JQJAZZ15 Legends Festival: When Henry met Miles

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Peter Bacon spoke to renowned British jazz trumpeter Henry Lowther ahead of his appearance the inaugural JQJAZZ15 jazz festival that takes place in Birmingham from the 17 to 19 July

Trumpeter Henry Lowther is remembering when he met that other trumpeter, Miles Davis: “I was introduced to Miles Davis in 1969 by Dave Holland, the Wolverhampton-born bass player who was in Miles’s band at the time. I was in Los Angeles on an American tour with the Keef Hartley Band, a rock band, and we were playing a week in the most trendy rock club in L.A. in those days, the Whisky A Go-Go.

“At the end of that week Miles commenced a week at Shelly’s Manne Hole, a jazz club in Hollywood, and so I went there to hear Miles’s band. Dave introduced me to Miles as a trumpet player from England and despite Miles’s reputation as a hostile and difficult person he was warm and friendly to me and in fact showed some interest in what I was doing. This was undoubtedly because my band was playing to about a thousand people nightly and he was only playing to 50 or so – I’m sure he would rather have been playing the Whisky A Go-Go.”

Miles Davis is the chief subject of the JQJAZZ15 Legends Festival, a three-day weekend celebration in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter (17-19 July) focussing not only on Davis himself and his legacy, but also on some of his contemporaries and associates from what was a golden age in modern jazz. Musicians like Cannonball Adderley, Charles Mingus and Clark Terry.

Henry is the guest curator of the festival, which is being organised by Birmingham Jazz. He will be leading his band Still Waters on the opening Friday night, and talking about Miles Davis in a Sunday lunchtime event called He Also Plays Trumpet. Was Davis an influence on his trumpet playing? “Miles was undoubtedly an early influence on my playing but Miles’s playing is inimitable and nobody on a trumpet can ever sound like him.

“Gil Evans once said that Miles was that rare thing, ‘a sound innovator. He changed the sound of the trumpet.’ I think the biggest influence Miles may have had on my playing is just that he showed me that the most important thing is to try to make your technique invisible. I haven’t managed that yet!”

The JQJAZZ15 Legends Festival takes place in various Jewellery Quarter locations on July 17-19, and is supported by University College Birmingham and Jewellery Quarter Bid, among others.

Friday July 17

1.30pm Toby Boalch Trio, Pomegranate, Free

5pm Little Church - Electric Miles led by David Austin-Grey, University College Birmingham, £8/£5Members/£5 Students

8pm Still Waters - Henry Lowther's own band, The Red Lion, £12/£10/£5

Saturday July 18

10.30am Jazz Breakfast - Mark Pringle Quartet, The Red Lion, Free

1.30pm Birth of the Cool - Jim Wynn Nonet, Saint Kitchen, Free

3pm Clark Terry Tribute - Sean Gibbs Quartet, University College Birmingham, Free

5pm Cannonball Adderley Tribute - Chris Gumbley Quintet, The Red Lion, £12/£10/£5

8pm Mingus Profiles Sextet - Chris Biscoe/Tony Kofi and a host of stars, The Red Lion, £12/£10/£5

Sunday July 19

10.30am Jazz Breakfast - Gareth Fowler Duo, The Red Lion, Free

1.30pm He Also Plays Trumpet - Henry Lowther on Miles, The Red Lion, Free

3pm Standard Miles - Simon Spillett-led Quintet, The Red Lion, £12/£10/£5

5pm Corbett & Co - Bryan Corbett & Chris Bowden, The Red Lion, £12/£10/£5

8pm Kofi/Barnes Aggregation - The finale with an all-star line up led by Tony Kofi and Alan Barnes, Blue Orange Theatre, £15/£10/£5

10.30pm JQ Jam Session - The Festival moves over to the Brown Lion for a wind down! The Brown Lion, Free

There is also an exhibition of John Watson’s Jazz Camera photographs at Urban Coffee, Jewellery Quarter, up now and for the duration of the festival.

For full details and tickets go to www.birminghamjazz.co.uk