We have been running as a club for almost ten years. Anyone with infinite energy and lots of time that wishes to type in the information from the first few years will be greeted with open arms and a free gig or two.
Arguably the best modern jazz venue, not just in East Anglia but anywhere outside London, Jazz at the Fleece is a known and respected name in the jazz world, presenting not only the very best British artists but also many touring Americans and Europeans.
The club was started in February 1993 when it took over a gig that had been booked to appear at a venue that suddenly stopped promoting jazz after a change of landlord.
The club is situated in the function room of The Fleece, a beautiful timbered pub in an historic medieval village deep into rural Suffolk.
Jazz at the Fleece is independent, non profit making and run voluntarily by committee. It is also a non smoking venue with a whole pub under it and courtyard at the back for smokers.
From March 1993 there has been jazz every Friday night except when Christmas or New Year’s Eve had the nerve to coincide.
There were 5 original committee members who bravely got together to put on that first February gig and this became 6 before the 2nd gig in March and shortly after, 7 when Carole joined. There have been changes of personnel over the years, just 3 of the original 7 remain and we total 8 altogether. We boast an in-house designer Alan Sturges, our programmes and posters are the envy of all; plus he is our chief sound engineer. Nick Rabett is a brilliant photographer, many more of his pictures will adorn our walls after our planned redecoration and he also looks after our "Megastore" (the table with the CD's for sale!) Dave Lyons, a university lecturer who specialises in computer skills has designed and maintains our excellent web site, runs the mailing list, and is also 2 IC sound. David Gasson, our treasurer has done the job since day one (even through his spell as chairman!) and deals with ticket reservations. Liz Rabett has the unenviable task of dealing with the musicians we want to book, juggling the programme and preparing the contracts (some of which are even returned!) Carole Burgess, our jazz singer operates the door, assists with ticket reservations and is the best looking bouncer in the biz. Alan Crumpton (aka "Crumpers"our journalist, has worked hard over the years to raise our profile and does a great job for jazz in the region. And there is me, Michael Burgess, editor, announcements, rafflemeister, rigger, No. 3 sound, and trouble shooter/maker (take your pick!)
I must not of course forget to mention the other 4 original committee members who between them put in so many years of service. John Roe and Donald Muir who are both still regular and welcome visitors and Peter Hasler and Steve Robbins still equally welcome, who we still see from time to time.
The club has an excellent rep with all the musicians who appear and many have said that it is their favourite venue. This is due not only to the fact that we treat them well but also because our audience actually listens. We do organise coffee and sandwiches at the end of every gig and this may be another factor!
Most of the time things go pretty smoothly but over the years we have a few dramas. No names no pack drill as they say but drummers have been known to feature. One of their breed was cruising happily on the high seas while at 8.30pm we were scanning our local horizon for a sighting. Another arrived a little late, about half way through the first set actually and assembled his kit as the rest of the band carried on. When he eventually joined in he got a huge round of applause for his brilliant and virtually silent, assembly skills. A pianist stopped for petrol and managed to drop his keys down a drain. He arrived half way through the second set on the back of an RAC tow truck. A duo guitar gig became a solo when half of it was soaking up the sun on some exotic beach. A double bass player's car caught fire and was towed away with his instrument still inside. Lennie Bush, the veteran bassist who lives locally came to the rescue and kindly loaned us his instrument. My best memory, though, is Ken Peplowski arriving late, the rhythm section having already launched into the first number and joining them, giving the impression that they had been playing together for years when in fact he had never met them before! Wonderful.
We do not have the space to list all the great musicians we have
had the pleasure of presenting over the years but I can't resist a
bit of name dropping so here are a few: Stan Tracey, Peter King,
Andy Shepherd, John Dankworth, Martin Taylor, Dave Newton, Alan Barnes,
Ian Shaw, Claire Martin, Bobby Wellins, Jim Mullen, John Etheridge,
Martin Drew, Tina May, Barbara Thompson, Bill Berry, Mick Hanson,
Ken Peplowski, Scott Hamilton, Gordon Beck, Stacey Kent,
Elaine Delmar, Steve Melling, Dave Green, Mornington Lockett
and two people the jazz world recently said goodbye to
the ever popular and much loved Spike Robinson and the wonderful Marion Montgomery who made just one very memorable Fleece appearance; and Lenny Bush, a great bassist and good friend of the club.
There are countless others to thank. We have an archive of all our gigs since 1996. Pre 1996 will be added soon. Please feel free to browse them.
Our 500th gig came up in October 2002 and seven gigs from 31st January to 1st March 2003 marked our 10th Anniversary celebrations.
From late September 2002, archived information contains the original programme information, followed by any changes made to personnel or other matters. Previous to this, things were a bit mixed, with most gigs shown as in the brochure, and a few with modifications.
[ It was always the wonderful Ollie Hayhurst on bass. ]
[ On tenor and soprano, we had the very Scottish Konrad Wiszniewski, who played up a storm in a top 10 gig. ]