A STIRRUP CUP AND TALLY HO FOR THE JAZZ MEET
A nod this week to a venerable jazz pub on the South coast known affectionately in the trade as the Hairy Hounds.
Tucked away in a side street (Portland Road) in central Worthing, the Hare & Hounds is a picturesque building original built as two fisherman’s cottages which have been knocked into one and extended at the back. It first opened as a traditional ale house as long ago as 1814! And it continues as a pub to this day.
The Tuesday night jazz sessions are a pretty venerable tradition as well. They have been running now for 24 years and, as for as I know, entry has always been free.
There is no piano so pianists bring the various sounds of their respective keyboards. The saxophone or brass front line is usually heard to best effect without amplification (a microphone just for announcements) and without the noisy and chilly air-conditioning fan which is positioned just over the soloist. In fact, trumpeter Andy Urquart told me that the air conditioning actually interfered with the constancy of his instrument’s pitch!
Electric piano and bass are of course amplified. Drummers need to watch the dynamics and only open up when musical climaxes require. With the lush carpeting and low ceiling, the sound can be quite dry.
Booking used to be done by promoters like the Welshman Mike Andrews who now spends half the year in the States with his American wife Debbie. These days it is in the hands of musicians themselves (currently Worthing veteran bassist Godfrey Shepherd, Brighton jazz “capo” Terry Seabrook and pianist Simon Robinson).
I have been in and out of favour over the years depending on who is booking (!) but after a bit of a drought have found myself doing three gigs in succession. ………
I have added to the music page this week some examples of particularly enjoyable evenings I have been involved with at the Hare & Hounds but, before I mention any musicians, let me try to give you a picture of the place itself and its atmosphere.
When you come in the (only) door, the band will be facing you at the end of the room. But if you look to your right, you will find the bar is horse-shoe shaped and there are two other sides to it with a lot of space plus an outside covered smoking area.
So, for a large pub undivided into bars, the band is only visible to those at the tables in front of it or standing at the bar beside it. The rest of the punters can only hear the music. And some of them ignore it and babble happily away. The level of background noise can be off-putting when tunes are to be announced but it all seems to work quite happily!
I’d like to mention a few familiar and faithful faces who are The Hare to me, hopefully without offending those whose names I’ve forgotten. (For a Priest of nearly 20 years standing, I have an appalling memory for names.)
· Good old Bob Spanswick (of Phil Seamen-chauffeuring fame) who used to do the announcements and contribute huge cuddly toys to the Raffle,
· Bob’s mercurial mate Bill (sadly departed) who used to prop up the bar next to the band in his resplendent leather loafers and tap out the time
· “The Colonel” (as Bob dubbed him) who used to puff his pipe all night and give his sometimes unflattering opinion on my various cymbals. Now long gone.
· Dear Paul Burnett-James, who passed away fairly recently, multi-percussionist (with his own band) and enthusiast. If suitably excited by the music, Paul would produce some claves or such and start accompanying us. He always came bearing gifts – a recent Down Beat mag or a DVD of a gig he’d videoed.
· Norvic, genial regular who used to run a fine pub himself in London. Norvic is the most generous buyer of drinks for band and friends I have ever been fortunate enough to know!
· Robin who does the sound, John of the spectacular waistcoats, Sabini who now announces, Tony the previous landlord who was a fan and, as I said, many others whose names escape me………….
All these friends plus a free first drink, probably refreshed by Norvik in the interval, a reasonable fee and the company of musicians over the years of the calibre of Bobby Wellins, Don Weller, Danny Moss, Liane Carroll, Tony Kofi, Simon Spillett, Simon Savage, Dick Pearce, Geoff Simkins, Jim Hart, Ben Clatworthy, Mornington Lockett, Terry Smith, Dave Quincey etc etc
Not bad, eh? LONG LIVE THE HARE & HOUNDS!