Scarborough Jazz Club celebrates 30 years with party at Vitadome on Saturday June 14

Mike Gordon of Scarborough Jazz Club
Mike Gordon of Scarborough Jazz Club

For one night a week, 50 weeks of the year for 30 years there has been a little slice of musical heaven for jazz lovers in the town.

Scarborough Jazz Club is 30 years old this month – and it is celebrating with a party at the Spa Vitadome on Saturday june 14. The headliner is one of th e club favourite, Zoe Gilby.

From its early days at the Stage Door, through its days at the Mermaid on the seafront, to the Cask, Scholars and back to the Cask, the sessions have played host to some of the biggest names in jazz.

Clare Teal, Elaine Delmar, Clark Tracey, Jack Parnell, Anita Wardell, Alan Barnes ... the list is long and prestigious.

And if one of its founders – Mike Gordon – has anything to do with it the role call will continue to grow.

The club started at the then Stage Door when Mike and fellow musicians drummer Dennis Hitch, bass player Bob Walker and guitarist the late Roy Elsey wanted somewhere to play. They then started to ask along guest musicians,

When celebrating 25 years Mike said: “It’s easy to make a million pounds running a jazz club, Ronnie Scott used to quip. You start with two million.

“Although it was a joke it contains an element of truth.

“I remember the nerve-wracking early days of the jazz club paid nights. Personal cheque book at hand I would wait to see whether the door takings would cover the band fee.”

Arts Council and Scarborough Council funding eased those fears – but budget cuts have seen those grants withdrawn and the jazz club looks to sponsors, including Hunmanby-based Wold Top Brewery, the Cask and Sheffield International Venues, which runs the Spa, to help with costs.

Jazz Action’s Adrian Tilbrook was the development officer who helped the club secure the original Arts Council cash.

“It was some time in the late 1980s when I arrived at the Mermaid on a cold and windswept Scarborough seafront with the intention of finding out for myself what many musicians and jazz fans had been telling me about,” said Adrian. “I found myself in what can only be described as a jazz oasis.”

This oasis continues to meet at the Cask each Wednesday with the Mike Gordon Trio – now Mike, Bob and drummer Mike Hoggard – still playing.

“Our policy is to encourage young bands and to encourage sitters-in,” said Mike. “Sitters-in, be it pianists, drummers or trumpeters, are part of the nature of jazz.

“We also mix the tried and tested with the new,” he said.

A committee of nine now help with the running of Scarborough Jazz Club and Mike still books the acts.

“My experience as a jazz pianist was sporadic before the regular weekly gigs started,” said Mike, who had a long career in education before retiring.

“It’s been a long learning curve playing at Scarborough Jazz and in the early years quite frightening as you could never be sure if front-liners would arrive with music or chords or just expect you to follow them when they launched into a number.

“It’s been a privilege to play with such talented and personable people who have been such an important part of my own musical development.”

Mike and his wife Marion, who also has played a huge role in the success of the club, are also proud of the fact that there has not been a note of trouble at any of the gigs – 1,500 and counting – in those 30 years.

30-year celebration

Vocalist Zoe Gilby and her band are at the Vitadome, part of the Spa Complex, Scarborough, on Saturday June 14.

There will be no charge for the band. There will be a buffet at £15 a head. Tickets available at the Cask and from Sarah Dyson. Text her at 07411 222973.