The festive season

It’s that time of year when jazz takes over Birmingham once more.


King Pleasure and The Biscuit Boys

King Pleasure and The Biscuit Boys

Others may have the big names this weekend but the longer-running, lower-profile Birmingham International Jazz & Blues Festival which begins on Friday and continues until 14th July has its fair share of top-quality musicians. Funding cutbacks and a changing world might mean that the days have gone when the festival, now in its 29th year, could boast such names as Miles Davis and BB King, but organisers Big Bear Music continue with their ethos of bringing entertainment to the masses.

The festival kicks off at midday on Friday with the Backyard Music Boys performing throughout the city centre and the first highlight comes half an hour later when festival patron and veteran trumpet player Digby Fairweather performs in the Mailbox. Digby then heads over to Star City at seven for the Star City Swing Session, where he will be joined by such veterans of the jazz scene as Roy Williams, Mark Nightingale and Alan Barnes.

If blues is more your thing then head for the city centre, starting at 5pm with the r’nb/soul-influenced Broombusters at the Crown, Station Street. Two hours later rocking blues band 58 Deluxe are at the same venue, while at 7.30 local legend Trevor Burton will be at the Lord Clifden on Constitution Hill – which gives enough time to catch the first set at the Crown before moving on to hear Trevor’s second half.

Gosta Green is the place to be on Saturday. Bob Hall, doyen pianist of the British blues scene for over half a century, plus the comparatively youthful guitarist Dave Peabody start proceedings at the Sacks of Potatoes at 12.30, then at three the Digby Fairweather Quartet perform at the Gosta Green.  New Orleans pianist Diz Honeyboy Watson will be at the Sacks of Potatoes at 5.30 with the Chase Jazzmen at the Gosta Green at eight.

These musicians will be kept busy throughout the day, with Diz also playing the Soho House museum, Hockley, at 1pm, Digby performing at the Garden House, Hagley Road, at 7.30 while Messrs Hall & Peabody will be at the Wellington, Bennetts Hill, at eight. Also appearing on Saturday evening are King Pleasure & the Biscuit Boys, who perform at Star City beginning at seven.

Sunday sees the hard-working Hall & Peabody playing the Bear at Bearwood, scene of many a memorable gig down the years, at one, while an hour later local MP John Hemming shows another side to his talent when he performs with the Sisters of Jazz at the Hotel du Vin. Hall & Peabody are at the Lord Clifden at seven then at eight the Miller & Carter in the Mailbox plays host to the veteran duo of pianist Brian Dee and bass player Len Skeat, who have been involved with the festival since it began.

The music continues throughout the week, including the one gig everyone should try to attend, the Mike Burney benefit at the Asylum, Hockley, on Tuesday evening, featuring Roy Wood, Steve Gibbons, King Pleasure and many other local heroes .

Tickets for this gig and information about the festival can be obtained from or by calling the festival hotline on 0121 454 7020.