The Cockpit Theatre in London has been hosting a new, monthly jazz night, hosted and (I think) curated by Jez Nelson, called Jazz in the Round – because the audience sit on all sides. A square rather than a round, but hey.
This makes it a pretty intimate venue – it seats about 200, but it feels much smaller. That said, it is a theatre rather than a club: it has a different, distinct feel. Nelson has a specific agenda, too – to mix things up. he aims for each event to have both familiar and less familiar names; he doesn’t expect everybody to like it all.
For three bands a night, he charges only £7, all of which apparently goes to the musicians. (Personally I don’t understand why they don’t set the price to £10 – I bet they’d get the same number of people paying, and the musicians would get more money. I doubt anyone would object to paying less than the price of a pint of beer more.) One of the bands is a solo artist.
Strangely, there are no encores.
By chance, I’ve reviewed both nights for the LondonJazz blog. The first evening I bumped into Sebastian, who runs LondonJazz, who couldn’t stay and asked me if I could put something together; the second, I’d been tweeting about the gig, and Sebastian again asked if I could write another review.
Being in the round means that there are always some musicians who are not facing you; which makes photography a bit of a challenge! It is hard to work out where is the best place to sit, since the different bands face different directions. Someone will always have their back to you. The bands seems to like the set up, though – it is unusual for them to have so much contact with each other and with the audience.
The first Jazz in the Round featured Blacktop – Steve Williamson on saxes, Orphy Robinson on vibes and Pat Thomas on keyboards and electroncs. Free improvisation – pretty exciting, one-off and original. Plus wacky electronic noises…
The second night had a beautiful solo set by pianist Andrew McCormack, and then the somewhat bizarre – but very exciting – Sons of Kemet, featuring Shabaka Hutchins on saxes, Oren Marshall on tuba and Seb Rochford on drums… and Tom Skinner on drums! (The first night had not one drummer; they were clearly trying to go two better.) Amazing, but pretty hard to describe music.