CD: Live at the Spotted Dog, Various Artists

This CD is a triple advert and celebration of jazz in Birmingham.  Recorded live over three nights at the Spotted Dog in the city’s Digbeth area, its a lure to the weekly Tuesday night session. The range is head-spinning.  A big band of Birmingham conservartoire students led by Stan Sulzmann no less (how did they get them all in the pub?) with the richness of Sulzmann’s imagination and arranging on display; a ‘blink and you could be in downtown New York’ trio of Brum-by-way-of-Brooklyn altoist John O’Gallagher, Mike Janisch and Andrew Bain; genre hopping strings-joins-small-band of Jonathan Silk’s Fragment; eclectic, small band, rip-it-up performances from guitarist Ben Lee‘s quintet and Sean Gibbs’ Fervour. All that adds up to a compelling advert for the richness and quality of the local jazz scene.   And it’s available to us all thanks to Birmingham’s own Stoney Lane label (listen/ get it here).   It’s a really high quality recording and nicely packaged with an illuminating set of liner notes from impresario and Brummy jazz champion-in-chief, Tony Dudley Evans.

Such is the variety, that high points might depend on your own particular jazzy preferences.  Standouts that grabbed me were Stan Sulzmann’s arrangement of the The Thrill is Gone and his fluid solo; Percy Pursglove’s trumpet solo on Jonathan Silk’s First Light is an emotional high.  The intensity and interaction of the O’Gallagher’s trio on the dense abstraction of Extralogical Railman is riveting.  Wild rocky scronk with a wry glint in the eye for the crunching riff that provides the hook to Ben Lee’s Beginning of the End always makes me smile, and its hard not to left a bit happier by the album closer, Sean Gibbs’ Cheer Up Old Bean, with its unashamed good humoured shuffle.   This is a satisfaction guaranteed listen in my book.


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