25TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
MONDAY NOVEMBER 26TH - SUNDAY 2ND DECEMBER (CLICK HERE)
25th Anniversary Full Color Guide (PDF)

CLEBRATE 25 YEARS OVER ONE WEEK of 30 BANDS! CLICK HERE FOR LISTINGS

History

The 606 Club has existed as a Jazz Club Restaurant for more than 30 years, being run by Steve Rubie since November 1976. Originally a small 30 seater basement venue at 606 Kings Road, it built up a solid reputation through the 70's and 80's amongst musicians and audiences as the Jazz hang-out for musicians to go to after they had finished playing their own gigs.

In those days the Club used to open it's doors at 11:00pm and go on until the early hours. Originally no musicians were officially booked to play, they just used to turn up and see who was around, which was usually enough for some memorable jam sessions. One draw back, of course, was that it wasn't unusual to have 3 drummers and no bass player! Around 1980 the Club applied for, and got, a liquor licence (before that it was "bring your own") and subsewed31quently a music licence, which then meant that music had to be provided every night that the Club was trading. Through most of the 80's the majority of bands employed at the Club were trios, essentially acting as resident rhythm sections for guys dropping by. As the popularity of the Club increased, particularly amongst the more "modern" players (be-bop and hard-bop, that is), so the policy of only booking British based musicians in order to support the local scene, was born, and has remained the strict policy of the Club to this day. Eventually the Club out grew it's capacity (trying to restrict entry to 30 people only on a Saturday night was becoming nigh on impossible), and so the decision was made (assisted, it has to be said, by an eviction notice, due to the re-development of the building!) in October 1987 to move the Club to it's present basement site at 90 Lots Road. LOCATION

Opening Times

www.606club.co.uk

We were one of the first Jazz Clubs to be on the Net, going online in 1997 with our own web site thanks to the technical prowess of our web master Paul Carmichael, who is also an accomplished bass player! We now have one of the biggest Jazz Club sites on the net, with over 4,000 hits a month. The site, at www.606club.co.uk , has menus, maps, details of gigs and even an interactive photo of the place. In 1998 we had our own series of 6 shows on BBC2 entitled "Jazz 606". Recorded over a period of 7 weeks the show featured primarily British based artists and was the first home grown Jazz series for 17 years. Although there was some debate over the presentation, the musical content was universally well received.

The current premises were at that time essentially just a hole in the ground, and had to be completely re-built. There was no Drainage, Gas, Electricity or Water, it all had to be provided, plus what is now the Bar area had to be dug out and the whole thing was damp proofed. After 9 months of intensive building work the new Club finally opened it's doors on 28th May 1988, and, with it's distinctive but discreet red brick arched doorway has been trading ever since. Originally we had our offices next to the main room which restricted the licence figure to around 77 people, but in 1993 we opened the current Bar area to the public, which increased our capacity to 125, and in 1996 we moved the offices upstairs and extended the room to it's present size of 180.

The values and musical policy of the old Club were transferred to the new premises, in particular the policy of only employing British based musicians and providing a platform for musicians to "hang out" and have somewhere to call their own after hours. Some changes were made though, in particular the trading hours were extended. When the Club first opened it traded from 9:30pm to 2:00am, these days we open at 7:30pm and trade until 1:00am weekdays and 2:00am weekends, midnight on a Sunday. The idea of extending the hours was to enable the Club to employ as many musicians as possible, and so the Club currently employs 2 bands a night Monday to Wednesday and one Band Thursday to Sunday, a total of 10 bands a week, around 40 a month, which makes the Club the biggest employer of British Jazz artists in the country. We currently pay out something in the region of £116,800 per year to British Jazz musicians, making the total amount paid in to the British jazz scene over the last 25 years or so in excess of £1.5million.

Restaurant

Another change that took place when we moved was the emphasis on the food. The kitchen at the old Club had been tiny, which had therefore only allowed us to produce pretty basic food. On moving we finally had a bigger (although still relatively small!) kitchen which, with the skill and enthusiasm of the Chefs that we have had at the Club, has enabled us to build a reputation as not only one of the best music venues in town, but also one of the best restaurants of it's type anywhere in the world.

