The Bull is still there

The Bull’s Head

The Yamaha Jazz Room at the Bull’s Head pub in Barnes is one of the fixtures of the London jazz scene. Other things change, other clubs move, but after nearly 50 years it’s still there. Apart from the Yamaha connection, one other thing has moved recently : the Bull’s listing in the new -format Jazz in London now adorns the back page.
The Bull puts on a wide range of jazz seven nights a week and Sunday lunchtimes. Its programme for February is HERE and for March HERE

I got involved intensively, and successfully, helping Dan and Liz Fleming to save it from the threat of closure in 2005. Richmond Council had had a noise complaint from a tenant in the brand new flats which had been built right up to its wall, but we managed to get the Today Programme interested. After that exposure Richmond Council and Young’s brewery both discovered simultaneously and serendipitously that they were having second thoughts about silencing one of the landmark venues of the London jazz scene after 45 years.

The Bull occupies a proud position watching over a gentle bend in the Thames. It’s right by Barnes Bridge station so the carless and the careless can get back to central London with ease. And the regular local Noddy bus, the 419 takes an…interesting… route from the tube interchange at Hammersmith on its way to Richmond. The 209 is more direct.

Young’s is no longer family-owned. So the Young family no longer brew their beer, or keep their drayhorses, by the river Wandle in Wandsworth. The smoking ban has hit the pub trade. Dan and Liz have been forced by Health and Safety legislation to make expensive improvements. But a proud, nearly 50-year record of supporting jazz continues. Dexter Gordon played there, Earl Hines. Yes, they all played the Bull.

Regular artists, the stalwarts of British jazz are still regular fixtures. A Friday or Saturday gig in that small room by alto sazophonist Pete King (next on this Saturday 21st) or pianist Stan Tracey (Sat 28th) in a club filled like a rush hour train into Waterloo is something you never forget. These guys deliver every time. Alan Price, local resident, prefers Thursdays (next on 12th March) and also packs them in. Humphrey Lyttelton preferred Tuesdays, and the tradition of “his” band appearing still continues.

You CAN’T book. Go early and nab a chair, or perch at the back if its full. It isn’t always…..

What else has caught my eye in the programme?

Young trumpeter Henry Armburg Jennings with a top young band on March 20th. Scott Hamilton on March 27th. And ex-NYJO singer Sarah Ellen Hughes on March 11th. Her promotional (???) video on Youtube has her earnestly discussing the merits of an editing software package (weird) , and an overdubbed washing-up sequence from a kitchen in Peckham (weirder still and weirder) . But there are good sound clips on her MYSPACE and she’s got a great young band.

Sarah Ellen Hughes with fast-rising trumpeter Freddy Gavita

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. Wow – just found this. Yes, her 'promotional' vidoe on youtube is wierd, wierder and wierder still – don't worry, she was in no way responsible for it! At least she has some better videos up there now from her Spice of Life gig and, thanks to you, a glowing review!

  2. I was at that Spice of Life gig. Terrific wasn't it. Sarah Ellen Hughes is not only a great voice, she's such fun too and soon gets the audience rooting for her. I loved Them Their Eyes. Glad it's on YouTube.

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