Ann Rosenberg and Tony Bell of the Brooks Blues bar

Hammersmith’s legendary Brooks Blues Bar heads to Covent Garden

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Local blues buffs Tony Bell and Ann Rosenberg set up the blues club in the cellar rooms of the Brook Green Hotel, in Shepherds Bush Road, in May 2003

Yeeaaaay, I woke up this morning… and found that I’d left home.

After three years’ residency in King Street, Hammersmith, one of the foremost blues clubs in the land is relocating to central London.

The Brooks Blues Bar, which has been based since 2013 in Posk, the Polish social and cultural centre, has been a mecca for visiting American blues performers and home-grown talent for 13 years.

The club’s fiercely loyal fanbase will now have to travel into town to get their regular fix at the Seven Dials Club, Covent Garden, with a curtain-raising gig tonight (18 November) featuring Steve Morrison and John B Harris.

Local blues buffs Tony Bell and Ann Rosenberg – both now in their 70s – set up the blues club in the cellar rooms of the Brook Green Hotel, in Shepherds Bush Road, in May 2003, but had to switch location three years later following a change of management.

After temporarily popping up in Notting Hill, Twickenham and Camden, the club settled for three years in the Telegraph, Putney Heath, before moving to the Parsons Green Club in Fulham… just yards from where Tony and Ann live in Sands End.

For the past four years the club has been sited at the Jazz Cafe Posk, with regular acoustic blues gigs on the first Saturday of the month.

It’s going to be a wrench when the couple leave their familiar Hammersmith surroundings; both have greatly enjoyed their years in King Street and have built up a strong bond with local musicians. They will also greatly miss being part of the lively music scene in the borough.

“I suppose you could say we’re itinerant, in typical blues tradition,” said Ann. “We’ve always had an enormous loyalty to west and south west London, and we’ve always enjoyed ourselves wherever we were, learning something new each time about our audiences.

“Moving to Covent Garden is a terrific opportunity, giving us more dates and greater flexibility than at Posk, although it was a lovely place with a wonderful piano.”

Ann Rosenberg and Tony Bell
Ann Rosenberg and Tony Bell

Down the years the Brooks Blues Bar has hosted slide guitarist Roger Hubbard, the Rossano Sportiello trio, Dana Gillespie, Rag Mama Rag, George Melly, Gordon Smith, Paul Lamb, Mark Harrison, pianist Dale Storr, Erin Harpe, Maria Muldaur, Watermelon Slim, Muddy Waters’ harmonica player Paul Oscher, and Sonny Black.

Although acoustic vintage blues is still the bedrock, there is room to accommodate more contemporary blues sounds… and jazz.

“Yes, we’ll be able to book jazz too if, for example, we get

the offer of someone who is touring but has limited dates in London,” she said. “It’s good to reinvent yourself, and it means that many of our regulars will be able to get to us more easily.”

The only downside of Covent Garden is finding parking for musicians’ vehicles after they have unloaded their gear, but Tony Bell has found it’s possible to negotiate advance deals with some of the central London car parks.

Of the Seven Dials Club in Earlham Street – a five-minute stroll from Covent Garden tube – Ann said: “It’s a terrific community centre which lets us keep the ticket price low while offering some of the best music you’ll ever hear in London. It’s great to be here when so many music venues, and blues venues in particular, are closing.”

A not-for-profit operation, run for the sheer joy of the music, the exuberance of the live performances at the Brooks Blues Bar was captured on a CD back in 2012, featuring guitarist Gordon Smith, recorded in Parsons Green.

Steve Morrison (guitar) and John B Harris (piano) perform three sets on a double bill at the new Brooks Blues Bar at the Seven Dials Club, 42 Earlham Street, WC2, on 18 November at 8pm. Tickets £8 in advance at www.wegottickets.com.

For more details, visit www.brooksbluesbar.co.uk.

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