Chris Young is a saxophonist and composer based in Birmingham. Graduating from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with first-class honours, over the last decade, Chris has already made his mark on the local scene. Chris curated various regular jazz gigs around the city including Churchill’s, Jazz at the Brown Lion and Jazz at the Jewellers Arms, Cognitive Jazz Therapy and currently promotes the nationally acclaimed Jazz at the Spotted Dog, alongside David Ferris. Additionally, Chris also works closely with the Jazzlines Education Programme and leads two ensembles that performed at Sid Peacock’s Surge Festival and the Symphony Hall Foyer. As a performer, Chris’s projects include, Orbits, JACKED, Chris Young Sextet, Hans Koller/Chris Young Quartet, as well recording and touring with Ben Lee Quintet, Hansu Tori, David Ferris Septet, Reworkestra, Birmingham Jazz Orchestra, Acid Body, Antelope, A Moveable Feast, Steve Troman’s ‘Howl’ and Blue Pearl.
Picture: Chris cooking at The Shakespeare, Summer Row, Birmingham
“I kept the boarding school and the Jazzlines stuff and I’ve got some private students. The other school stuff I’ve started to find a bit difficult… you get home and you want to write or practice and you don’t want to because you’re knackered and it’s stressful… I like the pub and knew the manager well, she was struggling for a chef so I said I’ll give it a go… that was about a year ago and I’m still there now and I’m still there now and I’m really, really enjoying it”
BH: As soon as I heard that Chris was cooking I knew I wanted to get this shot to illuminate what musicians do to make a living and keep the music alive. Permission from the brewery took a while and we had to choose a comparatively quiet time so I didn’t get in the way. It was another location with limited room and potentially confusing backgrounds, reflections and backlighting from the windows. Again the 28mm lens proved ideal this time 1/200th second at f4.5 ISO1600 allowing me to get some interesting perspective and angles that adds to the focus on Chris.
Picture: Chris introducing the band at the Spotted Dog in Birmingham. The glass is for donations at the interval.
“I started from scratch the night at Cogs Bar which ran for a couple of years, trying as much as I can to repay the people that had given me gigs in the first place, supporting students and people who had helped us, I wanted to give that back. There’s amazing things happening in London and around the country and the international acts but there is lot to be said about what actually happens in Birmingham. Occasionally that can get overlooked.”
BH: Not just a musician but a promoter, a teacher, a cook and more. Shot at the Spotted Dog with Chris introducing the David Ferris Trio, led by David on organ, and featuring Ben Lee (hidden), on guitar, and William Weir, on drums. Chris is holding the jug for donations which references his other quote under the picture of him work in a bar. The light in the Spotted Dog is notorious amongst photographers for being particularly low – this makes shooting there very difficult. The 28mm lens came into its own again set almost wide open at f2.0 and I had to go to ISO6400 to get a reasonable shutter speed of 1/170th second. Unlike many jazz shots when the focus is on one musician I wanted to reflect that Chris was introducing the band in his promoter role and not playing. The high ISO does result in more ‘noise’ but in black and white the noise resembles film grain and adds rather than distracts from the feel of the shot.
Picture: Chris serving drinks at 1000 Trades bar in Birmingham.
“There is a big issue with money, ticketing, and how we get funded, how people get paid basically. It’s difficult and people look at it differently… I think there is a culture, and this is separate from the scene I guess, I don’t think people for some reason in Birmingham expect to pay to come in. It’s the price of a pint or a couple of pints but that is seen as almost outrageous to give your money away for that. Whereas you play in London, or you play in Manchester or you play Liverpool or Leeds, most places you go elsewhere you pay as you go in.”
BH: Chris behind the bar at 1000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham which is also his local and where Birmingham Jazz run their gigs usually on a Friday night. Another pub, another challenging level of light. ISO3200 with the trusty 28mm lens wide open at f1.8 to get 1/200th second shutter speed. Unlike the shot of Alicia in similar circumstances I didn’t engage with Chris but let him get on with working and waited for interaction to happen. I deliberately chose to either hide the customers or have them out of focus to avoid permission issues.