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
Sydney’s live music scene has a little extra pep thanks to Kittyhawk’s decision to start hosting jazz and swing every week. Every Thursday and Saturday you’ll be able to see some of Australia’s best bands and vocalists on stage – past performers include Kate Wadey, the Corridors, the Finer Cuts, the Cope Street Parade and Adam Pringle. The Liberation Day-themed bar’s old-world vibe is a pitch-perfect backdrop for jazz and, as a bonus, they mix some seriously good cocktails here. Best of all, it’s completely free, so all you need to do is turn up, snag a seat as close to the stage as you can, and order a rum and rye Old Fashioned as you wait for the sweet tunes to begin.
Sydney Festival is running a series of musical performances hosted in, and inspired by, Australian modernist architect Harry Seidler. You can hear Seattle cellist Lori Goldston fill the corners of Seidler Penthouse; listen on as Australian pianist Elena Kats-Chernin plays within the confines of Harry and Penelope Seidler House; or submerge yourself in the swimming pool at Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre to let Los Angeles harpist Mary Lattimore’s music wash over you. There’s also a special double-bill that begins at Rose Seidler House, where you can enjoy jazz and experimental electronic music from polymath percussionist, producer and composer Laurence Pike before walking over to nearby Julian Rose House to listen to Californian musician Chuck Johnson fuse minimalist composition with American gospel. See the ‘Dates & Times’ tab for details of each of the four events taking place in January.
This Compton-born, postmodern bluesman has garnered a strong reputation among his American rock, country and folk brothers and sisters since he started strumming for the big time in 1994. In less than 30 years, Keb’ Mo’ (aka Kevin Roosevelt Moore) has produce 14 albums, won four Grammy awards and received another 11 nominations. The singer-songwriter and guitarist will visit Sydney on April 16, 2019 at the Factory Theatre for a solo performance. This will mark his third stop on a national tour before his Byron Bay Bluesfest appearance, where he’ll continue to celebrate the festival’s 30th anniversary. Look out for early hits like ‘She Just Wants to Dance’ and more recent creations from his collaborative album TajMo, which he produced in 2017 with multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Taj Mahal, who’s known off-stage as Henry Fredericks. Keb' Mo' now hails from Nashville, where he’s cultivated a strong following for his American roots music. His open-hearted sound is influenced by many eras of rock, jazz, country and pop, and he has collaborated with a multitude of artists across these genres. Now 66 years of age, Keb' Mo' is also known for a considered political and social stand, actively supporting initiatives like Vote for Change and the No Nukes Group while also tutoring young aspiring musicians, and once performing in the White House for former US president Barack Obama.
Before she brings her ethereal R’n’B to Bluesfest in 2019, Meshell Ndegeocello will share an intimate performance with Sydney at the Factory Theatre on Saturday, April 20. The master vocalist, songwriter, rapper and talented multi-instrumentalist, Ndegeocello will be performing tracks from her 2018 release Ventriloquism, all the way back to her landmark neo-soul album Plantation Lullabies, which debuted in 1993. As a key proponent for this collaborative genre, Ndegeocello’s songs are characterised by the diverse influences of neo-soul. In her majestic stage performance, you’ll hear elements of soul, contemporary R’n’B, jazz, funk, hip-hop, African roots and even touches of electronic and pop music. This Bluesfest sideshow from the ten-time Grammy nominee is set to be an impressive performance. Those who have followed her work over the last 25 years can look out for old favourites like ‘I’m Digging You (Like an Old Soul Record)’ and ‘Step Into the Projects’ along with early hits which explore Ndegeocello’s experiences as an African American, gender and race relations, and her sexuality. Her most recent album, Ventriloquism, reflects on the era of Ndegeocello’s popularisation, covering hit tracks recorded in the ’80s and ’90s. We're looking forward to hearing her renditions of pop and R’n’B classics like ‘I Wonder If I Take You Home’ originally recorded by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, TLC’s ‘Waterfalls’ and Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’.
Ahead of their 2019 Bluesfest appearance, this joyful jazz quintet will grace the stage of the Oxford Art Factory with southern soul classics and their exciting new two-parter studio album Call It Home: Vol 1 & 2. While you might expect a traditional set from a brass-heavy group with New Orleans jazz influences, experiencing the California Honeydrops live is more like a party than a performance. Expect these energetic fellas to be jumping off the stage and getting groovy with the audience. The band’s ten-year anniversary will give them more reason to celebrate, as they perform smoothly-layered songs like ‘Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You’ and ‘Like You Mean It’, led by multi-instrumentalist Lech Wierzynski. This isn’t the first time they’ll visit the muddy halls of Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, and they’ve come a long way from busking in Oakland, California to supporting influential blues, R’n’B and jazz artists like Bonnie Raitt, BB King and Allen Toussaint. Watch them as they keep rising on April 25, 2019 before they kick-on to the 30th instalment of Bluesfest.