When I say out loud that the Birmingham Jazz Festival website doesn’t have listings, I was told that I won’t need to find listings, every venue in Birmingham will be involved.
It appears to be true as I hear two or three different sets of trombones, trumpets and French horns on my way back home through Broad Street on the first night.
Next day, my friends come up for the weekend and we find no jazz at 24 Carrots, where they often have music anyway.
We find none advertised in any of the venues at St Paul’s Square and we see nothing from there into the city centre and back.
We go out thinking if nothing else, the Yardbird Jazz Club will definitely have some. I say the JAZZ club will have some. No, nothing jazzy there and no music on either before or after dinner.
We go to New Orleans, nothing there on Saturday night either.
We visit one more canal side pub (remains un named as it’s awful, on a Saturday night anyway) but they advertise jazz the following weekend.
We go home.
New Orleans Jump Band
Sunday I plan. I’m determined to see a blooming trombone and a straw hat before I send my friends home this afternoon.
We start at Urban Coffee Co for post pancake coffee and newspapers and I run across (OK, skip with excitement) to Hotel Du Vin to get visual and vocal confirmation. Yes we have jazz.
Bingo. This planning malarkey works. Well it always has done so I don’t know why I listen to non-planning advice.
Now this is more like it. Trombones, straw hats, pastel pinstripe suits topped of with waiter service. A perfect Sunday lunchtime with the bonus of a generous portion of sublime fries served in a way only somewhere as delightful as HDV can; in gold goblets with linen napkins. Life shouldn’t really be this good.
So now the Jazz Festival has kicked off I want more and I’m in the mood for a Sunday roast whereas the rest of the party are content with pancakes and fries. The only way to have what we all want; a drink, a snack and a full roast is to go to a pub.
Digby Fairweather Big Four
Brasshouse has music at 3pm which it is by the time we’ve waited the 40 minutes to have microwaved/boiled/killed vegetables with some beef. It does the job though (although there is no danger of my ever returning) and by now we are getting blasé about eating accompanied by trombones.
So with my previous excitement now a jazz addiction, I set about planning the week.
Wednesday is not strictly Jazz Festival but they do have live music at the Ikon Café with a gypsy jazz guitarist so it does count. Although they may think I was stalking them given that I’m there for the rather excellent new exhibit opening the previous evening.
Michael Sutton & Mike Conliffe
Friday, my favourite writing/coffee haunt has excellent live music from not one but two musicians. Another wonderful I-wish-we-have-this-every-week moment culminating in the fact they play Moon River as their last track. Two or three years earlier, I asked for this track whilst hearing a band play but the word came back ‘no’, they don’t know it. This kind of makes up for it. A wonderful end to the week/start to the weekend.
Saturday, I go with trepidation to The Lord Clifden, a pub, barely in the Jewellery Quarter but with a good musical reputation. The bands’ description sounded to me like a house band on one of my little discoveries in New York, Café Wha in that they’ll play a tight set and be multi-talented.
Federation Of The Disco Pimp
We immediately feel comfortable; it’s already almost full at 8.30, the band are sound checking, it’s a mixed crowd from the student type, to us, to the old time 1970s funksters with a lot of head nodding, toe tapping and hip shaking going on.
Although I don’t see inside the place – we are in the vast beer garden – I can see there’s a mirror ball inside which to me can only be a good thing. The BBQ is in full swing and a huge variety of specialist beers are set up at the external bar. Which brings me to the only negative of the week; I have absolutely no idea when it’s relatively sparse at the bar and two people serving, why four people (men) manage to get served in front of me. This extreme lack of customer service would normally be a walk out situation for me but we have come to check this place out and see this specific band so I’m extra tolerant. (NB I will go back but won’t return for a third time if this happens again – drives me crazy as a customer, particularly at over £5 a pint – not mine mind)
In the audience I see, Status Quo, assorted hair-extensioned WAGS and Nelson Mandela. OK two of them are look-a-likes but cause great amusement amongst us.
Finally, a return to Hotel Du Vin where this time I arrange to leave Urban Coffee Co extra early to ensure comfortable seats. Same fries, same mineral water, different friends, equally as fantastic music and all round wonderful Sunday.
By careful planning, I have seen a different act at each venue, however by chance, each artist has performed a unique type of jazz tinged with blues, funk, soul or just swing. This has been a fantastic Jazz & Blues Festival that’s given a relative newcomer to Birmingham an opportunity to try out some new places and listen to my happy music, you know, the type that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Staying in for two weeks now, except maybe a quick look into Lord Clifden again.