Dave Woodhall talks us through the highlights of part two of the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival.
My Friday night didn’t go to plan – the idea was to catch the first half of 58 Deluxe’s set at the Crown then move on. Sloth, heat and the fact that they were so good meant I stopped until the end. As an aside, the Crown is like far too many of Birmingham’s pubs. It could be a gem but it’s never been run in the way it should, and has always had a bit of an unsavoury reputation. Tidy it up, get some decent beers on and when the all-improved New Street station is up and running it could be a worthy entrance to the city centre.
Back onto the subject and the Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival continues on Monday. One of the festival’s strong points throughout its history has been the arrival of some fine, often eccentric, but always listenable ensembles from overseas. This year the Potato Head Jazz Band from Spain kick off their festival commitments at Snow Hill station at midday (or the Old Joint Stock if it’s raining – which it won’t be). They’re in Church Street Square at five and the Lord Clifden at 7.30. Tim Kliphuis, one of Europe’s finest jazz violinists, will be in the Mailbox at 12.30 and the Miller & Carter in the same place at eight.
On Tuesday the Lithuanian duo of singer Giedre Kilciauskiene and pianist Andrej Polevikov are in the Brasshouse on Broad Tsreet at 12.30. Tim Kliphuis takes his trio to Lasan, on James Street in the Jewellery Quarter, at seven. Further overseas attractions come in the form of top-quality Canadian singer-songwriter Melissa Lauren at Pushkar, Broad Street, while Minnesota-born Kent Duchaine plays the Jam House, St Paul’s Square, at 8.30.
There are several other worthy performances on Tuesday evening. Local veteran pianist John Patrick hosts a session with such notables as Digby Fairweather and Dave O’Higgins amongst others at the Hotel Ibis in Chinatown at seven, while at eight the award-winning Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra perform at the Tally Ho Club, Edgbaston (£10). There’s also the Mike Burney benefit gig at the Asylum in Hockley (£10).
The second half of the festival begins on Wednesday with the one-man blues band of Lewis Henry Floyd at Snow Hill station at midday then Church Street Square at five. The unnecessary wet weather alternative here is the Old Contemptibles. Melisssa Lauren and her trio will be in Selfridges at one, while Kilciauskiene and Polevikov are at the Marco Pierre White steakhouse at five. In the evening the British Jazz Awards take place at St Paul’s Church (£15) with the awards after-party featuring Roy Forbes & the Brian Dee Trio at the Drop Forge, Hockley Street in the Jewellery Quarter from 8.30.
Irish blues singer/songwriter Grainne Duffy will be at the Brasshouse with her band on Thursday at 12.30 then the Junction, Harborne, at eight. Festival regular Becky Brine will be at the Red Rose Shopping Centre in Sutton Coldfield at 12.30 before moving on to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Bridge Street at 6.30. Birmingham r’n’b stalwart Ricky Cool performs at All Bar One, Brindleyplace at seven while at 7.30 Kilciauskiene and Polevikov are at the Lord Clifden. Then at 8.30, blues guitarist Will Johns, who numbers George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Mick Fleetwood amongst his uncles, is at the Jam House.
These are just a few of the gigs taking place. More information about the festival can be obtained from www.bigbear.com or by calling the festival hotline on 0121 454 7020.