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?"

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Farrago, By Jim Godbolt

The editor of Ronnie Scott's in-house magazine recalls a vanished era of bad puns and trad dads

Album: Gilad Atzmon, In Loving Memory of America, (Enja)

Maybe because he's such a wild card himself, saxophonist Atzmon plays Charlie Parker with a perfect mix of bluster and vulnerability.

Album: Nathan Davis, If (Soul Jazz)

It's funny how some names slip through history's net. Following his army service, Kansas City saxophonist Davis spent the Sixties in Paris, leading bands, studying ethno-musicology and turning down contracts with Art Blakey and Blue Note Records, before returning to the US to teach. This 1976 quintet session shows off his funky, spiritual chops on alto, soprano and flute in original tunes evoking Bahia, Africa, New Orleans and Cannonball Adderley. It's great.

Album: Courtney Pine, Transition in Tradition, (Destin-e)

Star saxophonist Courtney Pine returns to something close to the top of his form with a swaggering affirmation of his new “Afropean” identity.

Album: Tim Garland, Libra, (Global Mix)

Two CDs, one subtitled "Sun", the other "Moon". A notated suite for the Royal Phil entitled "Frontier" and dedicated to Gunther Schuller. Extensive notes. Lush visuals.

Album: Joshua Redman, Compass, (Nonesuch)

Anyone who has seen saxophonist Redman play live will know what a star he is, but the recording career has been offering diminishing returns for a while now.

Album: Byard Lancaster, Funny Funky Rib Crib, (Kindred spirits)

R&B honking and Afrobeat rhythms meet spiritual Coltrane/ Sanders-style Seventies free jazz. Ex-Sun Ra saxophonist Lancaster swapped Philly for Paris in the Nixon era, where this shockingly contemporary-sounding album was recorded.

Album: Johnny Griffin, Live at Ronnie Scott's, (In+Out)

'Little Giant' Griffin seemed the most durable and dapper of all his hard-bop tenor generation, yet this May 2008 recording, just after his 80th birthday, was his last: he died in July.



You Write The Reviews: Birmingham ArtsFest 2008, Various venues

Birmingham's hugely successful ArtsFest, now in its 11th year and held last weekend, has become the UK's biggest free arts festival, and this year there were more than 4,000 performers taking part in 27 hours of non-stop entertainment.

Bheki Mseleku: South African jazz pianist

Broadly but inadequately defined as a "jazz musician", Bheki Mseleku had a brilliant but chequered career that bridged his native South Africa and the UK, where he made his international debut with the stunning album Celebration in 1992. A self-taught multi-instrumentalist, Mseleku sometimes played saxophone and guitar, but his undoubted forte was the piano, on which he displayed an advanced grasp of harmony and unique chordal voicings, sometimes scat-singing as he played.

Portico Quartet, Ronnie Scott's, London

"Has anybody here seen us busking?" Not a question you expect headliners to ask at this mecca of UK jazz, the preferred venue for US greats to hold court with their residencies.

Keith Shadwick: Critic, broadcaster and musician

The writer, broadcaster and musician Keith Shadwick, who was a music critic for The Independent and a leading contributor to Jazzwise magazine, was a rarity among jazz journalists. In addition to numerous jazz books and magazine features, he was an authority on classical music who also wrote in-depth biographies of Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. He was a jazzer who rocked and championed Górecki.

Album: Various Artisits, BBC Jazz Awards 2008 (Specific jazz)

Credibility-damaging decisions (Stacey Kent and Anita Wardell getting gonged ahead of Norma Winstone, a nominee this year; Curtis Stigers?) and a need to create a buzz has made this annual BBC shebang look like PR spin holds more sway than musical excellence.

Album: Kevin Figes Quartet, Circular Motion (Edition)

Alto-saxophonist Figes – who studied with Elton Dean and Keith Tippett – has an inclination to hard, rhythmical swing, and a contrasting gift for composing memorable, sensitive tunes.

Album: Chris Biscoe Quartet, Gone in the Air (Trio)

Eric Dolphy, who died 44 years ago today, and whose 80th anniversary fell last week, was a Los Angeles born reeds player with a radical, oddly interior style and an interest in the outer extremities of sound.

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