Coming Soon: Coleman heads for Meltdown

The most intriguing event of the season is free-jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman's (pictured) reign as director of the South Bank's Meltdown festival (0871 663 2500).

He's the first jazz specialist of the 16 incumbents so far, and while details of his guests are yet to be announced, Coleman himself is booked to appear in two RFH concerts, Impressions of The Shape of Jazz to Come (19 Jun) and Impressions of This Is Our Music (21 Jun), each named after one of his revolutionary Atlantic albums. As Coleman remains remarkably faithful to his collaborators, expect roles for Charlie Haden, Pat Metheny and film composer Howard Shore, as well as neo-noiseniks such as Sonic Youth and John Zorn. The full season will be announced shortly on

Coleman's appearance at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2005 produced one of the most enthralling concerts I've ever seen. This year's Cheltenham (, 28 Apr-4 May) has a varied bill including dates by three of the best of all contemporary jazz artists: trumpeters Arve Henriksen and Dave Douglas, and reeds player Don Byron. There's also a first UK date for the superstar trio of English saxophonist (and bagpiper) Paul Dunmall with free-jazz legends Henry Grimes and Andrew Cyrille.

The jazz contingent at Bath International Music Festival (www., 22 May-6 Jun) features bank holiday weekend dates for tenor hotshot Branford Marsalis, supported by Brit-jazz tyros Empirical, bassist Dave Holland, and funkster Maceo Parker. Marsalis also appears in Birmingham, Town Hall (0121-780 3333) on 26 May and Ronnie Scott's, London, (020-7439 0747) on 28 May. Other notable festival dates showcase ECM pianists Bobo Stenson (25 May) and Nik Bartsch (24 May).

At the point where jazz meets ambient minimalism and trance, Australia's great cult band the Necks are undertaking a far-flung UK tour, running from Dean Clough, Halifax (01422 250250, 21 May) to Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline (01383 602303, 29 May), via Birmingham, Bristol and London's Union Chapel. Meanwhile, the intelligent programming at London's new concert hall, Kings Place, continues with a season entitled Paris Jazz Week, running from 10 to 13 June (020-7520 1490).