Hot Dog Jazz at Peter Parker’s
(4 Denmark Street W1, June 15th 2009, review by Frances Hardcastle)
A swathe of smoking artistic types floats outside on the pavement. For a moment you might think you’re in hip Hoxton. But once you make your way down into the basement of Peter Parker’s, it’s clear what’s drawing an attractive, eclectic, young crowd to Denmark Street.
The atmosphere is loud and buzzing, more akin to an underground art student party than a jazz gig. Whilst Peter Parker’s refrains from practising the hushed reverence of Ronnies or the 606, I noticed many lively conversations stop mid-flow to appreciate accomplished solos from any one of the young Nathaniel Cross Small Band.
The musicians focused on cool jazz repertoire, perfectly matched to the ethos of the night. Even the hard bop tinged sets of the excellent tenor saxophonist Binker Goldin didn’t appear to be a challenge to any of the jazz virgins. I was particularly impressed by jazz tuba player Theon Cross, who was a great addition to their swinging rhythm section.
Hot Dog Jazz is keen to support young talent, programming them alongside slightly older more established musicians and encouraging jazz jams at the end of the night to forge collaboration. The promoters, Christine Cowin and Mark Rapley, clearly haven’t shied away from presenting good real jazz to their mixed newcomer crowd. Their programming matches the boast of being lively and hip, without patronising their audience with overtly commercial music. .
The promoters have put a lot of thought into creating a vibrant and quirkily retro night. The VJ projection behind the musicians is a distinctly contemporary touch, but footage of dancing flappers and speakeasy kings – dressed identically to the pork pie hat toting band on stage – is a good reminder of the origins of jazz as a dance form, meant just for venues like this.
This monthly night is now up and running. Here’s hoping it will continue to draw a new audience to jazz and provide a platform for future talent. I won’t be surprised at all- or disappointed – if some of the venues from the other side of Charing Cross Road are soon checking the format out, and even copying it.