Riffin’ in Hitchin

 In Gig Reviews

The story of the Jazzup! series

Located in the county of Hertfordshire midway between London and Cambridge, the market town of Hitchin has become a major focal point for jazz in the South East of England. This status is in part due to the town’s very active arts scene and an impressive number of venues hosting jazz bands. Perhaps the most successful of these is the Jazzup! series held at Club 85. Here one of the founders, Robin Campbell, a professional musician a music promoter, tells how Jazzup! originated and developed.

Our JazzUp! mission is simple, we are bringing you jazz with attitude; from young and radical to classic with style. JazzUp! brings you the best in brilliant live musicianship and uncompromising grooves. Come see the best on the scene from young, up-and-coming, superstars to seasoned pros. Suitable for both jazzheads and absolute beginners. ‘Nice’ it ain’t…!

JazzUp! evolved from a vision during a nomadic period when Dave Keech, a local trombonist and I were trying to find a suitable and permanent jazz venue following many successful sell-out nights at The George in Hitchin and The Priory.  Although I’m not a jazz musician, I supported Dave in his belief that “It seemed everyone is talking about jazz at the moment  -its culture, style, and the amazing musicianship that is at its heart.” After conversations between another local musician, Felix Camfield-Walker and Bob Mardon, manager of the fabled Club 85, the journey was over and we finally arrived at our destination just over one year ago.  It was a meeting of minds. A synergy between Bob’s desire to have jazz at the club and Dave Keech’s vision of “It’ll be Hitchin’s answer to Ronnie Scott’s!”. Considering that Hitchin had several jazz nights at various locations, it was fortunate that this was the first time that jazz had been a feature at the Whinbush Road venue. So the stage was set and the first concert, featuring Simon Spillet with Dave Keech’s band, Close to the Bone was held in May 2016.

Since those early days, Jazup! has had an impressive billing which has included Ray Gelato, Simon Spillet, Rachel Farrow, Enrico Tomasso, TJ Johnson, Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur, Big Bad Wolf, The Jam Experiment, Alex Hitchcock, Horace Panter, Nikolaj Torp Larsen, Chris Rand and Morten Schantz. Dave’s own band, Close to the Bone, often provides the musical muscle to back the guests and consists of top level pro musicians all well-known in their own right. Dave himself is active in both recording and the UK gig scene and spent several years with Ray Gelato’s high-octane outfit touring all over the world, even appearing at Carnegie Hall, New York.

Since the start of the series, many other local musicians and retailers offered their support and were very keen to make our vision happen. The Gatefold Record Lounge, Jolly Browns, David’s Music, Unikorn and Farley’s, whose hair salon in the town’s Hermitage Road has become a hub for all things stylish, have all come forward to help. Felix, Eric Ransinangue landlord of The Highlander pub (another noted jazz venue in town) and musician, Paul Puskas, provide cool support of the bands by spinning vinyl. JazzUp! is also fortunate to have two professional photographers on site, Peter Goadby-Watt, whose amazing images have helped JazzUp! gain such great traction on social media. John Morrow, none other than the editor of The Riff Magazine, is also actively photographing the gigs. Postering is provided by graphic designer Del Woodward, whose beautiful Blue Note influenced JazzUp posters have become artworks in their own right.

There are good things happening and good things planned for the autumn and into 2018. Gigs booked for the rest of the year are:

July 29: TJ Johnson
September 30:  Kitty La Roar
October 28: Sirkis/Bialis-IQ
November 25: Simians of Swing
December 30: Jazzup! Christmas Party

It’s a very special vibe at JazzUp with its increasing popularity from a growing public support at Club 85. We would love to see you there and all for £10 on the door and online. £8 in advance from our retailers. Finally, if you want to join the mailing list please contact robin@robincampbell.org.  We would love to see you there. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JazzUpC85

Robin Campbell

Photos by John Morrow

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