Arts and Entertainment

A documentary on Birmingham? Thanks but no thanks, I thought to myself while pondering the new series of Reimagining the City. Seriously, Birmingham? It's hardly Florence or Cairo or Cape Town. No one nudges their partner on a soggy January morning and says wistfully, "Darling, wouldn't it be just lovely if we could leave all this behind and disappear to Birmingham?"

Album: James Farm, James Farm (Nonesuch)

Star saxman Joshua Redman's new band is a "collaborative" quartet (Aaron Parks, Matt Penman, Eric Harland) who cleave to a strikingly Euro-sounding aesthetic.

Album: Kevin Figes Quartet, Hometime (Pig Records)

If new UK jazz groups sometimes seem marred by superficiality with, as an older bandleader put it, "everyone sounding different, everyone sounding the same", saxophonist Figes has strength in depth.

Gateshead International Jazz Festival, The Sage, Gateshead

The great and the good of Stateside get the best out of Tyneside

Album: Matana Roberts, Live in London (Central Control)

Wailing, bluesy free jazz from alto saxophonist Roberts, following up her excellent debut with this Vortex recording accompanied by pianist Robert Mitchell, bassist Tom Mason and drummer Chris Vatalaro.

Album: Joe Lovano & US Five, Bird Songs (Blue Note)

On his 22nd album for the label, and his second with this hot-to-trot, two-drummer band featuring Esperanza Spalding on bass, saxophonist Lovano confirms his status as the most consistently inventive soloist/leader in jazz.

Betty Smith: Saxophonist and singer hailed for her improvisational panache

It was rare to find a woman jazz musician in the Fifties. Even more rare to find one who played hotter jazz than her colleagues. The tenor saxophonist Betty Smith was one such.

Album: Meadow, Blissful Ignorance (Edition)

Recorded at Rainbow Studios in Oslo, with the UK's John Taylor on piano and Norwegians Thomas Stronen on drums and Tore Brunborg on saxes, Meadow turns out to be more rhythmically varied than its ECM-type provenance might suggest.

Album: Denys Baptiste, Identity by Subtraction (Dune)

Tenor saxophonist Baptiste follows Let Freedom Ring!, his Martin Luther King dedication from 2003, with a more questioning reflection on "life's experience as a black man of Caribbean descent, playing jazz music in the UK".

Album: Dino Saluzzi, El Encuentro (ECM)

Celebrating his 75th birthday, bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi faithfully follows in the steps of his mentor and former colleague Astor Piazzolla.

Albums of the year: Jazz

Three American late-modernists reasserted themselves as world leaders. Charles Lloyd's Mirror provided a hard-won summary of his lyrical gifts, fluttering saxophone solos grounded by the expert team of Jason Moran, Reuben Rogers and Eric Harland.

Album: Charlie Haden Quartet West, Sophisticated Ladies (Emarcy)

You can't knock the sheer class of this major-label grand production matching bassist Haden's film noir-inspired quartet – one of the best groups of the past 20 years – with guest singers Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renée Fleming and Ruth Cameron (Haden's wife, who co-produces).

Courtney Pine - 'I became one of the most hated saxophonists of all time'

Despite his billing as one of Britain's most celebrated and influential jazz artists, Courtney Pine tells Ian Burrell that it hasn't been an easy ride to the top table

Old-school cool: The octogenarians set to dominate the London Jazz Festival

He may be in his eighties, but Sonny Rollins and his golden generation are the stars of this year's London Jazz Festival. Phil Johnson converses with the elders

Album: Killer Shrimp, Whatever Sincerely (33 Jazz)

Saxophonist Ed Jones and trumpeter Damon Brown are talented UK bop players who've been round the block a few times and Killer Shrimp is their attempt to use technology to sound more contemporary.

Album: Theodore Kerkezos, Légende (Onyx)

Sadly, the saxophone is rarely present in classical orchestral surroundings. Indeed, three of the five pieces performed here by Cretan saxophonist Theodore Kerkezos with the LSO were commissioned in the early 1900s by sax evangelist Elise Boyer Hall, in a bid to create a repertoire for the instrument.

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