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: Wyatt, Atzmon, Stephen, For The Ghosts Within (Domino)

This collaboration with Tango Siempre violinist Ros Stephen and saxophonist Gilad Atzmon finds Robert Wyatt in relaxed, croonsome mood on a mixture of noirish standards and items from the Wyatt repertoire, the tone of which recalls that ancient TV commercial for Strand cigarettes reworked for the Middle East market.

Album: Soweto Kinch, The New Emancipation (Kinch Recordings)

Saxophonist Kinch is an engaging performer with an enviable social and intellectual reach (Ellington, Madlib and Delius are his touchstones here, along with worksongs and early blues), but this third album once again falls into the "promising" category rather than delivering a truly convincing musical message.

Album: The Tubby Hayes Quartet, Lament (Savage Solweig)

Debut release for new label dedicated to archive recordings of tenor saxophonist Hayes (1935-1973), the UK's greatest-ever modern jazzman.

Album: Jan Garbarek, The Hilliard Ensemble Officium Novum (ECM)

Officium, the first collaboration between Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble, proved one of the most popular releases in ECM's history; the follow-up Mnemosyne and now Officium Novum have continued the alliance of religious singing with sax improvisations into farther-flung areas, this time focusing on the Armenian music.

Album: Jan Garbarek, Officium Novum (ECM)

Should Elvis have made more rockabilly records? Definitely.

Harry Klein: Baritone saxophonist who dominated his field for two decades

Back in the 1950s the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, the undisputed king of modern jazz, invited Harry Klein to sit in with him and trumpeter Fats Navarro while they were playing at a New York jazz club.

Abbey Lincoln: Singer and actress who became a champion of the civil rights movement

"If I'm bitter – and I'm sure I am – I have no feelings about that bitterness really. If there's a chip on my shoulder I didn't put it up there."

Jack Parnell: Drummer and bandleader who became a giant of light entertainment

Buddy Rich may have been the greatest drummer in the world, but he didn't have the charisma or the elegance of the tall and handsome Jack Parnell. As a fellow drummer Rich was Parnell's idol, and it was Jack who arranged for Rich's famous appearance in The Muppets television series. On the show Rich played an unforgettable drum battle with the puppet Animal, who was brought onstage in chains screaming "Kill! Kill! Kill!"

Album: Decoy & Joe McPhee, OTO (Bo'Weavil)

This stonking live recording features Hammond-organ trio Decoy in company with cult US saxophonist McPhee, whose wildly energetic squawks make it hard to believe he's over 70.

Album: Scott Hamilton / Alan Barnes, Hi-Ya (Woodville)

Mainstream jazz gets a bad rep as undemanding pipe-and-slippers music but it has become a valuable medium for players who really know what to do with a good melody.

Martin Drew: Jazz drummer who played with Oscar Peterson, Ronnie Scott and Dizzy Gillespie

The most demanding job that any drummer could have was to play drums in the Oscar Peterson Trio and it was a testimony to Martin Drew's ranking amongst the best in the world that Peterson chose the Englishman for his group. A huge man who was unusually passionate about his music, Martin Drew would never compromise.

Album: Dudu Pukwana, Night Time is the Right Time (Cadillac)

Someone needs to write a book about Dudu Pukwana, the late South African alto-saxophonist who came to London as an exile from Apartheid and played sessions with John Martyn and Mike Heron as well as jazz.

Philip Larkin - Rhythm and rhyme

A new box set of Philip Larkin's favourite jazz focuses on the pre-war trad he adored – but the poet was no musical stick-in-the- mud. In fact, says Sholto Byrnes, he was one of our most incisive jazz critics

Album: Steve Coleman and the Five Elements, Harvesting...(PI Recordings)

For some 20 years, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman – the anti-Pope to Wynton Marsalis's pontiff, and what a choice that is – has been pursuing a credulous obsession with numerology.

Wynton Marsalis & Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Hackney Empire, London

Given the crippling costs of keeping 15 musicians in gainful employ, big bands are largely a thing of the past. But this sumptuous performance by Wynton Marsalis's stellar unit was a reminder that an orchestra remains a vital resource to any jazz musician. It offers both power and precision. Since the early 80s the New Orleans trumpeter has been exploring and extending the heritage of acoustic jazz, using 30s swing, 40s bebop and 50s post-bop as templates for his own creations and this final night of a five-day residency at various venues in London presented a panorama of those vocabularies. There were arrangements of legends like Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson and Jackie McLean and there were also original pieces by JALCO members such as saxophonist Ted Nash. His Dali suite, set in the tripwire time signature of 13/8, was a highlight for the intoxicating swirl of the horns, which culminated in Nash's alto becoming a dramatic echo to a stabbing improvisation by trumpeter Marcus Printup.

However, the presence of British guest musicians also raised the bar. Vibraphonist Jim Hart, tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint and pianist Julian Joseph all took hard swinging solos and vocalist Cleveland Watkiss was imperious on an express train rendition of McLean's "Appointment in Ghana", in which his scat choruses revealed a timbral richness and phrasal trickery that had the horn players nodding in approval. In a delicious passage of his solo, Watkiss quoted the first part of the theme of Thelonious Monk's "Green Chimneys" at lightning speed before twisting its harmony in an entirely new direction. Yet what became apparent throughout the evening was the relevance of big band music to other genres, simply because of its enormous sonic range.

On slow passages the ornate, rippling textures evoked ambient music, on faster numbers, as the brass plunged deep into the low register, there was funk aplenty, and when the whole ensemble was in full flow, there was a soundtrack in search of a movie. Decked out in sharp suits and seated in three rows under the Hackney Empire's proscenium arch, Marsalis's orchestra indeed offered a big-screen spectacle for eyes and ears alike.

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