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St Ives Jazz Club – the last one before New York

Peter Hutchinson

St Ives Jazz Club, based at the Western Hotel in Royal Square, is one of the great award-winning jazz clubs in the country. Set up in 1998, with performances on every Tuesday since then, this wonderful club has continuously hosted the best of British, European and American jazz musicians. It has also been shortlisted twice in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards as Jazz Venue of the Year, which the Club won in 2015 when it was voted ‘best jazz club in the UK’.

But what else can you expect … well in terms of the venue, a kind of 1980’s atmospheric room with low lighting … we love it! The room itself is spilt-level, with bands setting up on the lower floor area, where you can also sit. On the upper level are cabaret-style seats around tables, and the bar (drinks at pub prices, so no hike because of it being ‘a club’). Wherever you choose to sit there are no restricted views, and in terms of sound it is acoustically pretty perfect, with amplification simply to boost vocals and the instruments that need it. There is also a beautiful (and maintained) concert grand if the gig requires. For a night out, there’s good food served until 8.45pm, so you can eat before the music starts a nine, which usually goes on until 11pm.

Over the years The Club has seen outstanding performers that you would be hard pressed to get to see at the other leading jazz venues. Cost? Crazy … with annual membership at £15 you’re into the gigs for £8, or £12 without; students (with their card) are a fiver. Without naming names, I saw one of the greatest British jazz pianists a couple of years ago for £8 when tickets the night before at a well-known London club were £115, and that would have been before you’d had something to eat and drink.

Perhaps most important of all is why musicians and bands head down so far west? For sure, they will be greeted by a regular gathering of enthusiastic lovers of jazz, who appreciate and hugely respect their talent. But something else has struck me over the years … very often during their between song ‘chat’ they all seem to mention the inspiration they get from being in St Ives; by walking in the town and across the beaches. You’ll also hear them talk about sound checks that turned into moments of extended song-writing inspired by their time down here.

Of course, it’s really the same for everyone who visits. You can’t capture it in words, but the same things that captivated Turner, who painted here from 1811, and Bernard Leach, and then into the era of Ben Nicholson, Peter Lanyon and Roger Hilton, still remain. Those things that DH Lawrence and Virginia Woolfe found as writers, remain; and as the painters continue, it seems now this select group of jazz musicians similarly are inspired by not only the coastline and countryside, but the creative atmosphere itself, and the impulse to go with its direction.

Should you be staying with us at the Sail Lofts luxury apartments in St Ives we cannot recommend highly enough a night out at the St Ives Jazz Club, which can frequently be found listed on our top picks of things to do whilst in St Ives.

St Ives Jazz Club

Every Tuesday night

Food served until: 8.45pm

Music starts: 9pm