Policy

As stated above the Policy of the Club is to support the local scene by only employing British based musicians. They don't have to be British, my keyboard player for many years was Italian, and singer Portuguese, but they do need to be based in this country, preferably members of the Union. At the same time we also have a policy of encouraging younger players, so to this end entrance is free to both musicians and music students. In addition we now also give one night a month to students from the Royal Academy Jazz course.

The ethos at the Club is to encourage players of all age groups to play together, and it is very common to see the older, more experienced players working with the young, up-coming, musicians.

The musical policy is also intentionally broad, I like to work on the Duke Ellington premise that there are two kinds of music, good music and bad music, and so we have trad/mainstream on the first Friday of every month, Latin music (my band!) on the last Friday, singers every Sunday.

The styles vary from Blues and R&B (Hamish Stuart, Tony O'Malley, Connie Lush, Adam Phillips etc), through Latin (Samara, Robin Jones, Balangandan, Coup D'Etat etc) to mainstream (Russ Henderson, Al Wynette etc), with the backbone of the music being the hard-bop/post-bop trios and quartets featured through the week.

We also now have a very successful Sunday lunchtime Big Band gig once a month through the winter period, currently in it's second season.

All the gigs are personally chosen and booked by me every month, all 40 of them!

Message

There is no question that we would not have survived all this time without the unreserved support of all the musicians who have performed at the Club over the years. Being a Jazz Club the gigs have never been particularly well paid, especially early on, and I am forever grateful to the many wonderful players who came down to play for a fiver, a meal and a drink! These days we pay a little better (actually more than the union rate at the weekends), but nevertheless given the towering talents who agree to play at the Club, it's still barely appropriate recompense. Similarly, the dedication of the staff, several of whom have been here virtually from the start of the new place, has allowed us to survive where others have faltered, again my heartfelt thanks go out to all of them, past and present.
We have also had a number of notable sponsors, in particular Pearl Drums, Bosendorfer Pianos (although I still had to take out a mortgage, literally, to buy the piano!),

Rose-Morris Music Stores,
Freedom Brewery, Budweiser/BB Supplies, Racing Green and Gallo Wines.

I have also received generous help and support from a number of friends over the years who have stepped in to the breach when the cash flow has been at it's most difficult, again, without that kind of unstinting support we would not have survived. The Club has never been eligible for grants or hand-outs, unlike those in the classical world, and so the loans from the Musicians Union over the years have also been invaluable, if a little sparse.

The policy of the Club can be summarised as the desire to present the best British Jazz available in the most relaxed surroundings possible with the best food we are able to produce, at an affordable price.

Celebrations

The intention is to celebrate the 25th Anniversary with a week's worth of music featuring as many of the Bands as possible who have performed over the years at the Club. The festival will last from Monday 26th November through to Sunday 2nd December and will involve up to 5 bands a night playing each night of that week. The idea is to put on around 25/30 British bands in seven days, making it one of the biggest Club based festivals of it's kind in the country. The festival will end on the Sunday with a day's worth of music, starting with the 606 Club Big Band on Sunday Lunchtime, and then stretching through to my band Samara performing at around 12:30am for dancing and general festivities! We are, incidentally, still looking for sponsors!


Questions and Answers

Q: How do I feel after 25 years at the Club, and how do I view the scene?

A: I feel pleased that, along with the other Clubs on the scene, most notably Ronnie Scott's, The Vortex and the Pizzas, "On The Park" and Dean Street, that we have done something to further the appreciation of the music with the general public. I have always said that the Club is a great place for "beginners", our relaxed policies mean, I hope, that people can come down and appreciate the music without feeling threatened or awkward. Over the years numerous people have said to me that they didn't think they liked Jazz until they came to the Club. That always feels good. It's also been nice to see some really talented younger players come up through the ranks to establish themselves as world class players. Musicians such as the Arguelles brothers, the Stacey brothers, Robin Aspland, Mornington Lockett, Jason Rebello and Tim Garland to name just a few, spring to mind. On a personal level I feel fortunate that I enjoy my job, although the financial stress, even after 25 years, is ever present and does take some of the shine off what is otherwise a great way to spend a day. I have to say that Pete King at Ronnie's, who has now been doing this for more than 40 years, has my undying admiration.

