IT is one of the country’s most-respected jazz clubs. But after 20 years and more than 800 concerts, The Spin is not prepared to rest on its laurels, and has set out to remind music-lovers that it is there.

Among those blowing a trumpet for the award-winning club – recognised by the All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Awards as ‘The Best Jazz Venue In The UK’ – is founder Pete Oxley, from Headington.

Guitarist Pete, a professional bow-maker and restorer, set up the club above the Wheatsheaf pub off High Street, in 1999 with drummer Mark Doffman and bassist Raph Mizraki, with the aim of having a regular place to play in Oxford.

They hit upon the idea of augment each performance by inviting a nationally known artist to front the band – beginning with John Etheridge, guitarist with Soft Machine, Stéphane Grappelli and Nigel Kennedy.

“Our aim has been to bring musicians of the highest calibre to the intimacy of an informal setting,” says Pete.

“All of these have, through their mesmerizing performances, drawn audiences into anything from trance-like states, to feelings of wild euphoria!”

The venue itself is perfect for a jazz club: seating 65 people, cabaret-style around small tables, with space for another 25 standing. And it soon acquired a ferocious reputation as the place to play.

“After the first season, we adapted our ‘house-band-plus-guest’ format to one in which, once a month, we would promote a touring band,” says Pete.

“In recent years we have hosted increasing numbers of superb bands from around the world.

“Over the club’s 20-year history, we have been privileged to either perform with, or to present on our stage, the most incredible world-class musicians from the UK and abroad.

“I realised just how tightly knit the jazz world was when, at a club in New York some years ago, I met for the first time the extraordinary saxophonist Dave Binney, who told me: ‘Sure, I know about The Spin – I follow online what’s happening there with you guys!’

“Dave subsequently came to play at the club a couple of times when touring with great New York bands.”

And who have been the biggest names to play the upstairs room?

“Highlights from the club’s past would fill pages,” laughs Pete, “But the following are those that have rather arbitrarily jumped out from an enormously elongated list of memorable nights: piano luminaries Gwilym Simcock, Jason Rabello, David Gordon and Kit Downes; saxophonists Tim Garland, Julian Arguelles, Mark Lockheart and Gilad Atzmon; guitarists John Etheridge, Jonathan Kriesburg, Nicolas Meier and Rob Luft.

“When occasionally we have promoted at bigger venues (at times with Oxford Contemporary Music), we have put on Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Paul McCandless (of Oregon) and the super-group The Impossible Gentlemen.”

They have also, remarkably, attracted one of the world’s finest violinists. Nigel Kennedy is known to be a fan and twice played after shows at the New Theatre – to the delight, and considerable surprise, of club-goers.

The new season starts next Thursday, September 19, with the first show staring Alex Munk’s Flying Machines.

“Centred on Alex’s unique compositional approach, Flying Machines has established a sound that is entirely its own, fusing visceral, rock-out guitar improv with anthemic melodies and lusciously textured soundscapes,” says Pete.

“It’s a sound that’s shot through with the here and now of London’s ruggedly innovative jazz scene: a decadent mash-up of free-wheeling improvisations, prog-rock energy and ambient meditations that never detracts from the emotive lyricism at the music’s core.

“The following week, we turn to one of the more established – but no less fiery – players on the UK scene, the saxophonist Theo Travis.

“Theo is one of those musicians to whose playing the adjectives ‘muscular’, ‘full-toned’ or ‘virtuosic’ are often applied. Having toured widely with his own contemporary jazz projects, Theo came to the attention of major acts from the jazz-rock and prog scenes. His CV includes playing major stadium gigs with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, albums with Robert Fripp and world touring with Soft Machine.”

He goes on: “These first two gigs are a good example of our programming. We are mixing artists of the younger generation, bringing their innovative new approaches to jazz, with Spin favourites from past years – such as Theo Travis or Gilad Atzmon – who deliver astounding performances borne of a wealth of stage experience.

“Of the younger generation, those who have already played the club – some fresh out of music college – have proved to Spin audiences what an astonishingly high level of musicianship this generation is producing.”

They include guitarist Rob Luft, 25, who is touring with respected saxophonist Dave O’Higgins; Alex Ridout, 21, who won BBC Young Jazz Musician of the Year in 2016; and Pete’s nephew, the 20 year-old drummer Luca Carusa, who is already a regular performer at Ronnie Scott’s and has been touring the world.

“Come and discover these artists,” says Pete. “Come and discover this gem of a jazz club. Come and absorb the vibe and the magic of what unfolds at The Spin every Thursday night, right in the middle of Oxford.

“The room is above a pub and has its own bar with drinks at regular pub prices. and with ticket prices at £12, £10 (concessions) and £6 for students, The Spin is offering world-class live music for the same price as a cinema ticket!”

For all gig details, and for booking seats, please visit:

The Spin is above the Wheatsheaf pub, Wheatsheaf Yard, 129 High Street, OX1 4DF.