Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Twenty five years of jazz at The Spin Jazz Club, Oxford.

by Colin May

June 05, 2024

As Oxford's premier jazz venue The Spin celebrates its 25th anniversary co -founder Pete Oxley talks to Colin May (via email) about the ups and downs of the clubs history.

Image of the very first Spin Jazz Club poster supplied by Colin May

As Oxford’s premier jazz venue The Spin celebrates it’s 25th anniversary co -founder Pete Oxley talks to Colin May (via email) about the ups and downs of the clubs history.

The Spin was founded by guitarist Pete Oxley) and drummer Mark Doffman.  Together with Raph Mizraki( bass) they formed the house band more or less constantly for 20 years, backing guests at nearly 500 gigs, while every fourth week or so a touring band performed.

The club opened on 13th May 1999 with guitar hero John Etheridge as the guest. He became a Spin favourite and remarkably has been the guest sometimes with others including twice with violinist extraordinaire Nigel Kennedy at every ‘birthday’ gig since, this year’s 25th anniversary included.

Pete Oxley started by recalling the early days;
”When Mark and I started The Spin in 1999, we thought we’d see how a run of 6 weekly gigs would go. This went well enough or, at least, was enough fun, to continue for another 6-week run. In those first two years (though), despite our best efforts, we struggled to get audiences. I think the worst was 19 punters! Now, we regularly get our 120 capacity coming to the club. After two years of this – and losing a few thousand £££ a year – we did ask ourselves if we wanted to continue with it. Thank goodness we did: in the third year we started to break even, financially and then we never looked back. However, we certainly wouldn’t have envisaged ever celebrating a 25th anniversary!”

Among the many national and international artists the Spin has hosted pre and post pandemic have been: Randy Brecker, Tim Garland, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Gilad Atzmon, Emma Rawicz, John Law, Gwilym Simcock, Mark Lockheart, Hugh Warren and Tony Kofi.

David Binney, a young Ambrose Akinmusire and a young Tyshawn Sorey visited when all three were in US based British pianist John Escreet’s quartet who arrived jet lagged straight off the plane yet performed tracks from Escreet’s debut album ‘Consequences’ superbly.

After 20 years The Spin was hit by a triple whammy. First co-founder Mark Doffman left. The following year the pandemic struck, followed by The Wheatsheaf, whose intimate upstairs room had been The Spin’s home since the start, closing.

This all led Pete Oxley to think about calling time on the club.
“When Mark moved away, I ran the Spin on my own for a year. This was really hard work so when the pandemic hit, I was actually relieved to have what I thought would be ‘one season off’. Of course, this then morphed into two seasons off, then a full year-an-a-half before we were able to start up again. During this fallow period, I was beginning to think that that would be it: we’d had twenty years of all sorts of great gigs, and it was dawning on me that this would seem like a natural time to close the club down.”

But post-pandemic The Spin did come back.
“I met Stuart Miller, who immediately became my partner in running the club, and, thanks to his enthusiasms, we came back renewed and instantly brought a freshness and vitality to Spin II. We needed a whole new approach to the running of the club and finding a new venue immediately meant that things HAD to be different.”

Pete went on to expand on the new approach.
“We had noticed in the last few years of the pre-pandemic era, that the vibe at the club had begun to feel a tad bit stale: audience numbers were little by little declining and our mailing list was not growing. During that period, we would feel lucky if we had sold 30 tickets in advance. When I teamed up with Stuart, we immediately began planning a whole new approach to The Spin. We started by employing two excellent guys to completely re-design the website and to get ticketing sales happening directly through us. We agreed that the goal was to put on absolutely first-class players and to sell out the gigs – to create a thriving, happening club atmosphere that would be fun for people to come to on a ’social’ level, but equally, highly rewarding on a musical level.”

For a while Spin II became peripatetic.
“Another thing that Stuart suggested was, as opposed to the first 20 years of the club being in one place, that we should ‘inject jazz’ around the city, bringing the music to different demographics. Hence, we are now using our ninth venue since the re-launch of the club! We now feel confident that we have found the best places for our needs, using mainly Tap Social in Botley, with occasional other gigs at the Summertown Wine Bar. Both of these venues have a great atmosphere in their differing ways, and we are regularly selling out the gigs in advance!”

Also Spin II has branched out into music production.
“ One of the biggest ideas that we saw through was designing (or) inventing the ‘LSL’. This is a new music media format: with the view of melding old-school vinyl lay-out with contemporary technologies. We created a classy A5, hard-back book comprising liner notes, lyrics, images etc, with QR codes for accessing the music. A trial prototype called ’Turnaround Vol I’ was produced which had 12 tracks from different artists, recorded live at The Spin in 2022. This year, we formalised the idea by creating a ‘record label’: ’Spin Jazz Productions’ and produced in both LSL and CD formats, the album, ‘Hejira – celebrating Joni Mitchell* - Live @ The Cockpit’.”

Finally we asked Pete Oxley about his Spin highlights.
“There have been too many highlights to list, but on a personal level, getting to gig with Randy Brecker has to be right up there! John Law’s Re-Creations last week was an exceptional night of music. And then, playing that first ever gig with John Etheridge was super-exciting – and I expect the celebratory gig this week with John to be no different. In fact, it’s become a bit of a joke that I say to John after every gig we play, “I reckon that was our best gig together, ever!” ”

Our thanks to Pete Oxley for taking the time to respond (by email) so candidly to our questions, and congratulations to all who have been involved with the The Spin over the last 25 years.

*Hejira-Celebrating Joni Mitchell started as a for one night only project at The Spin and such was its success that it led to the band touring extensively. See :

All the latest from The Spin available at:

The Spin’s 25th Birthday Bash will take place on 5th June 2024. Pete Oxley and Stuart Miller write;

Wednesday 5th June
@ Tap Social, Botley
The BIG BIRTHDAY BASH! featuring John Etheridge and other Major Dudes!
Doors 7.30pm; performance 8.30pm

We celebrate a huge milestone: a quarter of a century of live concerts, presented by The Spin!

As you will see from the first ever flyer the actual date of the 1st gig was May 13th, but the 5th June is now our ‘official birthday’!

Anyway… just a couple of things to say:

- Doors are at 7.30pm; please don’t come along before hand as we are very often still setting up the room, leading right up to 7.30pm! If it’s fine weather (which is promised for tomorrow!), then you’re welcome to come earlier and be outside until doors…

- We’d like to offer everybody who has bought a ticket a complimentary glass of Prosecco, a tiny gesture to THANK YOU all for your support of the club!! Look out for your glass at the door, when you enter.

- And then, Tap have also very kindly offered to massively reduce the price of Prosecco over the bar; you will be able to purchase by the glass or by the bottle (other drinks will be available as usual too!). Pizzas will be served as per usual – and there might even be a few complimentary peanuts to indulge in (who says The Spin doesn’t know how to show you a good time?!)

Finally, for now, looking ahead: Can we encourage you to continue to come to gigs, even if you haven’t heard of the bandleader’s name?! - we hope that after 25 years, you’ll trust that we are only selecting great players who will deliver fantastic shows for you! (on that note, the ‘Book Tickets Now’ button will take you to the next gig, the Tristan Banks Quartet featuring the outrageously talented saxophonist, Paul Booth!)

And…here’s to the next 25 years!!!

With all best wishes and gratitude to you all.

Pete & Stuart


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