As far as the scene is concerned, I would say that it is probably stronger now than I can remember. The music colleges are producing some remarkable players, particularly pianists at the moment. I spend quite a lot of time in New York, and I can honestly say that London is not that far behind as far as standard is concerned, and is, to my mind, outside of New York, the strongest city in the world for Jazz. Which makes the abysmal lack of support for the music in the media and amongst the grant bodies even more frustrating and upsetting.

The media to my mind, with some notable exceptions, suffer from a laziness and lack of interest and commitment to the local scene that is almost criminal. This is not helped by probably the most powerful medium in the country, television, having a virtual ban on any Jazz output. In my case we did manage a small series, thanks to the dedication of a notable few, most notably Donal Gallagher and Avril McRory and her team, but it was short lived and cancelled before it had ever been given time or space to develop. That was in 1998. It was the first British based jazz series for 17 years, and there has been nothing since. My experience with that series in many ways sums up the general attitude in this country to Jazz. On the one hand the Arts Council were busy saying that they couldn't fund Jazz to any great degree because it was a "commercial" music, and therefore largely outside their remit, and on the other BBC Television adopting the attitude that Jazz is such a minority interest that it's not worth bothering with! A classic Catch 22 situation!

At the same time all this was going on the Opera House ended up with £51 million pounds of government money and I was trying to raise £5,000 to keep the Club running. But then Jazz, unlike Opera, is not the plaything of the influential upper-middle class, so plenty of money for opera, ludicrous fees for Classical artists, and nothing for Jazz. It is, I have to say, frustrating, not so much on the financial level, we survive some way or other anyway, but for the fact that we have some absolutely amazing world class players such as John Taylor, Pete King. Bobby Wellins etc. who receive no attention to speak of at all. Much as I love working with the numerous talented artists who appear at the Club, I do get frustrated by the pride that the British establishment seems to take in it's utter ignorance of the music and musicians who perform it. I have to say, after 25 years that aspect has not got any better. On the other hand, BBC Radio, and in particular producer Terry Carter, do a great job of supporting the music. As the recent BBC Jazz Awards demonstrated they are both informed and enthusiastic. And of course there's Jazz FM, whose output is variable, but who do manage to reach a significant audience. If radio can present the music so well, and find an audience, why can't anyone else?

Q: What do I feel the Club has achieved, and what would I like to achieve in the future?

A: In many ways I'm probably not so well placed to answer that question as those outside looking in. I think, from my point of view, the major achievement is quite simply that we have survived this long! From a musical point of view I like to think that we have provided a platform for players to feel relaxed enough to experiment, improve and hone their skills, which in turn has perhaps helped improve the standard on the scene in some small way. And from an audience point of view, I hope that over the years we have introduced new people to the music, and in that way done our bit to help the whole scene survive. I'm always a little wary of these questions because it's important to me that the scene is seen as a whole. It's not just us, Ronnie's, the Vortex and all the other Clubs also do their bit, and we are just a part of that overall picture.

I would, of course, like to think it's a significant part, but that, I feel, is really for someone else to say. I would hope that one thing we have achieved is to take the "mystique" away from the music. I have never subscribed to the theory that any musical style should be exclusive, and it is important to me that Jazz is accessible to as many people as possible. As far as the future is concerned it's pretty much steady as she goes, certainly for the moment. It would be nice to be financially secure(!), and I would love to have another stab at a TV series.

We learnt a huge amount making "Jazz 606" and it would be nice to be able to put some of that in to practice. We have a recording facility at the Club now and we are hoping to have streaming audio of live gigs at the Club available early next year. Similarly, we are also hoping to set up our own CD label some time in the New Year. And there is the possibility that we may expand a little. We are tentatively talking to people, but certainly nothing concrete as yet. It would be nice to break down the media barrier to the music, and to put Jazz in to as many venues as we can via our Agency arm. We will see!

Q: What are my thoughts for the future?

A: More great music, more wonderful food and plenty of wine!

STEVE RUBIE steve@606club.co.uk

Look, no scarf!!

25th Anniversary Full Color Guide (PDF)


ROZ, JANET, JP, PHILLIPPE, HELIO, PHILLIP, HISHAM, WOJCIECH, JASON, FERGUS, STEPH, ESTHER, LOUISE, SIOBHAN, NORMAN, GORDON, ELSA, CARRON, SAM, ZOE AND MARTIN.


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