|Eastdide Jazz Club
Photo credit: Greg Milner
The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s purpose-built jazz club, called Eastside, has begun its first Spring season. For LondonJazz News Brianna McClean spoke to the RBC’s Head of Jazz as well as Artistic Director of Eastside Jazz Club, Jeremy Price.
Birmingham’s new jazz club, the Eastside Jazz Club, is part of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and is closely linked to the Conservatoire’s bespoke B. Mus (Hons) Jazz course. This new venture opened in October 2017 on the newly built site of the Conservatoire.
The club has already played host to a wide variety of artists and has recently released its Spring programme running until mid-March. The Eastside Jazz Club is testament to the commitment of the Conservatoire in building the jazz scene in Birmingham. Someone who epitomises this ethos is the Head of Jazz at the Conservatoire and the newly named Artistic Director of Eastside, Jeremy Price.
In a previous interview with Sebastian Scotney for Radio 3 Jazz Line Up, Jeremy Price said that he was, ‘proud of how the jazz course contributed to the whole city’. It is this participation in the wider music scene which renders Eastside Jazz Club a unique venture for a music education institution. The club aims to accommodate both students and international masters, as well as everything in between.
When asked about the weekly program for Eastside Jazz Club, Price was enthusiastic about what the club had to offer local audiences. ‘Monday nights at the club are big-band nights’, he said, speaking of the rotating schedule of performances by the Ellington Orchestra and the Conservatoire’s Jazz Orchestra. Eastside Jazz Club offers music of the masters played by students in their ‘Jazz Canon’ series on Tuesday nights. Wednesday evenings showcase emerging improviser/composers’ work in a series called ‘Exit Velocity’. Jeremy Price fondly reflected that these performances see many ‘old characters returning’, as graduates of the Jazz course take centre stage star sidemen roles in these senior student-led bands. The end of each week brings outside talent into the club. Thursday evenings are reserved for special guests, often international musicians who are teaching masterclasses in the Conservatoire. On Fridays, Eastside Jazz Club provides a hireable venue for external musicians and the more commercial wing of jazz music to help replenish the coffers.
Photo credit: Greg Milner
Jeremy Price revealed that there are plans to develop a ‘community driven jazz initiative’ on Saturdays. This is evidence of one of the most honourable aims of Eastside Jazz Club and the wider Conservatoire; to nurture the local arts culture. This is balanced with a desire to make the club a space which attracts prominent names. ‘The Club has the potential to become a major fixture on the touring circuit. I get a lot of propositions now asking for a guest night slot’, said Jeremy.
When asked what the challenges have been in the early days of Eastside Jazz Club, Jeremy speaks of a culture shift that was needed amongst audiences who were used to concert halls, rather than clubs. ‘At the beginning, it was like playing in a library sometimes’, laughs Jeremy. He cites a Mark Turner gig in early November as the point where ‘the penny dropped’ and audiences began to understand the atmosphere of the club. ‘It was our first very chatty audience. A nice cross section of them were students or musicians – lots of genuine punters’, Jeremy reflected.
As Artistic Director, Jeremy is working closely with colleagues Percy Pursglove, Andrew Bain and John O’Gallagher. As Jeremy describes their process, he exhibits the driving forces behind the Club’s program, ‘We discuss what would be good for the community and the students’.
An on-site jazz club is an unparalleled feature of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. As well as creating a space in which home talent can be formed in the presence of local audiences, it also represents a larger ethos of Birmingham City University, of which the Conservatoire is a part.. The jazz course at the Conservatoire is not simply a place for academic education. Rather, the development of students is placed in a wider artistic context with this new club being an opportunity for the university to contribute to the local jazz scene.
Jeremy’s passion for this project is obvious upon speaking to him about the upcoming program. He is particularly animated in regards to the opportunities for a wide variety of musicians to perform at the club – from students and tutors to international names. Pianist, Composer and Birmingham Conservatoire Graduate Stella Roberts returned to her home-turf on the 8th of February to perform at Eastside Jazz Club. Jeremy was looking forward to this performance, ‘Stella graduated a couple of years ago and is doing very well. She’s a great pianist’. Walter Smith III is another highlight of the current program, enthusiastically endorsed by Jeremy, performing on the 15th of February. The Jazz Department Gala concert on the 15th of March also promises to be an evening of showcased talent.
As a tangible expression of the Conservatoire’s contribution to the wider jazz world, Jeremy is rightly proud of the Eastside Jazz Club. As Artistic Director, he has the opportunity to do what he so clearly loves; fostering the already lively music scene in Birmingham. He closes the conversation with a hearty invitation to experience Eastside Jazz Club, ‘Why don’t you come up and visit us?’. Looking at the dynamic program and community driven atmosphere of the club, this is a tempting offer.
|Jump Monk (will be appearing at Eastside onn 22 February)
Photo credit :Melody McLaren
SELECTED FORTHCOMING CONCERTS
THU 22 FEB
ARNIE SOMOGYI’S JUMP MONK
With Clark Tracey, Tony Kofi, Jeremy Price and Liam Noble
6.30pm support James Owston
7.45pm main show
FRI 23 FEB
AFRO-CUBAN JAZZ ORCHESTRA
6.30pm – support
7.45pm – main show
ON SALE SOON
Monday 9 April – Embodied Hope: Bain/Janisch/Irabagon/Colligan
Thursday 12 April Jeff Williams Lifelike: Gonçalo Marquez, John O’Gallagher, Josh Arcoleo, Kit Downes, Sam Lasserson
Monday 30 April – Eddie Henderson with Bruce Barthe, Arnie Somogyi and Stephen Keogh