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The Best Places to See Free Jazz in Sydney

From East Sydney pubs and Redfern gin bars, you don't have to pay big money to see some live music in the city.
By Jasmine Crittenden
February 15, 2019
By Jasmine Crittenden
February 15, 2019


From East Sydney pubs and Redfern gin bars, you don't have to pay big money to see some live music in the city.

Whether you prefer your jazz cool as a cucumber or hot as a habanero, there's a free gig in Sydney for you. Nearly every night of the week, someone, somewhere is swinging. Jazz your way through the midweek hump at a Surry Hills stalwart in the company of Arthur Washington's Sexytet, then drift through Thursday night at a vegan Alexandria brewery with smooth singer Tilly Street. Come Sunday, wind up in East Sydney with a pint and the New Orleans sounds of legendary trumpeter Geoff Bull. Here's your guide to the best free jazz gigs in Sydney.

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    Kittyhawk Jazz Nights

    Stepping into Kittyhawk has always been a little bit like stepping back in time. The cocktail bar in the CBD takes its cue from the Liberation of Paris at the tail-end of WWII, and it’s got the drinks list and the decor to match. Next step? The music. Every Thursday night from 6pm, Kittyhawk plays host to Cass & The Ragin Cajuns, bringing a blend of jazz, soul and blues, as you party like it’s 1944. Of course, while you’re there, you’ll want to take advantage of Kitty’s famed libations and Parisian plates like French gnocchi, steak frites and a truffle croque monsieur.

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    Sunday Jazz

    Heading to the The East Sydney Hotel is like going on a day trip to the country. Not because of its distance from the CBD, but because of its self-proclaimed title as Sydney’s ‘last country pub’. The Woolloomooloo venue is filled with timeless memorabilia and mismatched timber furniture, and has a classic pub menu with some decent craft brews on-tap (along with all the classics). It’s also the perfect atmosphere for the upcoming winter months, and for a spot of afternoon jazz. Sundays bring live jazz and a great opportunity to chill out and get away from the chaos of inner city living. Cool cats Geoff Bull and his band The Finer Cuts (veterans of the Sydney jazz scene) play from 5pm until 8pm, creating a fluid set of smooth tunes and frenetic beats.

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    Get through the hump day heat with some cool tunes at Venue 505. Every week, the Surry Hills venue hosts Blue Wednesday Jazz Lounge, an evening devoted to jazz and blues classics. Once the lights are down low and a cocktail is in your grasp, the office will dissolve into nothing but a hazy memory. On stage, you’ll find the Venue 505 house trio: guitarist Carl Dewhurst, bassist Cameron Undy and drummer Tim Firth. But, this is a jazz gig, so you can usually count on surprise guests. The straight-forward food menu offers pasta, pizza, Greek salad, a cheese board or a mezzo plate. Drinks-wise, there’s a good selection of wines, craft beers, top-shelf spirits and cocktails. Reservations aren’t possible so get there as early as you can to nab a comfy couch – either right up front or in a shadowy corner. Doors open at 6pm and the music starts at 8.30pm. Image: Katje Ford. 

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    Moya's Free Jazz Night

    Tackle the doom and gloom of Sunday’s dying hours with a local dose of chilled-out jazz and a delightfully priced cocktail. Every Sunday from 6pm, Moya’s Juniper Lounge serves up live jazz and negronis — the perfect combination to help you forget about the looming Monday morning. Combining a free jazz gig from The Squares with classic negronis (which, at $10, are a rare bargain), the Redfern gin bar has created the perfect evening. If you can’t make it on Sunday, pop by after-work on Tuesdays when, from 8pm, the Pocket Trio plays a few sets.

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    On Thursday nights, Yulli’s Brews in Alexandria transforms into a jazz den with the arrival of the Tilly Street Trio. Long-time friend of the Yulli’s team, Tilly sings jazz standards, accompanied by her two loyal band members. You can usually count on a surprise guest or two, too. Tilly gets started at 6.30pm and finishes up two or three sets later. In between listening to her smooth vocals, taste your way through Yulli’s own drops, from the Norman Australian Ale to the Margot Dry Apple Cider. Meanwhile, the food menu is completely vegan. Start with steamed miso cabbage dumplings, before moving onto gyros, which comes in four varieties: The Australian, The Greek, The Korean and The Vietnamese.

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    Every Wednesday, live jazz takes over the Cricketers Arms in Surry Hills when guitarist Arthur Washington storms with his Sexytet. That’s Arthur and two other guitarists — his brother, Jerry, and mate, Jack Ray — along with bassist Matt Lamb, plus saxophonists Ross Harrington and Chris O’Dea. They bust out jazz classics, like George Gershwin’s ‘Our Love Is Here To Stay’, Frank Perkins’ ‘Stars Fell On Alabama’ and Carl Sigman’s ‘Crazy He Calls Me’, and transform them into long, hard-swinging jams. Special guests join in most nights. The free gigs starts at 7.30pm and kicks on for three sets. That gives you plenty of time to work your way through the Crix’s craft beer on tap selection and tuck into some solid pub grub.

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