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moldy-fig

The concorde club

The Concorde Club was launched 51 years ago in Southampton by jazz aficionado Cole Mathieson, and is the oldest jazz club under the same management in the United Kingdom and possibly the world.

Mathieson, a former jazz drummer, started the Concorde in a converted restaurant at the back of the Bassett Hotel pub in Southampton in 1957, two years before Ronnie Scott launched his club in London. Among the major jazz musicians who played at the Concorde Club in the Bassett were American masters Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster, Buck Clayton, Bud Freeman, Wild Bill Davison, and home-grown giants of the genre including Nat Gonella, Vic Ash, Tommy Whittle, Tubby Hayes, Joe Harriott, Kenny Baker, Tony Coe, Allan Ganley, plus the bands of Humphrey Lyttelton, Chris Barber, Acker Bilk, Kenny Ball and Alex Welsh.

The Concorde widened its tastes to take in rhythm and blues, called "a cousin of jazz" by Mathieson. The resident band in 1962 was the then unknown Manfred Mann, and other little-known artistes who made early appearances at the club included Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Georgie Fame, Rod Stewart, Ginger Baker and Elton John when he was still known as Reg Dwight.

In 1970 the Concorde had to find a new home when the Bassett Hotel was turned into a steak house. Mathieson moved the club to a run-down Victorian-age schoolhouse in Eastleigh, Hants, then famous as the home of the Spitfire and an old railway-workers town. During the following 30-plus years Mathieson slowly developed the Concorde into one of the finest entertainment centres in the South. The old schoolhouse has been enlarged to take in a restaurant, a wine bar (the Moldy Fig), a 300-seat concert venue and a 35-room hotel called the Ellington Lodge, with each room named after a jazzman who has featured at the club.

The club has a 4,500 membership, and a waiting list of hundreds. It now features tribute band nights, a wine society, corporate dinners and presentations, supper and dinner clubs, but jazz remains at the heart of the Concorde. A list of the jazz artistes regularly appearing there reads like a Who's Who of post-war jazz, including Sir John Dankworth, Dame Cleo Laine, Don Lusher, George Chisholm, Roy Budd, Digby Fairweather, Alan Barnes, Simon Spillett, Jamie Cullum and overseas stars of the calibre of Stephane Grapelli, Sonny Stitt, Ruby Braff, Barney Kessell, Maynard Ferguson, Scott Hamilton and Bud Shank. The Concorde has become a popular venue for a parade of leading female jazz singers including Clare Teal, Stacey Kent, Jacqui Dankworth, Shirley Morgan and Rosemary Squires. The late Marion Montgomery was a regular singer at the Concorde, accompanied by her pianist husband Laurie Holloway who often returns to the club with his trio.

Cole Mathieson published his memoirs in the spring of 2008: The Concorde Club, the First 50 Years It has an introduction by Humphrey Lyttelton, who 'left the building' the day the book was due to go to press. Humph, who made his last appearance at the Concorde Club on April 9 2008, signed off his introduction with his autograph accompanied by a caricature of himself. It was the last cartoon that Humph drew, and he agreed that it could be auctioned for charity, not realizing the full significance of it. His final cartoon raised £1,300 for the Wessex Cancer Trust.

The Concorde remains a family-run business with Cole at the helm, aided by his wife, Pauline, his daughters Fiona and Kirstie and son Jamie. Cole has been made an Eastleigh Citizen of Honour for his services to local charities. The club has raised more than £100,000 for various charities from regular fund-raising events at the Club including an annual pantomime season staged each year close to Easter! Mathieson serves on both the BBC and the British Jazz Awards committees.


See also

Club Website:

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