The resident Pave Jazz Jam rhythm section prior to the Corona virus lockdown in 2020. Rob Law - keyboards: George Beastall - bass:
Alan Drever-Smith - drums.
The legendary John 'Blind Lemon' Holborn (1932-2021), a Pave Jazz Jam regular on clarinet and tenor saxophone taking the stage together with guest guitarist Sam Dunn. Photos by Mike Horne.
Pave Bar was the first 'continental-style' eating and drinking establishment to open in the historic Avenues area of Hull. Prior to a change in licensing laws in 1994, Princes Avenue had been known as "the driest street in the city" as a result of rules stipulated by ship owner and philanthropist Zachariah Pearson (1821-1891), a strict tea-total Wesleyan who had given an area of 37 acres to the City Council in 1860 for the construction of quality 'villa' housing.and a public park which still bears his name.
Local promoter Steve Shaw (a director of J-Night and the Hull Jazz Festival) began operating Pave in 2005, always with the intention that it should be a quality food and live music venue with an emphasis on jazz. Weekly sessions were held on Sunday afternoons featuring prominent players from the north of England. Tuesday evenings were given over to the Pave Jazz Jam, an open mic event presided over by pianist/composer Rob Law.
Post-lockdown, in November 2021 Pave began a new series of small-scale Sunday afternoon largely acoustic music events with some jazz performers included, but there don't appear to be any plans to re-introduce the Pave Jazz Jam sessions in the immediate future.
Rob Law writes: It is not often that one cannot recall what year a midweek Jazz residency began, partly as they are few and far between, and also as once established, for one reason or another they usually continue only for a matter of months, or even weeks. When asked to write this, I had to look it up, which is a testament to the success of the Pave Jazz Jam. Set up on a Tuesday night in 2005, at Pave Bar, Princes Avenue, Hull, the night ran for an amazing 15 years. It took an unprecedented government lockdown to shut us down!
As a relatively inexperienced jazz pianist I had many good reasons to set it up. Pave was my local, not long opened, with interesting food, a good range of beers and a more alternative, bohemian crowd than inner city bars. I needed a gig, and I only lived along the next street! I had for a while attended sessions in York and Leeds and I wanted to do something similar, with a resident trio entertaining different guests each week and a good proportion of time devoted to good standard sitters in. It wasn’t long before the Pave Jazz Jam achieved notoriety as a great venue for jazzers to assemble and exhibit their skills alongside a polished top-drawer resident trio.
Reflecting on those years I feel PJJ made a big impact both musically and socially not just on me, but on many others in the local community.
The night kept the same structure for 15 years (with a raffle for a long stretch in the middle!). The house band went through 3 phases. The inaugural trio combined myself on piano with Kris Wright (kit) and Paul Baxter (bass). When Paul departed John Marley took over. For a while Rob McGrath (sax) was the resident frontman, though in the latter years the guest rotated with almost every lead instrument you can think of and plenty of singers. The night ended with the third house band incarnation of myself, George (Beast) Beastall on bass and Alan Drever-Smith on drums. There are far too many guest players to mention here, but suffice to say Pave felt very special and was blessed to have northern jazz heavyweights such as Kate Peters, Rod Mason and Stuart Garside regularly on display, and citing Pave as one of their favourite gigs. Special all-ticket nights saw the likes of Ian Dixon, Mark Nightingale, Jim Mullen, Dennis Rollins and Snake Davis all pack out the venue which at times had a serious vibe going on. I must also mention a very special man who attended almost every gig singing, playing sax, clarinet and harmonica and always got the biggest cheer of the night- the legendary Blind Lemon- RIP John Holborn. Musically we kept a very high standard, and I’ll never forget how I was pulled up by my boot straps from note 1 by the great Alan Barnes. I’ve never experienced a band respond instantly to a frontman’s playing in such a way- his authority on his instrument will always stick with me, and real musical lesson was learned by the trio that day.
I think the most lasting memories will be of the club-like atmosphere that developed at Pave despite the lack of door charge or official oversight. Opinions were divided regarding the background noise, though the longer we ran the more I think patrons understood it was Jazz night and respect should be paid to the musicians. Often if the band rocked enough people couldn’t help but pay attention, and the aforementioned Lemon frequently generated complete silence with his clarinet solos. When I left for work on a Tuesday night I had no idea what lay ahead at the gig. At times the trio did most of the work and really stretched out in the way good players who know each others game well tend to do, and at others I could be constantly inundated with sitters-in all night and struggle to fit everyone in. Players from different countries in different styles, dropping in whilst on tour, having a night out and fancying a knock, to ‘local stalwarts’ who rarely missed and relished the chance to perform every week. I lost count of how many times people said ‘This is amazing, loved it, we’ll be back next week’. Like any ‘club’ you saw many of the same faces, (often in the same seats) and towards the end it certainly felt more like a club than a public bar with free entry in one of the ‘less cultured’ parts of the country.
Many thanks to all the guests, Pave staff, listeners and performers who made the Pave Jazz Jam the success it became.
Rob Law, Sep 2021.