With the 2020 Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival now set to take place from October 16 to 25 it seemed only right to mark the original dates with:
 
The Virtual But Remarkably Real
Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival
Day One: Friday 17th July
Wish We Were There
 A message from Festival favourites:

Potato Head Jazz Band
Granada, Spain
 
Photo by Merlin Daleman
 
 
Normally this time of year would see us welcoming bands from across Europe and further afield to play in the pubs, squares and shopping centres of Birmingham. With that being a little difficult right now, we've instead asked festival favourites from recent years to send us video greetings for their fans in the UK.
 
First up are the undisputed hit of last year's festival, Potato Head Jazz Band from Granada, Spain, with a story about a missing necktie and a swashbuckling rendition of Blackbottom Stomp.
 
Once Upon A Time In Jazzland
Remembering earlier Jazz Festivals

A Day For Lady Day
 
Today marks the 61st anniversary of the death of the most important and influential of all jazz singers, BILLIE HOLIDAY. She died in New York under arrest and handcuffed and in hospital. Harry J. Anslinger of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who had been targetting her for some 20 years, placed her under arrest on a charge of illegal possession of narcotics while on what became her death-bed. 
 
Eleanora Fagan, professionally known as Billie Holiday, re-named as Lady Day by her soulmate, tenor saxophonist Lester Young, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 7, 2015. She endured a turbulent childhood but by her late teens she was singing in Harlem’s hot spots, where she was discovered by John Hammond, signed to a recording contract with Brunswick in 1935 and went into the recording studio with the finest jazz musicians of the day when only 20 years of age. Those 1930’s sides remain to this day some of the most joyous and inspiring of all jazz recordings.

Billie Holiday influenced so many singers it would be impossible to name them all. They include Madeleine Peyroux.
 
Madeleine wrote a touching and insightful piece for our 2015 festival programme about how important Billie is to her, and in doing so defined many of her own vulnerabilities. This is what she wrote:
 
“I don’t think any sound can stop you in your tracks like the sound of Billie Holiday. It’s instant immersion, no distractions. When she did it to me, I was a teenage runaway aspiring to be a singer, or just to be somebody. I was struck with her simplicity, her power of suggestion, and a sense that we weren’t so different, she and I. Vulnerable and tough, blissful and forlorn, naive and bitter. I dug in deep.
Wherever I looked, I found more and more Billie. Ten volumes on Columbia Records with the small group sessions that would define an era’s sound and material. From the late thirties to early forties she recorded every song under the sun with the masters of understatement at her side: Teddy Wilson, Lester Young, Freddie Green, Jo Jones. Each song has an alternate life below the surface, sometimes its best life, in her reading. In 1939 she stood still, bold, and strong, and performed Strange Fruit at every show. She was a force! It unleashed a racist campaign against her that would eventually take her life.
 
As I grew into singing, I wanted to dig deeper into Billie. I explored her later arrangements with Decca and Verve, and her final masterpiece, Lady in Satin. I had to watch out. With her, you could be swept away on a wild ride through the whole of comedy and tragedy. It was a ride from which, at times, I was afraid I might never return. There is a kind of despair that teens know well, and though I was singing her songs, I faced my own fears and tragedies. My inner demons and their voices overtook hers, and at eighteen I had to stop, to step back and deal with depression. But, as a dark and scary path becomes the path to triumph, I came through and I was given the chance to sing again.
 
Unbeknownst to me at first, my career would be an hommage to Billie Holiday. By career I mean identity, sisterhood, tenacity and strength. In her company I’d found self-worth, kindness and love. This is not a wild ride from which one wants to return. No! It urges us onward! Pioneer, poet, martyr, woman: Billie, in our ears you are still singing. In our hearts, you live forever.”
 
 
Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux was born in Athens, Georgia on April 19, 1974. Her parents, who she called hippies and eccentric educators, inspired her interest in music but divorced when she was 13. She moved to France with her mother and began her singing career as a teenager on the streets of Paris.

Check out her album Careless Love. It sold half a million copies and is a classic.
 
Waxing Lyrical
Jazz City UK on the record. Festival artists featured on recordings made in Birmingham.
 
Laughing At Life: The Music of Billie Holiday recorded by Lady Sings The Blues. Recorded live at The Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival
 
 
In our opinion, Val Wiseman is the finest of all the British jazz canaries. Born in funky downtown Stanley Road in West Bromwich, she fell under the spell of Billie Holiday in her early teens, joined the then-important Second City Jazzmen, was soon head-hunted by The Monty Sunshine Jazz Band. She moved to London and took off for half a lifetime on the road.
 
 
Val first appeared at the Birmingham Jazz Festival in 1986 with Eggy Ley’s Hotshots, supporting George Melly at The Grand Hotel. 
 
She relocated to Birmingham, and appeared in the following year’s festival fronting the debut performance of Lady Sings The Blues, dedicated to performing the music of Billie Holiday with an absolutely all star 7 piece band.
 
