Simon Spillett, unlocked

    The saxophonist is back on the road again and in good form, as evidenced by his performance at the Birmingham, Sandwell and Westside Festival

    Simon Spillett Quartet at Water's Edge, Birmingham, July 2021. Photo by Ellie Wright

    To say that for many musicians that the last 16 months or so have been difficult is an understatement and it has been no different for Simon Spillett. Encouragingly, a corner seems to have been turned and he has found himself with a number of gigs in his diary, albeit many at very short notice.

    Unphased by this, he’s thrilled to be able to be performing regularly again and it’s reflected in his playing; his appearance at The Water’s Edge, Birmingham on 23 July showed how much he enjoys picking up the reins.

    Part of the Birmingham, Sandwell and Westside Festival, Friday’s lunchtime performance saw him in the top-class company of pianist Craig Milverton, bassist Bill Coleman and drummer Mal Garrett. Milverton is well known nationally, but for those unfamiliar with the others, when mentioning that Coleman includes Kenny Clarke and Mundell Lowe in his CV and Garrett teaches percussion at the Birmingham Conservatoire, it gives some indication of their pedigree. Both are well established and highly proficient players.

    The quartet was on fine form, easing into a mixed bag of uptempo numbers and ballads, beginning with Kurt Weill’s Speak Low, which segued into Milestones at one point, and which very quickly caught the attention of nearby café customers as well as passing pedestrians in this area of canal-side. Many stopped and spent time listening to music they may not be that familiar with, but they showed their appreciation, especially for the standards What Is This Thing Called Love and The Song Is You, as well as being enthralled by a particularly captivating but relaxed coda by the saxophonist on What’s New.

    And they couldn’t possibly have been less than impressed with the formidable breakneck speed of Spillett’s now trademark tour-de-force, Oleo. Perhaps some might well have been tempted to drop in later that afternoon to the Brasshouse, where the quartet was due to put in another shift.

    For those unable to get to Birmingham, never fear – there may well be something near you. August sees Spillett visiting Coventry, Southsea, Nottingham and the Home Counties; September sees a number of appearances in the West Country, then in October his wonderful star-studded big band plays the Herts Jazz Festival and the 100 Club. Do yourself a favour and visit his website for your local listing –  He’s back and playing as well as ever.