The Spin Jazz Club (@The Wheatsheaf)

Oxford's longest running Thursday night jazz club
Agharta at The Spin Jazz Club in 2018. Photo: Steve Foster


Adam Waldmann, John Law, Mark Hodgson, Corrie Dick

The Wheatsheaf
129 High Street Oxford
Thu 21st March, 8.30pm
£12, £10 (cons), £6 (students)

Luca Stoll Quartet

Jazz saxophonist
The Wheatsheaf
129 High Street Oxford
Thu 28th March, 8.30pm
£12, £10 (cons), £6 (students)

Mike Walker Band

Jazz guitarist
The Wheatsheaf
129 High Street Oxford
Thu 4th April, 8.30pm
£15, £10 (cons), £6 (students)

Damon Brown

Jazz trumpeter accompanied by The Spin Trio
The Wheatsheaf
129 High Street Oxford
Thu 11th April, 8.30pm
£12, £10 (cons), £6 (students)

December 14, 2018
Ambitious compositions, masterfully executed

Henry Spencer's Juncture - Thursday 13th Dec 2018

Downstairs at the Wheatsheaf, you know what to expect - long haired rockers, multiple piercings in places you didn’t know could even be pierced (and these are just the faces!) and the pub’s classic sticky floor. However, it’s the upstairs of the pub that is a constant surprise. Every Thursday evening, punters venturing onto the first floor will find themselves in a dingy jazz club. The décor of Parisian red chequered tablecloths and fake candles give the whole place the feel of a stage set, as if each member of the audience has unwittingly become an extra on some cheap film noir.

The Spin Jazz Club is a weekly event hosted by the Wheatsheaf, featuring some of the finest emerging talent of the genre. Tonight is the return of Henry Spencer’s Juncture. It is a particularly special event, as the charismatic (and my god the spitting image of Russell Howard!) Spencer and his band mainly use their set to play brand new compositions - 'Here' was a particular audience favourite. The beautifully original compositions are written by Spencer himself, and required him and the band to read from sheet music (something they don’t usually like to do). Using sheet music can often make a musician less free in their playing, but not so with this confident lot, who paired their very new but finely tuned set with an obvious passion for the looseness and expressiveness of the genre. This love for the music was charmingly highlighted by Spencer’s enormous smiles sporadically beaming out at the audience during particularly complicated moments in his compositions.

A quick word on the critically acclaimed band (worth noting a sometimes rotating group of musicians). Henry Spencer - multi-award-winning composer and trumpet player, on trumpet and flugelhorn; the fantastic Ant Law on electric guitar; Jason Simpson on double bass (playing the instrument so tightly you could feel him tying the compositions together); Rob Brockway displaying his technical mastery on the piano and, finally, the impressive Jay Davis on drums (his final solo saw him playing with awesome speed and accuracy).

Spencer, Simpson and Brockway studied and played together during their time at London’s Guildhall School of Music, but in fact the audience experiences the entire band collectively drawing on years of playing together during their set. The deep musical understanding between the players resounds through the interactions between their instruments.

Now, I will be the first to say that, unlike the jazz aficionados sat around me, my knowledge of the genre is lacking. But regardless, the pure ability and dexterity of the musicians was obvious to me, seen through the mastery of their instruments and the ambition in Spencer’s compositions. The Wheatsheaf, once again, has done Oxford proud.

July 6, 2006
Chris Garrick Band,
6 July 2006
If you haven’t been to the Spin, you’re missing out. Finding top quality professional musicians in the small upstairs room of a town centre pub may sound implausible, but on Thursday nights The Spin transforms the Wheatsheaf’s grimy gig venue into Oxford’s premier jazz venue.

This really has the feel of a quality club. Though everybody seems to know everyone else and the banter suggests that musicians make up a large part of the audience, the vibe still manages to be welcoming rather than exclusive. The star attraction shouts familiarly from the stage at organiser Pete Oxley, and is his own compere, in a sweet and unassuming style. It’s possible that Mr Oxley has a secret weapon in his defence (and also a potential booking tool): he is a bow maker, and makes Garrick’s. He’ll certainly need a re-hair after tonight, as the fast and furious player has been shedding like a dog in August.

The first half saw the band (bass, keys, drums and Garrick on miked-up acoustic) swooshing masterfully through a range of styles including tracks as diverse as Mercer/Schertzinger’s I Remember You and a contemplative piece written by William Walton for Shakespeare’s Henry V. Most were performed in a similar light, Brubeckian style, with lots of room for improv sections where each individual performer could shine. Everything was pleasing on the ear, though nothing stood out so much as the considerable ability of the performers. Oddly enough, the soundsystem seemed slightly unkind to the lead instrument, and the most noticeable features of the first half were the fabulous Paul Moylan (booked only 10 hours before the gig), bass, and Dave Gordon, keys. Garrick’s stage presence is unassuming, and he stood perfectly still, his playing seeming straightforward and simple, if not even a little rigid. This gave the second half even more impact, as the emergence of a little black electric violin and huge guitar effects rack began a whole new proverbial ball game.

The set had a good range of high-energy and more relaxed numbers, with a few Latin tracks for good measure, and some quirky arrangements (though this was often contained in slightly disjointed, more interesting endings stuck on the end of otherwise unremarkable yet very pleasant interpretations). I occasionally felt the ghostly absence of a vocalist, but Garrick’s snippet of Hendrix’s Red House at the end of his jaw-droppingly impressive effects and loop-laden Hendrix tribute track had me satisfied as well as belly-laughing with delight. This man truly is versatile. (One minute a koto, then a thumping looped bassline, and finally a screaming electric guitar track seared over the mix – the rest of the band stood back and let this solo piece wash over them, and I couldn’t help thinking that I’d like to see more of Garrick doing this sort of thing.) We were even treated to an action-packed version of the 5, 6, 7, 8sKill Bill Blues (‘woo hoo, woo hoo hoo…’), a rollercoaster medley of familiar snapshots that had the audience grinning and jiggling in their seats, and featured a hilarious call-and-response improv section.

The last track, Four Spirits, was dedicated to the touring musician’s way of life and acted as showcase for the individual skills of the band members. This was duly impressive, with drummer Tom Hooper getting to show off for the first time this evening with timp sticks on the floor toms. This quartet acted as a cohesive and jovially co-operative unit throughout, and even when Garrick screamed madly above them, there was no sense of any one ego being too big for the stage (or the band). It was a pleasure to witness.

Check out future gigs at the club at Next week is the fabulous saxman Mornington Crescent – woops, I mean Locket. :-)
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