I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Published August 30th 2012
Jazz and much, much more
Where can you go if you want to hear live music on a Saturday night? One option is Matt & Phreds. It's an easy place to pass by without realising what funky gems can be found inside. The club is nestled amongst the bars, cafes, florists, craft shops, hairdressers and sex shops of Manchester's Northern Quarter.
Matt & Phreds is best known as a jazz venue. The word jazz might put you off. It shouldn't. The bands that play on a Saturday night are usually there to get you dancing, or at least swaying, rather than just to appeal to a knowledgeable clique.
Throughout the week the line-up of attractions ranges from poetry to salsa dancing lessons.
The club has proved to be a breeding ground for talent. The Cinematic Orchestra, filed under Dance Music at HMV, came together at Matt & Phreds. Guitarist Stuart McCallum and drummer Luke Flowers play a regular Tuesday night slot. Trumpeter Mathew Halsall and sax player Nat Birchall, favourites of BBC 6 Music and DJ Gilles Peterson, have played countless times at the venue. Matthew Halsall won a talent competition set up by the club's founders – Matt Nickson and his business partner known by the nickname of Phred.
Jamie Cullum is one of the musical celebrities to have played on the club's stage. Will Young gave an impromptu performance when he called in whilst in Manchester, acting at the city's Royal Exchange Theatre.
Despite the famous names, the furnishings at Matt & Phreds are pretty basic. There are though some arty photographs to decorate the walls. You can stand up or sit at one of the candle-lit tables. If you are someone who likes to listen to music in peace the audience chatter may annoy you. But it's a side-effect of the informal and inclusive atmosphere.
September's Saturday night gigs include The Ben Holder Trio; C-City and Gypsy guitar player Samuel C Lees. It's £5 entry at the weekends. Even if you don't like the music you might get your kicks from the cocktails. Made from original ingredients, they include: The Tartini, The Hot Fudge Sundae, Bourbon Boozer and Pixies Potion amongst others.