Where to hear jazz in Sydney
Artist-run Venue 505 has been operating from its Cleveland Street base since 2011. Cameron Undy and Kerri Glasscock are passionately committed to providing a home for the Sydney arts community. The vibe is relaxed and down-home, with live music six nights a week and free entry most evenings. You can catch some of the best local and international artists in this room. Snacks and boozy are kept simple; pizza, pasta and a great whisky and cocktail selection and reasonable prices.
Foundry 616 is an intimate room near Central. Think traditional jazz venue/restaurant that has a bar area if you just want to watch the band and have a drink. Since September 2013 the venue has been presenting Australian and international artists. The venue also supports the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival, run by Peter Rechniewski, former artistic director and co-founder of the Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA).
This venue is part of the Seymour Centre and turns into a jazz room when Sydney Improvised Music Association (SIMA) runs its winter and summer series here. The room itself has a bit of a function room vibe, however that doesn’t matter when the room is full of eager listeners. SIMA, which has been in operation for over 30 years, delivers the goods in terms of quality music and musicians playing contemporary jazz.
Featuring live music seven nights a week and across two floors, this Marrickville venue hosts all genres of music and whilst it’s not always jazz, there’s regulars such as Sonic Mayhem Orchestra and renowned virtuoso of the electric bass, Steve Hunter. The rooms have a plush, quirky feel to them, the vibe is welcoming and cosy and there’s an eclectic grown-up vibe. Expect to pay a modest cover charge.
There was a well kept jazz secret called Colbourne Avenue in Glebe – a labour of love, where everyone volunteered their time so that the musicians could keep the door money. Sadly it closed, but due to popular audience demand the vibe lives on in the Annandale Creative Arts Centre. It’s BYO, and you’ll see well known, interstate, international and emerging musos play – but it very much depends on when you drop by. A place for serious listeners, Johnston Street Jazz is where you want to be on a Thursday night.
Jazz isn’t always on the menu, but it's worth keeping an eye on this venue with its funky décor and friendly vibe. Music is more along the world music/jazz lines. These days most of the action takes place in the Django Bar.
Upcoming jazz events in Sydney
With six decades of musical innovation across jazz, hip-hop, electro-fusion, and funk under his belt, you can expect Herbie Hancock will bring nothing less than a remarkable presence to the stage. The Chicago-born pianist and composer has an impressive history of musical accolades, winning his first Grammy in 1983, and going on to win 13 more over his career. He was a key member of the Miles Davis Quintet and has also worked alongside generations of chart-topping artists, including Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell and Kendrick Lamar. At his performance during Vivid, everyone will be looking forward to hearing groundbreaking hits from his twelfth studio album Head Hunters, Grammy Award-winning tribute album covering the work of Joni Mitchell, River: The Joni Letters, as well as his beloved early compositions like ‘Cantaloupe Island’ and ‘Watermelon Man’. This is your chance to see a legend in the flesh.
After years on the margins, American singer SZA’s career blew up in 2017 with the release of her long-awaited debut album Ctrl, which delivered modern-day R’n’B with introspective reflections and a willingness to borrow from other genres. Ctrl led to an appearance on the Black Panther soundtrack and ‘Power is Power’ – SZA’s collaboration with the Weeknd and Travis Scott, which has ended up the soundtrack for the final series of Game of Thrones. Her name is everywhere, so you’d better catch her while she’s here.