Brighton, more than our university community gives it credit for, has its kind of town and gown divide.
On campus, most use the internet to figure out what’s new in the city. For locals, we are forever liminal. Students come and go, but some of our city slickers are here to stay. Nowhere is this more evident than in our city’s live jazz scene. Venues change and new managers emerge, but the rotating cadre of musicians has an endearing permanence. Because so much of the scene goes unadvertised, we have compiled a list of venues and pubs that host weekly jazz nights to aid you in finding musical bliss.
The Paris House is a local favourite just past Waitrose on Western Road and a stone’s throw from The Old Market. Art Deco furnishings, French flags, and petite wooden tables provide a fitting setting for one of the city’s most active jazz venues. While their wine and cheese boards are a bit pricey, you can enjoy four jazz performances a week. Monday afternoon (2-4:30PM) is full of erudite locals who serve as our city’s de facto historians; Monday evenings (7:30-10:00PM) attract a similar crowd; Wednesday nights are comparatively less busy. Prospective viewers are advised to book tables for Saturday afternoons (4-7PM) as the crowd of eager attendees sometimes overflows into the street. The room is alive with good music and friendly conversation, and buzzing every time.
Tuesday evenings at The Mesmerist are your pick for the livelier option of the week. Accompanied by 6.7% lager and vaguely kooky decor, the jazz is a distinctly more contemporary flavour. Often shifting towards the pop-ier or electronic end of the spectrum – some respite from Badger journo’s usual bop dogma – the venue brings in musicians from around the country, outside the regular Brighton circuit. All in all, it makes for a modern, metropolitan and diverse feel – definitely a night that stands out from the rest of the week.
Hanoverians and Elm Grove regulars can find respite at The Independent on Queens Park Road, one of the city’s only pubs that remains free from both corporate control and exclusive ties to a single brewery. Every Wednesday from 8PM onwards, guitarist Paul Richards and a guest player treat audiences to a variety of styles from the jazz canon. The acoustics are excellent for the two-piece performances on offer and the pub provides excellent takes on established classics. For those looking to make a meal of the occasion, you can take a pick from an excellent menu of traditional dishes and more stylised grub (if you have the budget for it). A more laid-back affair, the pub’s simple decor and varied crowd provide a perfect tonic for the hump day blues.
The Brighton jazz circle is not just limited to its pubs. The Verdict, widely renowned across the country and recently included in The Guardians list of the top 10 jazz clubs in Europe, is an instant favourite from the moment you enter. With a simple and quaint cafe on the ground floor as you enter, and an intimate, purpose-built basement decorated with paintings and images of jazz legends is teeming with atmosphere. Showcasing a variety of performers and artists, often hosting bigger and more widely recognised performers than the localised pubs mentioned prior, it represents the closest thing to what could be called a ‘classic jazz club’. Being a dedicated jazz venue, and due to its popularity, tickets for performances priced around the £10 mark are usually necessary, with most performances happening on the weekend, with the odd showing on a Thursday. Despite the cost, when you take your seats for the performance, it is hard not to be swept away by the almost magical intimacy it creates amongst the cross-generation, jazz-adoring crowd. The Verdict is the real deal.
The Hand in Hand, a personal favourite, is a relaxed, corner pub in Kemptown with a name for itself in the area for its local craft beers on draught and its own in-house brewery. A bustling and bohemian atmosphere, friendly staff and a couple frequently attending dogs – very cute I can confirm – attract typically large crowds of both jazz-loving regulars and local newcomers looking for an in into the scene. Every Sunday from 8PM onwards a variety of jazz musicians with a few frequently returning players treat the tightly packed-in crowd to a series of grooves, both bopping and laid-back – it is one of the best on the circuit. There is something to be said about the communal energy in this place, and the ease at which you can see hours of conversation, music, and hearty drinking go by in an instant. The Hand in Hand is a real treat, and makes for both the perfect end to a long week andbest start to the new one.