5 Questions with Jeremy McMurray

Musical director, band leader, piano/composition tutor, jazz pianist, church organist and composer. Just a few of the titles Jeremy McMurray holds currently. He’s worked with some of the UK’s top jazz musicians including multi-instrumentalist Al Wood and top British trumpeter Bruce Adams. We caught up with Jeremy to talk all things jazz, special guests and his own band the Pocket Orchestra.

Check out the full interview below.

Hi Jeremy, How would you describe the night to those that have never been before?
It’s a fantastic evening of live entertainment with some of the region’s top professional musicians. The Jazz night incorporates the broadest range of styles from that genre, including Swing music, Bebop, Latin, Jazz rock and pop and more! It’s a relaxed, fun and informal evening where you can get together with friends, have a drink and experience great music in a lovely atmosphere.

Jazz has been a staple since 2018 at ARC – how did the event start?
The Jazz night originally started with our quartet and was based in the downstairs bar, this rapidly grew in popularity and we had to move to a bigger area. Since then we have been based in The Point where we have endeavoured to recreate a ‘Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club’ type atmosphere.

You’ve had plenty of special guests over the years – are there any nights which have stood out for you personally?
Over the years we have invited a range of special guests to join us on the Jazz nights, both instrumentalists and vocalists. Our most recent guest was saxophonist Mick Donnelly from Hartlepool. Mick has played with some of the UK’s top pop bands/soloists including Simply Red and Whitney Houston, and he is currently touring with Lisa Stansfield. We had a fantastic evening with Mick.

The legendary saxophonist Ray Dales is this month’s guest. Can you tell us a bit about him?
Ray Dales is a well-known musician on Teesside who has been playing for more than 70 years. He’s the last of the few, he reckons. He’s played with big bands, smaller bands, fine bands, military bands, and backing bands, he has played with them all.

He was even a member of two of Teesside’s most famous groups ‘Rivers Invitation‘ and John McCoys ‘Crawdaddies’ and nearly had a number-one record! He played saxophone through the big band era, the groups era, the clubland days, and he can rattle off top name after top name after name.

They start with the local fifties bandleaders from Dicky Hunter in South Bank to Bob Potter at Stockton, Charles Amer and Danny Mitchell in Redcar, Jimmy Carr and Alan Waller in Middlesbrough. The sixties saw him with John McCoy in the fabled Crawdaddies at the Kirk and alongside Jimmy James, Alan Price, Georgie Fame and Jimmy Hendrix. Then the seventies found him at the fabulous Fiesta in Norton backing the Four Tops, Three Degrees, Connie Francis, Lovelace Watkins, Seekers, Bachelors, Dana and others. He even played for comics there like Dave Allen and Tommy Cooper.

The band themselves have plenty of accolades such as Paul Smith the drummer touring with Lindisfarne. What other accolades should people know about?
The ‘Pocket Jazz Orchestra’ have some of the most experienced players include Pete Ayton on bass, who was in the original Club Fiesta house band that backed all the big names of the day including Matt Monroe, Neil Sedaka, Olivia Newton John, Nancy Wilson and even Les Dawson and Tommy Cooper! Paul Donnelly, who plays guitar, is a teacher and professional musician who spent many years gigging in London, playing for shows and touring with various artists including the Nolan Sisters. Our saxophonist Mark Toomey studied at the Guildhall London and has worked with a variety of bands and musicians including stints on the world famous QE2. He currently teaches woodwind in the Teesside area and gigs around the North East.

Tickets for Jeremy McMurray and the Pocket Jazz Orchestra are on sale now. Click here to see our latest event.