When I ventured down to V bar near the end of last term for some ‘jazz’, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. I had in my mind something between an open mic night with trumpets for guitars, or some poor guy drearily playing piano whilst everyone else focussed on looking as trendy as possible. In reality, what’s emerged within the humble confines of V Bar is one of the best music nights I’ve experienced anywhere in York.
Tucked next to the darts board, a collection of music students and keen amateurs provide the centrepiece for a night playing everything from traditional jazz to re-works of modern classics, at a quality way above the entry price of absolutely nothing.
Curious how such a wonderful thing could have emerged so silently, I spoke to Joe McGrail, music student, pianist and organiser, to find out a little more about how it all started:
Q. So, how did all of this come about, and why were you motivated to do it?
A. I guess I put it together to give a regular performance opportunity for the university’s jazz musicians. Lots of my friends in the music department who are classical musicians or singers get to perform loads and I felt like I was missing out and wanted to create a night where the jazz musicians could play in front of an audience. There are jazz nights in town but I think they can sometimes be a bit more daunting that a university jam with your peers.
Q. What happens on each night?
A.Every Monday we start off with the house band. We normally play some jazz standards, sometimes our own compositions and when it gets a little busier we open it up for a jam where we don’t know where it’ll go! By the end of last term we were jamming a lot of hip hop and funk tunes.
Q. What defines the style of the night? How do you decide what to play?
A. I guess it depends on the musicians playing at the time and the vibe of the night. Like, take the last one of last term, people were dancing and it was crazy! Someone came up and was like “can I do Come Fly With Me” and we were all a bit like… We’ve just done [Stevie Wonder’s] Superstition and people were dancing so don’t think we can go back to straight ahead jazz now! So we kept with the funky theme.
Q.How do you react to people turning their nose up to ‘jazz’?
A. I think people might get put off by the label ‘jazz’ night because some people think they don’t like jazz but don’t really understand what jazz can be. Jazz can just be musicians improvising and playing around with the popular music of the day. We’ve jammed some Beyoncé before and we play Slum Village’s ‘Fall In Love’ (originally a hip-hop track) nearly every week. It just takes musicians with a jazz background I guess.
Those who are interested on a little light entertainment (perhaps to help recover from a heavy night at revs); this is for you. Vanbrugh Jazz happens every Monday between half past eight and a new extended finish at midnight. For more information check out tonight’s event page. It can get busy as it gets later so come prepared.