Originally conceived as a one-off show, Lady Sings The Blues sold out The Adrian Boult Hall and went on the road throughout UK and Europe. The show returned to the Jazz Festival the following year to again sell out The Adrian Boult Hall.

Lady Sings The Blues has recorded two albums, is still on the road with the band still led by Digby Fairweather and with Val Wiseman still delivering those wonderful songs with absolute conviction.
 
The Nearly Moving Picture Show
 
A series of jazz festival photofilms produced by Big Bear Music
 
 
Nomy Rosenberg is a Sinti Gypsy from Eindhoven in Holland. His trio, with guitarist Ringo Steinbach and double bass player Arnoud van den Berg featured in the 2009 jazz festival and recorded for Big Bear Records.
 
The Reinhardt and Rosenberg families are intertwined, with Nomy's grandfather a direct descendent of Django, with both branches producing much more than their fair share of guitar players.
 
Nomy, however, stands out for the purity of his style, harking directly back to the origins of British Jazz.
 
Painting The Town: The Art of Dave Newbould
 
Dave Newbould was a self-taught Yorkshire artist who graced the Jazz Festival with his presence for many a year. His depictions of often elderly Yorkshiremen invariably sharing a beer and a pithy comment are wonderful, as are his illustrations from our festival.

To start things off, here’s his painting of Dizzy Gillespie, who headlined the festival in 1991
 
Don't Worry 'Bout The Bear:
 
Extracts from Don't Worry 'Bout The Bear by Jim & Ron Simpson which reflects a lifetime of working in what we laughably call the music business.
 
The book features Jim's reminiscences of some of the many memorable incidents that form part of the Jazz Festival's 35 year history. Not to mention the inside story of the rise and fall of Ronnie Scotts on Broad Street, managing Black Sabbath through their formative years, memories of late Festival Patron Humphrey Lyttelton and the heady experience of getting to work with a whole roster of legendary bluesmen on the American Blues Legends tours and albums, and much more besides from his 52 years at the helm of Birmingham’s Big Bear Records.
 
How To Start A Jazz Festival
 
Today's segment tells the story of how the festival first got off the ground 36 years ago,with a little help from Mitchells & Butlers.
 
The Daily Sketch
 
Highlights from the annual Jazz Festival Sketch Crawl created by members of Birmingham Urban Sketchers
 
 
 
Potato Head Jazz Band: Jim Morris at St Pauls Square
 
 
 
Hotsy Totsy Five: Mart Kelly at The Brasshouse
 
Caught In The Act
 
Photography from across the first 35 years of the Jazz Festival
 
 
Blowing Up A Storm
 
This festival grew out of a jam session, and for many years the Jam Session remained an integral part of the event. Here are three of the finest saxophonists around.

Teddy Edwards from Jackson, Mississippi, a friend and associate of Charlie Parker. One of the most cultured of all tenor players, Teddy was Tom Waits’ favourite musician.

Dick Morrissey, arguably the UK’s toughest ever tenor, enjoyed commercial success with The Average White Band, recorded with US stars Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy Witherspoon, Sonny Stitt and dominated the jazz polls for years. Dick recorded for Birmingham’s Big Bear Records.

Arnold Lawrence Finkelstein, better known as Arnie Lawrence was the Brooklyn-born alto man who played with Clark Terry, Charles Mingus, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie – even Liza Minnelli and Blood, Sweat & Tears – before teaming with Teddy and Dick to tear up Birmingham’s Grand Hotel.
 
 
Having A Bash
 
The now legendary M&B Jazz Bash in Cannon Hill Park in 1986 featured Gene 'The Mighty Flea' Connors, long-time Acker Bilk trumpet man Colin Smith and Jack Parnell, voted top drummer in Melody Maker polls for 7 consecutive years and real-life bandleader for the entire life of The Muppet Show. As a youngster, he would travel weekly from his Essex home to take drum lessons from Tommy Webster – in Birmingham.
 
Buddy, Can You Spare A Dime?
 
We hope you've enjoyed reading, hearing and watching this latest installment of our 10 day long Virtual But Remarkably Real Jazz Festival as much as we've enjoyed putting it together.
 
You can help support us, Big Bear Music, in bringing you this array of great music by purchasing items from our online store.
 
There's a range of CDs and LPs featuring artists who have graced the festival over the years, not to mention subscriptions to The Jazz Rag, the best read in British Jazz, and jazz and blues T-shirts and posters from our photo and art archives.
 
Credits
 
Written and compiled by Jim Simpson, Ron Simpson and Sarah Yang, assisted by Jake Parsons and Tim Jennings.

Merlin Daleman's photograph sponsored by Calthorpe Estates.
 
Website design by GRT Media.
 
Filming by 57 Studio.
 
With thanks to the Jazz Festival Advisory Board: Barry Clark, Dan Cole, David Pardoe, Derek Inman, Jill Hitchman, John Hemming, John McDermott, John Patrick and Rob Sealey.
 
 
Supported by
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival
PO Box 944
Birmingham
B16 8UT
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