Oxford University Jazz Society

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Logo of the Oxford University Jazz Society

The Oxford University Jazz Society, also known as JazzSoc, is the focus of jazz music at the University of Oxford, England.[1] Formerly known as the Oxford University Jazz Club, the society now provides the main arena for student players to interact musically, whilst also encouraging a non-student contingent.


The music critic Peter Gammond (born 1925) was involved with the band that formed the original Oxford University Jazz Club.[2] The conductor, composer, and pianist Samuel Hogarth has studied the early history of the Club.[3]

In 1951, the Club held meetings in St Michael's Hall every Saturday at 8pm.[citation needed] This consisted of two sessions of live Jazz presented by the Club's musicians, a record interlude, and often a recital by a guest soloist. In 1953, the club started to hold its meetings on alternate Fridays in the Green Room of the Kemp Restaurant where the Club's resident band would perform. The writer and documentary maker Tony Cash played clarinet and saxophone in the Club's band and became its President during the 1950s.[4]

In the 1960s, there were two different jazz clubs at the University: the larger Oxford University Jazz Club, which met at the Carfax Assembly Rooms and had dancing, and the OU Modern Jazz Club which met in seated venues at the Wheatsheaf Inn on the High Street,[5] founded by the saxophonist, clarinetist and composer Bill Ashton (born 1936).[6][7]

The columnist and bass player Miles Kington, then a trombonist, was a musical organiser of the Modern Jazz Club in Trinity Term 1962.[8] He refused membership of the Club to Nigel Tully, founder of the Dark Blues band,[9] because of his love of Buddy Holly's music.[10] Performers in the Michaelmas Term 1962 included Dickie Hawdon(trumpet), Alan and Jimmy Skidmore, and the Fat John Band.[11]

In 1963, the OU Jazz Club started the Big Night, initiated by Marcus Wigan on the OU Jazz Club Committee, and hired the entire Johnny Dankworth Big Band[12]for what was a significant financial risk, but in the end turned out to be a successful event.[citation needed] The controlled capacity of the Carfax Assembly Rooms was strictly observed, and counters were allocated to check people in and out of the dance and performance hall itself during the evening to maintain these numbers. To the regret of the organisers, with a good profit in a queue extending well back through Carfax, the University Proctors arrived and stopped any more tickets being sold... nevertheless, the night was a financial success and became an annual institution for as long as the OU Jazz Club continued.This first Big Night was held on 4 February 1963. Shortly after Marcus Wigan presented a large cheque for the Big Night, John Dankworth gave a talk to the very different Modern Jazz Club (where Wigan was also on the Committee): the Pat Crumly Quartet, the Ronnie Ross plus Trio and Art Themen plus the Pat Crumly Quartet all presented.[13]

In the 1970s, the OU Jazz Club organized weekly gigs in the first floor of the former Roebuck public house in Market Street, central Oxford,[14] presenting well-known British jazz musicians such as Lol Coxhill, Harry Beckett, Alan Skidmore, Don Rendell, Art Themen, Kenny Wheeler and Barbara Thompson as well as Oxford-based jazz bands including Pat Crumly's 'Edge' and the Oxcentrics.[citation needed]

After a period of inactivity in the 1980s, in 1994, the OU Modern Jazz Club was reformed as the Jazz Society and is now colloquially known as "JazzSoc".[15] Between 1994 and 1997, it hosted a weekly jam session at Po Na Na on St Giles'; from 1997 to 2004 the session was once again at the Wheatsheaf pub on the High Street, where the jam session regularly attracted an audience of up to 100 students.

In 2004, JazzSoc returned to its original home at the Roebuck, known until 2006 as the 'Market Tavern' (after then it was transformed into a 'Wagamama' restaurant). From 2006 until 2008, JazzSoc took place at the 'Blue Bar' in the cellar of the Cock and Camel pub on George Street. This has also since transformed into a restaurant and is now owned by Jamie Oliver. In 2008, the society briefly held its jams at the Purple Turtle bar, before having no fixed venue for a short period during which the jams were held in various college bars on various days, depending on availability. At the end of 2008 the jam eventually settled at the 'Thirst Lodge', before another change in 2009 to Bar Copa in George Street.[16] During this period the weekly event consisted of a set performed by a house band of student musicians before opening the stage for a jam. However, once a term JazzSoc presented a 'spectacular' featuring an internationally renowned jazz act, playing either with their own band or with a local rhythm section. Past spectaculars featured Nigel Hitchcock, Soweto Kinch, Julian Arguelles, and Jim Mullen.

As of October 2013, the jam ran every Tuesday night at The Mad Hatter.[citation needed] At this time JazzSoc began to host professional acts several times a term, ending the termly 'spectacular' trend. In addition, student bands hosting the jam began to more often be established student ensembles rather than a house band.


JazzSoc runs a weekly jam currently[when?] held on Tuesday nights from 8.30pm at The Mad Hatter on Iffley Road, Oxford.[17] The jam typically opens with a house band set featuring either an up-and-coming jazz ensemble, student or otherwise, or a more widely renowned professional artist. The floor is then opened to everyone and anyone with a desire to jam.

Notable performances have included Escape Hatch (Ivo Neame, Andrea Di Biase, Dave Hamblett), Adam Waldmann (of MOBO winning Kairos 4tet), Gareth Lockrane, David Newton, Tina May, the BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year 2014 winner Alex Bone,[citation needed] and Nigel Price.[18]

JazzSoc primarily sends information about its events to its members via its Facebook page "JazzSoc - Oxford University"[19] and its mailing list, hosted by the Oxford University IT services.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Oxford University Jazz Society". Oxford University Students' Union. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Gammond, Peter (1971). One Man's Music. Wolfe. p. 57. 
  3. ^ Hogarth, Samuel. "About". Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  4. ^ "Tony Cash". UK: St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  5. ^ "The debates that, y'know, drive me mad". The Daily Telegraph. 30 November 2004. 
  6. ^ Chilton, John, ed. (2004). "Ashton, 'Bill' William Michael Allingham". Who's Who of British Jazz (2nd ed.). Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 978-0826423894. 
  7. ^ Gregory, Andy, ed. (2002). The International Who's Who in Popular Music 2002. Psychology Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-1857431612. 
  8. ^ OU Modern Jazz Club Membership Card for Trinity Term 1963, UK: Oxford University, 1963 
  9. ^ "Dark Blues Management". Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  10. ^ "Party Planning". Country Life. UK. 7 February 2007. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  11. ^ OU Modern Jazz Club Membership Card for Michaelmas Term 1962, UK: Oxford University, 1962 
  12. ^ Wigan, Marcus. "Oxford University Jazz Club". Community roles. www.wigan.com. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  13. ^ OU Modern Jazz Club Membership Card for the Hilary Term 1963, UK: Oxford University, 1963 
  14. ^ Nicholson, Robert (1979). The Shell Weekend Guide to London and the South-East. R. Nicholson. p. 160. ISBN 978-0905522128. 
  15. ^ "JazzSoc". UK: Oxford University. 
  16. ^ "Bar Copa". Oxford, UK. 
  17. ^ "Oxford University Jazz Society". groupspaces.com. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  18. ^ Lindsay, Bruce. "Preview: Nigel Price hits the road". Jazz Journal. UK. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 
  19. ^ Oxford University Jazz Society on Facebook
  20. ^ "Oxford University Jazz Society". UK: Oxford University. Retrieved 28 January 2017. 


External links[edit]