When you first end up outside The Jazz Café up Pink Lane in Newcastle between the Train Station and Woolly’s it won’t, if the truth be know, fill you with excited astonishment. It’s more of, what I can only describe as, a trepidation as you are presented with a building that appears sealed off from the world by nicotine coloured nets, while a homeless man stroking his dog sits below and instructs you that ‘it doesn’t open ‘til nine.’ If you’ve time to kill head for The Forth: a modern Irish type pub with a cool, post-student clientele (just up the road from Subway, if you’re ever in the area!) and enjoy the indie music and good pint of Guinness.
However, although a well worth stop off point on a night out, once the time arrives the Forth must be vacated and one should stroll over the cobbled side street towards the small open door of The Jazz Cafe and pay the four quid. Not a bad price for a trip through time (and a free burger, may I add).
With it’s wartime dance hall feel – the brown, round backed chairs squashed-in rickety tables - the dim light seeps from beautiful cast iron ladies lifting globes of yellow light above their heads. At the end of the room (which is probably not much bigger that a generously sized living room) a jazz band – sax, drums, bass – will fill the place with sexy Cuban beats that immediately transport you back to another era: a life before this one, and will continue to do as the darkness arrives outside, the saxophonist stopping only, while of the rest of the band plays on, to make a rolly that he can smoke in between rifts.
If your picky with your drinks then I wouldn’t recommend this place: it’s canned beer, bottled lager and spirits and if you dare ask for wine be prepared for a bemused smirk from the eighty year old, heavily bearded owner who, in an attempt to preserve the authenticity of his club, will make you feel like he doesn’t want you there. Don’t worry: dig your heels in, enjoy it…he’ll soon invite you back!
At 12 o’clock the live music stops and everyone troops upwards to a room pretty much like the one below (except this time it’s ancient threadbare sofas rather than dining tables). And that’s when the salsa starts! It’s loud South American sexiness, not commercial and new and contrived but real, raw and unpretentious. The regulars fling each other around the central floor, coloured dresses-a –blur and people you wouldn’t expect show off the results of weekly dance classes pulling mere bystanders up to join in.
If you’re sick of the same routine and want a relaxed night out with friends then The Jazz Café is an absolute gem! Get there on time or you’ll not get in and simply enjoy the (rather odd) drink, free food and fantastic live music.