Club focus: the Oxford

Looking for a place to chill any given blue Monday? First things first ''jazz at the Oxford'' is a weekly club. It's not on every night. It's also that thing that was typical in gigdom of lore on the London scene, a ''back-room-in-a-pub gig'' only …

Published: 25 Nov 2021. Updated: 8 days.

Looking for a place to chill any given blue Monday?

First things first ''jazz at the Oxford'' is a weekly club. It's not on every night. It's also that thing that was typical in gigdom of lore on the London scene, a ''back-room-in-a-pub gig'' only this is a variant, an ''upstairs-in-a-pub'' gig. For many alas it's on a difficult night of the week, a Monday. But usually even on the London scene there isn't much on reliably regularly beyond Ronnie's on a Monday week in week out. So that factor gives the bands who play here an advantage, fans won't be going elsewhere if tempted by some other venue as much. The other main advantage is the Kentish Town pub's location because it's close to a tube and on a bus route. Forget about taking the car there – you won't get parked easily.

As to the feel of the place it's largely an acoustic sort of place, meaning they don't bother much or at all with microphones. The windowed upstairs room is laid out and compact enough to facilitate that. You get your drinks downstairs and bring them up so it's not ideal from a refreshment point of view for the interval. However, and more importantly, the audience is a listening lot, mostly gig-goers are fairly aged although occasionally a few younger faces are to be seen among the greybeards although the band are usually the youngest people in the room. There isn't too much talking over the band which happens at a lot of others venues unfortunately although some because of the amplification cloaking it are able to accommodate discreet nattering and impromptu table yodelling without it being too much of a factor. Not here.

Usually the bands put on are quite new on the scene or who have surfaced mainly in recent years. Last time we were in the spot for instance was to hear the up-and-coming trumpeter Alex Ridout. Sometimes more seasoned players intermingle from an older generation which is always stimulating. So all in all one of the best no-hassle grassroots venues on the north London scene putting on quality progressively-minded ''modern jazz'' (meaning: not avant, not trad, but rather generally bebop and hard bop or chamber jazz-flavoured) styles as a policy. A good place as any to ward off any old blue Monday.

Next it's flautist Gareth Lockrane, pianist Noah Stoneman, bassist Will Sach and drummer Will Cleasby – who leads the quartet – on 29 November. Tickets

Tags: Club and venue focus

Chris Laurence, Ken Wheeler: Some Gnu Ones, Jazz in Britain (EP) ****

It's uncanny how listening you can somehow see Kenny Wheeler in front of you in a way as if through a misty window he is still here. That's the power of music beyond the grave. The personality of the trumpeter's compositions are so strong and the …

Published: 24 Nov 2021. Updated: 9 days.

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It's uncanny how listening you can somehow see Kenny Wheeler in front of you in a way as if through a misty window he is still here. That's the power of music beyond the grave. The personality of the trumpeter's compositions are so strong and the atmosphere they convey even more vivid in all their bittersweet gentleness. All Kenny Wheeler compositions, the title immediately draws to mind the deliciously punning Wheeler classic album from 1976, Gnu High. Virtuoso bassist Laurence, one of the UK's greatest jazz bassists, and also known for his work in a rock setting with Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, appeared on Wheeler albums Kayak, Dream Sequence, Songs for Quintet, Six for Six and The Long Waiting. A treatment of Kayak piece 'C Man' is included on the EP. Recorded between 2020 and 2021 in Harpenden and Wood Green, Mark Knopfler band trumpeter Tom Walsh here on flugel steals the show on the shimmeringly elegiac 'Baroque Piece' along with a yearning Laurence line and mobile, telling, touch from John Parricelli. Pure poetry throughout. The only thing is it is over far too soon. If Manfred Eicher ever gets to hear this record you'd guess he'd be toying with getting Laurence, Walsh and Parricelli on board for some new project on ECM right away to build on the label's already significant Wheeler back catalogue because a full-length version is needed. And the definitive Eicher aura would add the icing on the cake however much a fantasy this thought must, at least for now, remain. SG