To the uninitiated, the world of jazz can seem complicated. What’s the difference between swing, traditional jazz, gypsy jazz, bebop, fusion and all of the other sub-genres we hear about? Here in York, you can go out on almost any day of the week and hear live jazz somewhere in the city. The York jazz scene is one of the healthiest in the North of England thanks to a network of excellent venues, talented musicians, specialist record shops and dedicated educators. Over this series of articles, we’ll take a look at the regular jazz nights in the city and try to answer some questions about the styles of jazz which the musicians perform.
The most commercially successful forms of jazz music usually feature a singer. A talented vocalist can express the meaning of a song in a way that only exceptional instrumentalists can match. Newcomers to the jazz world may find vocal-jazz as the perfect entrance point into the music. Fortunately, we have an array of chanteuses whom perform regularly in York. Kate Peters is a virtuosic vocalist who’s repertoire ranges from 100 year old jazz standards to the works of modern artists. Kate’s quartet perform at The Phoenix Inn, George Street on the first and third Monday of each month. This cosy real-ale pub has won several awards for its beer and an award for ‘Pub Venue of the Year’ from Jazz Yorkshire. It is advised to get there early for the Monday night sessions as the pub fills up very quickly.
On the second Monday of the month, the vocalist Rachel Croft joins the veteran York pianist Karl Mullen at The Phoenix Inn with a revolving rhythm section. Karl and Rachel may both be familiar to readers as they are often seen busking around the city centre. Rachel comes armed with an acoustic guitar and Karl with a bright red upright piano. All of the gigs at The Phoenix Inn are free entry. Karl and Rachel also have a regular gig at Sutler’s on Fossgate from 7pm every Sunday evening. This new bar advertises the event as a ‘jazz and gin’ night and it’s a chance to hear the two musicians in an intimate duo setting.
One of York’s longest running jazz venues is Kennedy’s Bar on Little Stonegate. Jazz trios have been performing at the restaurant between 1 & 4pm every Sunday for many years. This regular performance provides a great way to enjoy some accessible, instrumental jazz in the middle of the day. You can take your family, enjoy some excellent food and listen to some of the regions finest musicians. Then when you’re finished, you can carry on with your shopping.
Night owls can find similar swinging jazz music later in the evening on a Sunday just below Kennedy’s at Sotano. The weekly late night jazz is led by the Neil Corkery Quartet and runs from 9pm until 1am. Sotano is an atmospheric and cosy environment to enjoy some live jazz. Neil Corkery is an brilliant guitarist and his band play songs which will be familiar to many listeners.
Another venue where you can find late night jazz is Nevermind on Stonebow. The former home of rock venue Fibbers, Nevermind is a cool bar which has a decor that could be described as one of manufactured authenticity. Of all the jazz venues in York, this is the most like the ones you find across the pond in the USA. Live jazz happens every Thursday from 9pm with a variety of bands playing swinging jazz and funky grooves to get your feet tapping while you enjoy a cocktail.
Part 2 of John Marley’s Jazz in York series will run next week.Jazz in York