Taking its theme from the 500th anniversary of the first publication in Latin of Thomas More’s Utopia, nowhere becomes somewhere, anywhere, in Birmingham this weekend for the fourth Rhythm Changes conference.

At the opening reception alto saxophonist/MC Soweto Kinch found his own version of utopia in a ‘Jazz Planet,’ a reworking in rap after a sax intro based on his 2004-released 12” single of the same name for the Dune label. 

The audience, who included Dave Brubeck’s son pianist Darius Brubeck, Harvard professor Ingrid Monson, Birmingham jazz composer Hans Koller and just-registered conference attendees, joined in by instantly getting on the two and four and chorusing “jazz planet” on cue from Kinch. They then listened to the young Jazzlines trio performing in the Parkside atrium at Birmingham City University’s new Eastside campus on standards such as ‘On Green Dolphin Street.’

Today’s events included a keynote by Ingrid Monson and breakout sessions that cover such topics as “jazz, apartheid and secular paradise,” “jazz aesthetics” and “jazz and its popular others”. The conference continues until Sunday afternoon. Look out for session presentations by John Gennari, Susanne Abbuehl and Sean Foran especially.

Earlier yesterday the Jazz Promotion Network held its first annual general meeting and a new board was elected who are: John Blandford (Cambridge Modern Jazz); Tony Dudley Evans (Jazzlines); Emily Jones (Cheltenham Jazz Festival); Nod Knowles (Bath); Steve Mead (Manchester Jazz Festival); Dave Morecroft (Match & Fuse); Amy Pearce (Serious/EFG London Jazz Festival); Amy Sibley-Allen (Kings Place); and Barney Stevenson (Marsden Jazz Festival).

Stephen Graham

Birmingham skyline, top, and Soweto Kinch performing the Utopia version of Jazz Planet at the Jazz Utopia conference