Inspired Jazz – Mammal Hands & Ishmael Ensemble

Inspired Jazz – Mammal Hands & Ishmael Ensemble
Date and time
24 May 2023 (5:45pm)

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Map and Directions



(£10 BCU staff, £5 BCU Students - subject to availability)

Mammal Hands and Ishmael Ensemble play as part of BCU Inspired Jazz Festival

Birmingham City University is proud to be staging a major Inspired Jazz festival at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) on 24 May 2023 with performances from a wide range of artists.

  • 5pm – 7.30pm: Specialist contemporary Jazz DJ Tina Edwards - RBC Foyer
  • 5.45pm – 6.45pm: Journalist, broadcaster and writer Kevin Le Gendre leads ‘In Conversation with…’ - Recital Hall
  • 6.15pm – 6.45pm: Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra - Eastside Jazz Club
  • 7pm – 7.30pm: Birmingham Jazz group Friends - Eastside Jazz Club
  • 7.15pm – 8.15pm: Ishmael Ensemble - The Bradshaw Hall
  • 8.45pm – 10pm: Mammal Hands - The Bradshaw Hall

The internationally-acclaimed Mammal Hands and the talented Ishmael Ensemble will perform in RBC’s stunning Bradshaw Hall, while there will also be performances by local artists Friends, as well as RBC’s homegrown talent the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, which is made up of the University’s students and graduates who will perform in the Eastside Jazz Club.

Specialist contemporary jazz DJ Tina Edwards will kickstart the event performing a set in the RBC foyer, while an exhibition celebrating Birmingham City University’s (BCU) rich jazz heritage and research - curated by BCU’s Keeper of the Archives Dr Pedro Cravinho - will highlight the excellence of the University’s Jazz team.

RBC is a world-class teaching and performance facility located in the heart of Birmingham, attracting high calibre students and internationally-renowned performers and teachers, while producing some of the world’s best performers - including last year’s BBC Young Musician of the Year, Jordan Ashman, a talented percussionist aged just 18. Its concert and performance spaces provide impressive venues and stage performances for visitors from around the globe.

BCU’s Professor Peter Francis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), said:

“The University is absolutely thrilled to be hosting the incredibly talented Mammal Hands and Ishmael Ensemble alongside some of the city’s best Jazz artists. To be given the opportunity to showcase the wonderful work my colleagues and students deliver in the RBC alongside contemporary bands whose music is recognised worldwide is incredible.

“The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s reputation for academic excellence is global. I am thrilled to be able bring a new and existing audiences into the University, to see our wonderful facilities, who I hope will get a real feel for the expertise of our staff, and the wonderfully creative and talented students and alumni.

“Arts, media, and the creative industries are at the heart of a thriving society and their importance should not be underestimated. At BCU we are proud of our heritage and this event demonstrates our continuing relevance today, as a major force in creativity, acting and music, with significant outputs spanning industry performance, technology, education, composition, and research.”

Professor Shirley Thompson, Interim Principal of BCU’s Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, added:

“Music, culture and the arts sit at the core of RBC and BCU, and both contribute enormously to the cultural fabric of the city, region, and country.  

“We are proud to be enabling the personal transformation of not only our students, but wider society, through excellence in practice-based education, research and knowledge exchange.   

“Inspired Jazz is a unique event that will truly bring to life all that RBC and BCU encompasses, and we can’t wait to welcome guests through our doors.”

Captivating, ethereal and majestic, Mammal Hands (saxophonist Jordan Smart, pianist Nick Smart and drummer and percussionist Jesse Barrett) has carved out a refreshingly original sound from a disparate array of influences. They will perform at RBC less than two months after releasing their much-anticipated fifth studio album 'Gift from the Trees'.

Meanwhile, over the past five years, producer and saxophonist Pete Cunningham’s Ishmael Ensemble has gone from being a humble bedroom recording project to an integral part of the thriving UK jazz scene. The group’s 'Visions of Light' was crowned Huey Morgan’s ‘Album of the Year’ on BBC 6 Music and saw them perform at The New York Winter Jazz Festival for Gilles Peterson.

Friends’ line-up consists of Ray Brown on double bass, Wayne Scott on drums, Andy Gayle on sax, Ralf DeCambre on guitar and Kirk Ricketts as guest vocalist.

One of the most curious and respected selectors in the UK, Tina Edwards joins the dots between Jazz and club culture. Whether it’s modern jazz dance floor burners, unearthed and obscure 90s acid jazz or Afro-driven rhythms from across the world, Tina’s sets are as much an introduction to incredible lesser-heard music as much as they are a celebration of the current UK jazz explosion.

A collaboration between RBC’s Jazz and Percussion departments, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra consists of staff, students and alumni performing as a large ensemble.

Inspired Jazz forms part of BCU’s Inspired Festival 2023, celebrating the exciting new talent emerging from the University’s Faculty of Arts, Design and Media, and offers a virtual window into the future of the creative industries.