouring out of the nearby factories and forges, and now it’s one of the last areas of Digbeth that the waves of gentrification are yet to touch. It’s owned and run by first-generation Irish landlord Eddie, whose good-natured grumbling keeps the punters entertained between sets. The beer is excellent (it’s the former home of Rock and Roll Brewery, now a firm favourite amongst the hipper beer drinkers of Brum) and Eddie often lays on a spread of cheese, bread, black pudding and trademark “killer” onions for the drinkers if you get there early enough.
Be warned, it’s a proper old-school pub – a long-standing tradition is is to send visiting European musicians through to the bar for coffee armed with debit cards only to hear the roar of laughter from the regulars and Eddie’s cries of “even my bleeding grandkids know to bring CASH in here!”
In all seriousness, the Lamp has been Fizzle’s spiritual home for the past 15 years and we’re very grateful to have the support of a venue over this long a time period. Much like the Spotted Dog up the road, the night has thrived off the back of having a landlord who is up for taking a chance and letting something develop over the course a few years (even if they find the music a bit puzzling…)
The autumn programme in full:
Tuesday 17 September, Lamp Tavern: Fizzle double bill – a duo of Andy Woodhead on piano and Hannah Marshall on cello and a quartet of four young improvisers: Filippo Radicchi, drums, David Sear, trombone, Alex Astbury, trumpet and bass and Lee Griffiths saxophone.
Thursday 1 October, Hexagon Theatre at mac: piano trio Punkt Vrt Plastik: drummer Christian Lillinger, pianist Kaja Draksler and double bass player Petter Eldh.
Sunday 6 October, Lamp Tavern; Treppenwitz and Paul Dunmall Quartet with Phil Gibbs, James Owston and Jim Bashford.
Thursday 10 October, Artefact: Silent film improvisations, a collaboration with Flatpack.
Tuesday 15 October, Lamp Tavern: Toby Delius, Olie Brice, Mark Sanders plus Piera Onacko, Nathan England-Jones and Lee Griffiths.
Thursday 31 October, Eastside Jazz Club, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: Tim Berne residency playing with student groups and in duo with Liam Noble.
Sunday 3 November, Lamp Tavern: Archipelago with guests, part of a short residency.
Friday 8/Saturday 9 November, BEAST Studio, Univ of Birmingham: Swedish and British electro-acoustic music.
Tuesday 19 November, Lamp Tavern: Yvonne Magda, Hannah Marshall, Tina Hitchens, Caitlin Callahan + Bruce Coates, Trevor Lines, Ed Gauden.
Thursday 21 November, Hexagon: Annie Whitehead and Rude 2.0 + Andy Woodhead solo electronics
Wednesday 27 November, Eastside: Paul Dunmall Quintet The Soultime Suite + Brass Section.
Thursday 5 December, Hexagon: Kit Downes Quartet + Steve Saunders’ Glitch.
Sunday 8 December, Lamp Tavern: Toshimaru Nakamura + Dave Birchall, Sam Andrae Otto Willburg + a set by Birmingham Conservatoire students.
Tuesday 10 December, Hexagon: Raymond Macdonald /Gunter ‘Baby’ Sommer Duo. Saxophones + Drums.
LINKS: TDE Promotions