Top award for Suffolk jazz club

WHILE MPs are often keen to blow their own trumpet, a group of them have sounded a chorus of approval for the efforts of a veteran East Anglian jazz musician.

David Green

WHILE MPs are often keen to blow their own trumpet, a group of them have sounded a chorus of approval for the efforts of a veteran East Anglian jazz musician.

Ronnie Scott's may be the most famous jazz club in the UK but MPs have voted for Gill Alexander's barn at Needham, near Harleston, as the best venue of 2008.

Known as the Tithe Barn, it has won the venue of the year award from the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group.

Gill, who has played with many of Britain's jazz “greats”, moved to a part-converted, centuries-old barn at Needham in 1980.

Four years later she opened the main area of it up as a jazz venue and during the past 28 years has hosted performances by many of the leading contemporary figures in British jazz, including Don Weller, Alan Barnes, John Etheridge, Don Rendell, Ian Shaw, Kathy Stobart. Jacqui Dankworth, Gerard Presencer and Harry Gold.

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The venue has also been the training and early performing ground of many young musicians from all over Suffolk and Norfolk.

The Tithe barn was one of three venues nominated for the 2008 award along with St Ives Jazz Club and The Spin.

Gill, a multi-talented musician whose instruments include the double bass, the piano and the guitar, travelled to the House of Commons to pick up a plaque.

“I'm not sure where to display it - someone suggested I put it on the bonnet of my car. I'm really pleased with the award,” she said.

The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group has a membership of more than 100 MPs and peers. Its stated purpose is to “To promote the use and enjoyment of jazz as a music form.”

The joint chairs are Michael Connarty MP and Lord Colwyn while the secretary is Bob Blizzard, MP for Waveney.

The group runs an annual awards ceremony called the Parliamentary Jazz Awards and supports the Jazz Radio UK campaign.

The nominations for the awards were drawn up by the MP's and peers themselves with the help of advice from contemporary musicians.

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