THE term ‘phoenix from the ashes’ doesn’t do justice to what The Spin Jazz Club seems to have achieved since leaving its 20-year residency at the Wheatsheaf and re-opening as ‘Spin-2’, post lockdown restrictions.

The new-look Spin has now put on more than 20 gigs - all of them fully sold out in advance - using six different Oxford venues. Rather than settle into one place, organisers Pete Oxley and Stuart Miller have been injecting jazz into various quarters of the city, drawing in many a new fan, partly by dint of reaching out to more people in their respective favoured neighbourhoods.

The next Spin concert is tonight (Sunday, March 20) at one of the club’s venues of choice, The Old Fire Station - or OFS. Before asking Pete and Stuart about this particular gig, I was intrigued to know how they were enjoying moving the club around differing venues.

Oxford Mail:

“This was Stuart’s idea,” said Pete. “I had been rather set in my ways – having been in the one venue for 20 years – and felt that the club needed a to find another fixed home. I’m glad that Stuart’s reasoning soon made sense to me as it’s been fun playing the music to clearly different audiences, depending on whereabouts in town we are putting a gig on.

“We have taken care to put on musicians that we feel are appropriate to the vibe and the acoustics of and given room and these have ranged from The Holywell Music Room to The Oxford Artisan Distillery - TOAD - to The OFS.

“I guess that our favourites of all these are the OFS and TOAD – two very different environments in which to put on music. The OFS is a lovely ‘black box’ theatre with truly great lights and sound; TOAD is a joyous place with a great atmosphere, great sound, lovely staff - and of course, superb gins! Creating a great vibe is an essential element of the club.

“In addition to these venues, we will be putting on a smaller gig (a ‘Spin intimate’) at the Handle Bar in St Michael’s Street on March 24, which will feature the piano virtuoso, David Gordon”.

I can vouch wholeheartedly for what Pete mentioned about ‘the vibe’ of the club, having attended several Spin gigs at TOAD.

The last – rammed, as usual – featured world-class players Paul Booth and Ross Stanley (on tenor saxophone and Hammond organ respectively) who whooped the crowd into some sort of highs that I’ve rarely experienced at a jazz club.

Oxford Mail: Charged Particles are coming to Oxford

Tod Dickow

The level of the musicianship has always been top drawer and the forthcoming gig at the OFS tonight (Sunday) promises to be a highlight of this season.

The band is Charged Particles, a Californian outfit of some 30 years standing, featuring the outstanding tenor saxophonist Tod Dickow. The group, for this tour, are performing a programme of music written by the late sax super-star, Michael Brecker.

This outfit recently recorded a live album at Los Angeles’ legendary jazz venue, The Baked Potato. The international press was certainly wooed by this recording, given their glowing reviews. The album was named as ‘one of the best CDs of 2021’ by Jazzwise, the Jazz Journalists Association, the 16th Annual Jazz Critics Poll, and more. Brecker’s biographer, Bill Milkowski, said the recording is “staggering in its authenticity.” Famed trumpeter Randy Brecker (Michael’s brother) said the recording is “smoking and intense from beginning to end.”

I asked Pete to expand on the importance of Brecker’s music in the contemporary jazz canon.

“Michael Brecker is a saxophonist that anybody even only vaguely interested in popular music or jazz, will have heard: before,” he said. “He produced his first album under his own name in 1987 (Michael Brecker – Impulse) and was already the most recorded saxophonist ever!

“A glance at Wikipedia will evidence this but, just for example, within the popular music arena, he can be heard on albums by James Brown, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, Mark Knopfler and Ringo Starr.

“Brecker developed a facility on the instrument that made for absolutely astonishing listening. He was tireless in his quest to strive for new ways to express the language of improvisation.

Oxford Mail: Charged Particles

Tod Dickow

Find interviews on Youtube of him talking about practising, when he was already well into his career; it’s humbling. With such a consummate command of the instrument, Brecker was able to communicate a vast spectrum of emotions through his music, ranging from the most heartfelt ballads to the most exciting and virtuosic solos. His final album, Pilgrimage, is considered by many (including Herbie Hancock and Pat Metheny) to be among his finest work.

“Charged Particles will be performing a lot of selections from Pilgrimage – which is seriously challenging music to play – alongside other pieces from Brecker’s back catalogue.”

Well, from what I can gather, if anybody can interpret this music, it will be these guys. As Jazz Life Magazine wrote: “Tod Dickow is one of the best saxophonists in the world”. Don’t miss out on this treat!

  • Charged Particles play The Old Fire Station Oxford tonight. For tickets, see or
  • On Wednesday, the band joined Oxford musicians for an open rehearsal and educational workshop in the Somerville College Chapel followed by a jam session.

The event was hosted by Oxford University Jazz Society and Somerville College Music Society.


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