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: Heinz Sauer/ Michael Wollny, If (Blue) Then (Blue) (Act)

The musical partnership of tenor saxophonist Sauer (born 1932) and pianist Michael Wollny (born 1978) has been one of the highlights of the past jazz decade.

Album: Chris Wood, Handmade Life (RUF Records)

Anyone lucky enough to have caught his recent tour will remember the exact mid-song moment the audience realised an ominously thrumming Wood's number was about the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Pete King: The power behind the throne at Ronnie Scott's jazz club

We want you to enjoy yourselves," Ronnie Scott told the audience in his club, "so eat, drink and be merry. Pretend you're on the Titanic."

Album: Nat Birchall, Akhenaten (Gondwana)

More spiritual jazz from Manchester.

Sonny Rollins, Barbican Hall, London

He blew like the legend he is – so why am I blubbing?

Jeff Clyne: Bassist and stalwart of the British jazz scene for 40 years

For four decades, Jeff Clyne led the way as the most accomplished and versatile of British bass players.

Album: Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, Restored, Returned (ECMM)

Norwegian pianist Gustavsen tempts fate by departing from his winning trio format for a darker, denser quartet sound, with the excellent post-Garbarek saxophonist Tore Brunborg added to piano, bass and drums (the superb Jarle Vespestad once again).

Gary Crosby's Nu Troop/Denys Baptiste Quartet, Ronnie Scott's, London

Coltrane tunes turn the air blue

Album: Trevor Watts, The Deep Blue, (Jazz Werkstatt)

Like a funky version of John Surman's celebrated solo performances, fellow English saxophonist Trevor Watts (born York, 1939) creates an ecstatic sound-world of overlapping reed-voices, set against a lattice of electronic beats, human percussion and synthesisers.

Album: John Patitucci Trio, Remembrance, (Universal)

While you can argue about fidelity to the big idea – 11 tunes conceived as tributes to musicians from the past – and, indeed, the point of that idea in the first place, bassist John Patitucci's trio partners of saxophonist Joe Lovano and drummer Brian Blade play so well that the whole thing works anyway.

My Secret Life: Courtney Pine, jazz musician, 45

My parents were ... My father, Keith, was a carpenter and my mother, Violet, was a housing manager. They are both still alive, hardworking, traditional and determined to survive in this cold environment.

Richard Hawdon: Jazz trumpeter and bandleader

I'd like to be a jolly extrovert," said Dickie Hawdon. "I look as miserable as sin on the stand, even when I'm having a ball." Despite the lack of "showbiz" panache, Hawdon went on to be one of the most accomplished musicians to grace British jazz. "I might do better if I could jolly about a bit, but I'm sure that if you force it, that shows too, so I do as little as possible."

Album: The Modern Jazz Quartet, Bluesology, (Atlantic)

A timely reappraisal for the monumental MJQ, whose reputation has rather slipped over the years.

Album: Colin Steele, Stramash, (Gadgemo)

Scottish trumpeter Steele has blended jazz and folk before, but this unorthodox dectet is his most ambitious project yet.

Album: Steve Kuhn Trio / Joe Lovano, Mostly Coltrane, (ECM)

Veteran pianist Steve Kuhn – who worked with John Coltrane in 1960 – is such a smooth and harmonically sophisticated player that for the iconic opening tune, "Welcome", he and Lovano on tenor sax seem almost too subtle for such a simple, emotionally intense theme.

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