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Sat, 16 Oct


St Mary's Church

Birkett & Fisk play Venuti & Lang

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Birkett & Fisk play Venuti & Lang
Birkett & Fisk play Venuti & Lang

Time & Location

16 Oct 2021, 19:30

St Mary's Church, Claremont Gardens, Whitley Bay NE26 3SF, UK


The Birkett & Fisk duo made its debut at Newcastle Jazz Cafe in Summer 2016 and has already gained rave reviews and capacity crowds at the venues they have visited – in fact their first gig was featured as one of the Editor’s picks in The Guardian! While working together in popular Gypsy Jazz Quartet Djangologie, James and Emma discovered their shared love of Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang and in the form of this duo are bringing that musical passion to Northern jazz audiences.

The names of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli are familiar to many as pioneers of string-based swing jazz. Less universally known are the names Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, the Italian-American duo who played hot violin and guitar jazz in the 1920s and 30s. Joe Venuti has been referred to as ‘the father of jazz violin’, ‘the first great violinist of jazz’, while his musical partner Eddie Lang is widely regarded as the first jazz guitar virtuoso. 

Bringing together their shared knowledge of early jazz styles, Emma Fisk and James Birkett present an entertaining, virtuosic and informative programme of music associated with and inspired by the first great jazz violin and guitar partnership. A typical performance includes original compositions by Venuti/Lang including Cheese & Crackers, Sunshine, Black and Blue Bottom; jazz standards of the 20s and 30s such as Pardon Me Pretty Baby, My Honey's Lovin' Arms, Dinah and I've Found A New Baby; specially composed originals and some of James and Emma's favourite tunes played a la Joe and Eddie.

Emma has attracted critical acclaim for her performances of Venuti’s repertoire at UK festivals with Keith Nichols’ jazz orchestras, and featured in the musical role of Joe Venuti with The Jazz Repertory Company at Cadogan Hall in the 2015 London Jazz Festival. James has been performing Lang’s repertoire since he was introduced to this music in the late- 70s and his transcriptions of Eddie Lang’s solo guitar pieces are published by IMP. However, it is only now that he has realised his ambition to recreate the duo repertoire of Lang and Venuti in concert in the original duo setting with Emma.

James Birkett (guitar) is one the country’s most acclaimed guitarists. He developed and led one of the UK’s first degree programmes in jazz and related music, which is now run at Sage Gateshead. He has a PhD in jazz improvisation and has two books of jazz guitar transcriptions published by International Music Publishers. James has worked with many major jazz soloists from the UK (incl. Guy Barker, Alan Barnes and Chris ‘Snake’ Davis) and the USA (incl. Peanuts Hucko, Kenny Davern and Scott Hamilton), and continues to perform with a variety of jazz ensembles, regularly undertaking concert, festival and broadcast work.

Emma Fisk (violin) has been playing jazz violin since she was a teenager when she soaked up classic Grappelli recordings and was lucky enough to meet the man himself after a performance at Sunderland Empire. As well as performing as a duo with James, she leads her own quartet, Hot Club du Nord and is a founder member of Gypsy Jazz quartet Djangologie with whom she has toured and recorded for the past 15 years. She has appeared as guest violinist at jazz festivals throughout the UK, including performances with the Remi Harris Trio, Keith Nichols’ jazz orchestras and The Jazz Repertory Company.

Find out more, and sample their music at

A licensed bar is available before and during this concert.


  • Adult

  • Under 18




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