Music enthusiasts will be in for a real treat from October 7, as the brand new JazzHouse at Pure in Tunbridge Wells begins its toe-tapping jazz nights on the first Wednesday of the month. Promoters Geoff Barnes and Scott Garland tell Fred Latty how they’re bringing world-class acts into the town…
Tell us how The JazzHouse got started
Geoff: We’ve always had an ambition to do something in this town. It’s pretty well served musically and there’s a really good vibe in Tunbridge Wells, so when we thought about it, we had to be quite careful because we don’t want it to cross over with what other people are doing; from our point of view, it was important to make sure we added to and complemented it.
Are you both musicians yourselves?
Geoff: I’m an accountant, but love jazz music, so had always wanted to do something like this. Scott has been playing since he was 14 and started teaching me to play the saxophone about seven years ago. We both share a love of music and came together with the same idea to make this happen.
What was the inspiration behind it?
Scott: It was very much an idea of having a club setting. If you go up to London, you can go into clubs with a very traditional vibe of people seated around tables, so what we’re nodding to is creating that atmosphere. Most jazz clubs are just rows of people and you don’t get much of a vibe, so having tables will be much better.
Has it been particularly challenging getting it off the ground?
Geoff: The hardest part is getting people to know you’re doing it and getting people through the door on the opening night. We’ve had to commit to marketing expenditure to get it in front of people, which has really helped it pick up steam as we approach the opening night. Facebook and Twitter have been really handy, and we hope and anticipate that it will bear fruit. Once we get ourselves rolling and people know we’re here, it’s going to be a lot easier to promote future events.
How often will the jazz nights happen?
Geoff: Once a month, on the first Wednesday. We’ve got six acts lined up, which will take us to next March. Once we’ve got past our first and second evenings, we’re going to look to extend that to April, May and June next year and twice a month by next October. We believe we’re going to get a good footfall here.
Why set up a jazz club at Pure?
Scott: It looks fantastic and the acoustics are really good. It lends itself to being a much better venue for a jazz club than some village hall. It’s quite a big, contemporary space as well and we can get a good number of people in. We’ve had a great deal of co-operation from the guys running it, so it’s a co-operative venture between them and us.
Will there be different types of jazz on offer?
Geoff: We’re trying to get a good variety of stuff. It’s always tempting when you’re doing something like this to put on just people you like, which would obviously be a real mistake, so the first night’s a very funky sound and the second night’s a very different style of swing music, which we’re going to try and get some younger people in for; it has been around for 80 years, it’s good for young people, and 1920s music is really hip in London at the moment.
Is there a big demand for it in the town?
Geoff: If you look at the demographic of Tunbridge Wells, there are a lot of people who will be interested in what we’ve got.
It’s hugely popular in The Pantiles and very well supported, as are the other events in the town. There’s a great vibe here and, without sounding snobby about it, the kind of people who live in this area have sophisticated tastes, so it’s a very popular music form in this town and the surrounding areas. We want to capitalise on that and offer them something that complements what already happens here.
Would you say there’s room for everyone on the local jazz circuit?
Geoff: When we start, Jazz on The Pantiles will have finished, which isn’t a coincidence; it was timed to be that way. There aren’t many towns in the southeast that have that kind of thing going on. Jazz on The Pantiles is amazing and we’re very lucky to have it in this town, so we’re trying to tap into and build on that. That’s what’s very encouraging about this venue, because we know that audience is there. We’re quietly confident and very excited.
Do you think there will be a mix of ages in the audience?
Scott: Hopefully, but it depends on the night as to who comes. Jazz has got a reputation for attracting guys with beards who drink real ale, which was true, but that audience is moving on and not around as much. It’s being replaced by a different crowd.
In what ways will you be changing people’s perceptions of the genre?
Geoff: Because we’ve got different styles of jazz, we’re trying to broaden it right out and get different people to come, whose stereotypical image of jazz is going to be very much changed. It’s very different if you see it done in the flesh and see the creativity as it happens.
Scott: There are so many different levels to the genre; it’s massive and so varied. It
can be avant-garde, but it can also be very approachable and everything in between, and there’s nothing better than seeing it to make it accessible.
The club itself must help with that…
Geoff: It’s a lot more intimate in a club setting. The great thing about jazz music is that you can see world-class artists, but still in that intimate setting. If we can keep that kind of intimacy, it will be very approachable. It’s a great opportunity for people who might not get that much exposure to live music to see it up close and personal.
The JazzHouse at Pure starts on Wednesday, October 7 with Derek Nash and Protect the Beat, priced
£13.25. To ﬁnd out more about upcoming events and to book tickets, visit www. thejazzhousetw.co.uk. You can also like it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/thejazzhouse or follow it on Twitter @JazzHouse_TW
Introducing some of the acts to look forward to over the coming months
Wednesday, October 7 – Derek Nash and Protect the Beat
Wednesday, November 4 – Pete Long plays the music of Benny Goodman, featuring Georgina Jackson
Wednesday, December 2 – Roberto Pla and his Latin Sextet
Wednesday, January 9 – Fletch’s Brew Wednesday, February 3 – The Alan Barnes Quartet
Wednesday, March 2 – The Clark Tracey Quintet