Arts & Entertainment

Foundry 616 heats up Sydney jazz scene

It’s been a bit of a struggle over the past few years for jazz music in Sydney, competing with its counterpart scene in Melbourne, where the list of venues keeps growing and growing. Finally Sydney will get a club setting that may just galvanise the whole scene with Foundry616.

“A foundry is a place where heat turns raw minerals like iron ore into iron and then steel. It always reminded me of the intensity, heat and power of jazz when played in a particular way,” explains club owner Peter Rechniewski.

“I added part of the building’s number to give that a highlight,” adds Rechniewski.

“There will be a place where young musicians can develop their talents, for them to hear the more established musicians play on a regular basis and even to jam with them at different times,” explains leading Jazz musician Dale Barlow, who will be performing at the club on opening night.

“I’m using a very young and gifted band this time, all rising stars on their respective instruments. We’re just going to play things we like, and hopefully other people will like too. Nothing too far out, a variety of Standards, some of the great ballads, originals, all kinds of things really,” adds Barlow.

The night will be something of a comeback for Barlow, who has just recently returned to Australia after representing at International Jazz Day in Turkey. On top of that is a lengthy time out of the game with recurring back problems that almost forced him to give up the saxophone.

“It was really scary, I didn’t know how successful the operation would be, or whether I’d have enough dexterity to ever play the saxophone properly again. I had no choice other than to go ahead with it though. After a while, I couldn’t hold a pen without dropping it, and I had problems even signing my name,” he explains.

“For years I’d been playing on automatic, partly in denial that anything was wrong as I didn’t want to put my career on hold or turn down any great gigs. So this Jazz Day gig was a great way to start getting back in the groove after about a year away, pretty cheeky really to be getting up with all those great musicians after a year of no practice.”

Jazz fans in Sydney can only be optimistic about the opening and that’s certainly a view that club owner Rechniewski shares, “It’s clear to me that there is a resurgence of interest in jazz and jazz related music taking place.

“I think there are many young listeners out there who are interested in diverse musical experiences. They’re primarily into rock music but don’t reject other genres just because they haven’t heard them played on Triple-J or FBi,” he continues.

“They want to hear various ethnic musical traditions even in more western-influenced guises, folk, electronica, new classical music and they are interested in jazz and jazz related music. There are many very sophisticated young music fans out there and I am sure they will find many things we programme at Foundry616 appealing and exciting. Their support will increase the jazz audience.”

Gerard Masters of Eon Beats who will also be performing at Foundry 616 in July believes that the jazz community in Sydney has a big part to play in making the club a success.

“In order to support such a venture, in general people need to be going out a lot more and supporting live music. Staying home and watching reality TV needs to be made illegal.”

For club owner Rechniewski, it’s very important that the venue appeals to fans of jazz young and old.

“When there are good venues operating successfully, it’s a source of pride for the jazz community as a whole. It proves that the music has social value too. Foundry616 has a very contemporary feel, the decor doesn’t scream ‘jazz club’ yet there is no doubt that it’s a place where great music will be made,” he shares.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about the fit-out and decor and we think the way it looks and feels will appeal to the young music enthusiast yet at the same time we’ve kept an eye on what the long-time jazz fan wants from a club too.”

Rechniewski has high hopes for the club and with Sydney on the cusp of a jazz scene renaissance there is no reason why he shouldn’t.

“I want it to be part of the fabric of the Sydney music scene, in a way that people will look upon it as the leading club in Sydney when Sydney itself, has once again, become the most important jazz centre in the country.” (AH)

Opens July 5, Foundry 616, 616 Harris Street, Ultimo; Dale Barlow, $20, foundry616.com.au

BY ANDREW HODGSON

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