Local Jazz: Gigs Auckland & nostalgia

When I was a teenager there were some cool Jazz clubs and quite a few good Jazz gigs around this town. That was a long time ago and as the 60’s advanced the clubs either vanished or quietly morphed into popular music venues. Everybody has to earn a living and rock audiences were more likely to feed a club owners family than Jazz audiences. 1960’s Auckland produced its share of good musicians like pianist Alan Broadbent, vibes player Lachie Jamierson, trumpet player Kim Paterson and many others, but when the venues disappeared, the better musicians either dropped out of sight (and got a ‘real’ job) or moved to bigger cities overseas where Jazz still thrived. There was a long period when it was difficult to find live Jazz in Auckland and the fault was certainly not with the musicians – it was with the audiences. Visiting artists sated jazz fans appetites to a point, but it could be a very long time between drinks. An enterprising group of locals ( John Good, Frank Collins and others), banded together and organised a NZ tour by (USA) West Coast pianist Pete Jolly and bassist Ralph Pena. These were high risk enterprises and in those days the flights from LA or New York were arduous. It was a long way to come for small financial return and these were essentially labours of love (and often acts of generosity by the musicians). As the 60’s and 70’s passed local musicians such as Phil Broadhurst, Frank Gibson, Julie Mason, Edwina Thorne and Murray McNabb stayed the course; playing in whatever venues became available.

Any Jazz fan who has gone down a darkly lit side street, found the neon sign, descended the winding staircase and suddenly been overwhelmed by the atmosphere and sounds of an intimate jazz club will never forget it. These dimly lit, warm toned jazz bars are the stuff of legends and happily they still exist (minus the smoke). In New York, Paris, Rome, London, Barcelona, Montreal, Melbourne and Sydney they have not only survived but are an integral part of the city brand. New York would somehow be diminished if there was no ‘Birdland’, ‘Blue Note’, ‘Village Vanguard‘ or ‘Smalls’ (plus the many dozens of others).

Auckland has a few venues where live Jazz can be experienced and I am going to add more links to those venues as I find them (in the side bar of the blog-‘gigs guide’). A recent addition to the Auckland club scene has been the ‘1885 club‘ in Brittamart Street downtown. There are also regular gigs at the Masonic Hotel Devonport (Roger Fox) – sign up to ‘Event Finder‘ or ‘NZ Gigs Guide‘ for up-to-date information. We were upset to lose the upstairs ‘London Bar’ and the Auckland ‘Jazz & Blues Club’ has had to move after a long tenure at the Herne Bay Tavern. They now meet weekly at the Point Chevalier RSA -1136 Great North Road, Pt Chevalier, Auckland. Another place where great gigs can occur is the Auckland Massey Campus (under the auspices of the ‘School of Jazz Studies’). There are also groups of individuals who meet regularly to play jazz, talk about jazz and tell Jazz stories over a glass of wine. FOJ (Friends of Jazz) has been one such institution) and the newly formed ‘The Jazz Loft‘ is another. To find out about the latter email me on jonjaz@ihug.co.nz. Lastly there are Jazz Pub gigs and while some are regular events many are quite sporadic – follow ‘Event Finder‘ for these.

I have included a clip of local Jazz saxophonist Roger Manins playing at a pub gig.   My plea is that Jazz lovers support these local artists and clubs – its use them or lose them.