Music: SoFF Music Jazz Jam

BY JAMES TWOMEY

A weekly jazz jam night that takes place in a pub will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a black tie event.

The SoFF Music Jazz Jam – which stands for Sistah of the Fuller Figure – has been taking place at the Effra Tavern in Brixton for 20 years, and a celebration on April 7 comes alongside a documentary set to be made about the event.

The night has seen highly successful jazz musicians such as trumpeter Jay Phelps along with Empirical band members, drummer Shane Forbes and saxophonist Nathaniel Facey.

Shabaka Hutchings also made appearances at the tavern in his early days before forming jazz group Sons of Kemet.

Visitors have included BBC radio presenter and Saxophonists Soweto Kinch and Tony Kofi. Lauren Dalrymple, band leader and vocalist, is a key organiser in the jam and has been there since the beginning.

She says it has happened every weekend for two decades and the only events that can stop it are funerals, marriages and births.

Lauren Dalrymple – SoFF Jazz Jam

Lauren said: “SoFF provides a constant for the community, every Sunday night we’re out here and in my 20 years we remind people this isn’t just a drinking hole, it’s a hub, a community centre.

“It’s in the heart of Brixton but the global network is huge.

People who are into jazz come from all over the world to see it and I’ve even bumped into people when I’ve been abroad who have actually been to our night.

“I’m just trying to do my bit to knit the global community. The world is my backyard because of SoFF Music.”

Lauren calls herself a South London girl, born and bred, who has always found Brixton to be a special place.

She grew up in Streatham and Tulse Hill having also been to college and university in South London.

“Brixton has always had a place in my heart because of the black community but the music is just as amazing.”

The SoFF Music nights usually follow a similar musical format of improvisation with Lauren describing it as “winging it but with a certain amount of professionalism.”

The anniversary night will have more of a set list of music as well as prizes and raffles taking place, with the addition that everyone will be in black tie.

Lauren said: “We wanted everyone to be in black tie, this is a special event. Why does black tie only happen in places of notoriety, why not here. Everyone deserves to be pampered.”

The SoFF Music Jam is known for its charity parties, which gets the community involved.

The night has raised more than £3,000 for a number of charitable organisations and Lauren believes that is the community duty of a pub which is fading fast in modern London.

She said: “If we don’t use our pubs and clubs we will lose them”

The night also ties in a lot of themes for Lauren as they celebrate 20 years of music but also 50 years of change in the community.

Lauren said: “I remember a black man telling me that he used to never be allowed to drink here, he had some white male associates back in the 1960s who said they did not want him to come in, but now this place is owned by a West Indian family, I have been putting on a night for 20 years and I’m from Guyana, and the doors are now open to anyone of any colour, race or creed.”

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