B:Music, the music charity responsible for Birmingham’s Town Hall and Symphony Hall is delighted to announce two new commissions for young Birmingham-based jazz musicians, which will premiere in a double bill on the iconic Symphony Hall stage in October. Baritone saxophonist Alicia Gardener-Trejo and guitarist Steve Saunders are the successful applicants in this year’s annual Jazzlines Commission, and they will perform their new compositions at the world-renowned Symphony Hall in the heart of Birmingham on Sunday 30 October.
The B:Music Jazzlines Commission, now in its third year, is a unique talent development opportunity that pairs two individual Birmingham jazz artists with artists of their choice from outside Birmingham to each co-create a 45-minute set of brand-new music. The two newly formed groups or pairs will produce new collaborative projects to showcase the breadth of talent that Birmingham has to offer and place it at the forefront of the UK jazz scene, as well as giving the up-and-coming musicians the platform to showcase their music.
This year sees Alicia Gardener-Trejo working with Scottish bass player Brodie Jarvie, and Steve Saunders working with Danish alto saxophonist Asger Nissen. Alicia and Steve will be supported by the B:Music team and given use of spaces in Symphony Hall and Town Hall for rehearsals and development.
Talent development has always been at the heart of the B:Music Jazzlines programme. Its work with young musicians in the Jazzlines Ensembles and the Summer School has made major contributions to musical life in Birmingham. B:Music Jazzlines is also keen to support young graduates from jazz courses, particularly the course at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and to give them opportunities that enable them to make their career in Birmingham.
Alicia Gardener-Trejo is a Birmingham-based multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator. She has collaborated with artists including Percy Pursglove, Jeff Williams, Natalie Sandtorv, Jason Singh, Mark Sanders, Faye MacCalman and Paul Dunmall, and is a member of Surge Orchestra, Gospel Revisited Project, Reworkestra and Birmingham Jazz Orchestra. Alicia’s own bands include the 12-piece ensemble Bobtail and collaborative improvised music trio Bobhowler. As a composer, she has been commissioned to write for the Greater Manchester Jazz Orchestra and Surge Orchestra, and has featured on recordings played on BBC Radio 3, Jazz FM, BBC Scotland and BBC Radio 6 Music.
For the B:Music Jazzlines Commission, Alicia will be leading a quartet with Brodie Jarvie on double bass, Andrew Woodhead on piano and Jonathan Silk on drums. Alicia's composition ‘Home/Lands’ is an exploration of the concept of 'home' and the sense of belonging.
Alicia commented: “The music that Brodie and I are composing together celebrates the people, places, objects and music that we hold most dear. The collaboration began over the 2020 lockdown period when we would send each other musical ideas and sketches in the post to work with and build upon. We have had two intensive writing weeks so far and are looking forward to bringing our ideas to the band very shortly. Our processes have included taking short stories as writing prompts, using the topography of familiar landscapes as a catalyst for composition, and exchanging musical stimulus in a pass-the-parcel type approach. Brodie and I have been playing with the exciting sonic possibilities of baritone saxophone and double bass, experimenting with new ideas of melody and bassline responsibilities. We are thrilled to be joined by Jonathan Silk and Andrew Woodhead who are two of our closest friends and esteemed musicians.
“I am so grateful to B:Music for this fantastic opportunity. Our project stemmed from such a difficult time for creative artists; Brodie and I talked about working together over lockdown and this commission has come at the perfect time to realise these musical ambitions. Being given the chance to collaboratively compose this music in Glasgow, a place I consider a second home, has really brought the music to life and we are thrilled to be performing it for the first time in the incredible Symphony Hall!”
Steve Saunders is one of the most exciting young players on the Birmingham jazz scene. In June this year, he performed his brilliant composition Abstract Visions for a Foreign Land for an eleven-piece band on the Symphony Hall stage. This work showed Steve's excellence as a composer, merging influences from contemporary classical composers Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey with his training in jazz. Steve has worked on commissions from the UK and US, including the recent premiere of his solo piano piece, Assimilation (or a failure in the art thereof), written for Contemporary Arts Jazz Ensemble, as well as the premiere of his work TIMEBEING (for two improvisers) for Birmingham-based art gallery Centrala.
He has performed throughout the UK as a sideman and a leader and has a wealth of experience as an educator. He participated in B:Music’s Jazzlines Summer School as a teenager, and now teaches at it as a guest tutor.
Steve’s chosen collaborator for the B:Music Jazzlines Commission is Asger Nissen, a Danish alto saxophonist based in Berlin, which is where he and Steve met. He is active on the European jazz scene, touring widely, especially in Germany and Denmark. He recently won the Jazz Institute of Berlin prize for outstanding soloist and has worked with artists such as Jim Black in his band ‘Jim Black and the Shrimps’, Jeff Ballard, Phil Donkin and Petter Eldh, amongst others.
“My project with Asger will be a bass-less trio featuring the great Jeff Williams on drums. Asger and I met during my time studying at the Jazz-Institut Berlin in my third year at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, thanks to the Erasmus exchange programme. We bonded over a shared love of cutting edge and contemporary music,” Steve Saunders commented.
“Therefore, this project is a chance for us to explore bringing these contemporary classical influences into an improvised context whilst being firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, with a master drummer who couldn’t be more connected to the history of jazz. I’m incredibly excited to be able to create this project and bring it to Symphony Hall.
“Musically, the intersection between contemporary and improvised music is an area I’ve been wanting to explore further for a long time, so to be able to realise it with such amazing musicians as Asger and Jeff is a fantastic opportunity. Asger and I have wanted to work together for some time, and this commission now gives us the time and space to carefully craft a project together, as well as the resources to give life to the project far beyond the commission end date.
“Asger and I are in the writing stages of the project now, so we’re collating sketches for the music and sending them back and forth to each other to work on. The music is starting to shape up, and by October we should have a few pieces each, at which point I’ll travel out to Berlin, and we’ll begin to rehearse the music, edit it, and compose together. I know that whatever I write will be taken beyond my expectations by these two incredible musicians!”
B:Music’s Jazzlines Commission programme is funded by the PRS Foundation, supporting and inspiring the next generation of the city’s musical talent.