Monday, February 02, 2009

How to run a jazz club?

Through Seb Scotney, of the LondonJazz blog, pointed out an article about Ronnie Scott's and its present general manager Simon Cooke in the Times recently. Certainly it shows that there is a different mentality that has to run a jazz club in the West End, with high rents and overheads, in contrast with Dalston. Whether it is true to the "spirit" of the music over there is another matter. But perhaps there is no choice? Running a jazz club is a balance between creativity, the musicians and the audiences. They have to feel at home, because that, in my view, generates the buzz that makes a jazz gig special. Given the "looseness" that much jazz has live, it is essential that the ambiance is right. If the club is too prim and proper, then this is lost. "Scruffy", a word used insultingly by Simon Cooke, is not necessarily a negative. As long as it is controlled scruffiness.
The Vortex is having a great period in terms of music and audiences. Over 300 people through the door on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. And not with an "easy" range of music - Buffalo Collision (Tim Berne, Hank Roberts, Ethan Iverson, Dave King), Carol Grimes (returning to live performance after a lay-off through injury after 6 months), London Jazz Orchestra doing the music of Pete Hurt and our Vocals@Vortex night. Tonight, weather willing, it's Yaron Herman and Curios.
It's been, and always will be, very much a case of evolution not revolution. A lot of patience, such as a late night celebration with Carol after the gig, meaning that I got home at close to 3 a.m. A lovely crowd of volunteers who believe in the club. The continued involvement of David Mossman, as founder and everything else.
It was so flattering that Rod Youngs, playing for the singers' night, was so thrilled by the night that he gave me a warm embrace on departure, insisting that we get an extension built asap!
By getting this right - and having a patient landlord to ensure that this occurs - the club is ready to survive the slings and arrows of the recession that we are now in.
So is there a correct way to start and run a jazz club? I don't think so. There is certainly no Jazz Club 101 course at business schools. Long may that be the case. Adaptability, flexibility, creativity.

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