After receiving the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2004 and later being named a European Capital of Culture in 2008; Liverpool’s new certification as the 2016 UNESCO City of Music comes as no surprise to those familiar with the city’s musical heritage. Whilst Liverpool’s contemporary music scene is characterised by an eclectic melting pot of genres – there is one that continues to unite and divide in equal measure. Jazz.
Jazz music has earned its reputation over time as an outdated genre; consumed by few and understood by fewer. Those who like it, love it and those who don’t.. well, we don’t talk about them. An essential feature of Liverpool’s music scene, Jazz brings the audience and the musicians, as well as the amateurs and the professionals, together through a shared appreciation for an under-appreciated genre. So for those who like jazz, here’s a jazz article commencing a brand spanking new series exploring the rich but hidden fantasia of this mysterious genre in Liverpool.
The ParrJazz night at Frederiks Bar & Kitchen on Hope Street could be mistaken for an export of Studio 2 Parr Street, another creative hub that caters for all sorts of artistic performances. But if ever an interference were present, ParrJazz has more than overcome it and stands as a consistent source of motivation for amateur musicians and an important social resource for the professionals. For such an impromptu genre, Parr Jazz at Fredericks begins promptly at 20:30 with the first half (20:30 to 22:00) attracting the attention of such names as Brooklyn based fusion collective – Snarky Puppy. The performances are always of a high standard, culminating slick jazz rhythms from expert brush drummers with unexpected melodic improvisations stemmed from well known jazz standards. The second half (22:30 to 00:00) then allows international performers and amateur musicians alike to jam within the tight-knit network of consummate professional musicians that is the house band. Its claim to be “Liverpool’s best established jazz night” could well be considered accurate. The sophisticated communal lounge aesthetic aids in the characterisation of the ParrJazz night as the essential introduction to the jazz music scene in Liverpool.
Second up, The Caledonia. Travel through this warm and humble drinking establishment on Catherine Street whichever evening of the week you like and more often than not there will be some variation of live music. Seen as “the people’s pub,” The Cali sustains the area’s tradition for ‘good time’ live music through an environment that finds the veterans of the roots music scene in harmonic collaboration with the new generation of jazz musicians. Be sure to catch a Classic performance from local act The Weave who also cook up the finest in latin jazz fusion at the Grapes every Sunday, mere streets away. The Cali’s invaluable place in the local music scene is founded on something more substantial than the velvet stools and living room atmosphere – once again the collaborative attitude of these musical communities comes across in more than just the music. Our more selective listeners should check out the Martin Smith Jazz Quartet or The Loose Moose String Band on alternate Sunday afternoons, but for those who want to see the foundations of our diverse music scene and embrace something new, it’ll be Fridays at 9pm for you.
Built in the 1700s, the Grapes on Roscoe Street is one of oldest buildings in Liverpool, but remains the centre of attention for latin fusion music lovers. This venue can be seen as something of a refuge for the multicultural audience that Liverpool houses and means so much to me, taking a role in guiding much of my time through Liverpool. When writing this, I was unsure as to whether or not to feature the Grapes in this article however, after many a ponder, this couldn’t count as an introduction to jazz if it failed to acknowledge the countless unforgettable Sundays I have experienced there. Without a doubt, one of the worst kept secrets in Liverpool, the Grapes demonstrates (for me at least) the best of the Liverpool jazz scene with musicians combining samba, salsa, rumba and jazz leaving bohemian music lovers of Liverpool returning week on week to listen, interact and unwind with those that stand beside them attending for the exact same reason. So although I can’t describe it.. 9pm on Sunday. You’ll love it. See you there.