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Matt and Phred's Reviewed

L'Oréal Blackett keeps the red wine flowing and gets a jazz and blues education

Published on February 27th 2014.

Matt and Phred's Reviewed

JAZZ and blues music will forever have a home in Manchester.

While the Ella Fitzgeralds, Billie Holidays and Cab Calloways long had their musical day, new school jazz cats and their skoo-be-de-be-bop scats, saxophones and syncopating rhythms revive the genre at the Northern Quarter’s long serving music venue, Matt and Phred's, every single week - Ya dig?

Over the night it became clear I’m not as well versed in jazz music as I am jazz hands. Until I was presented with Matt and Phreds' Charlie Parker pizza, I hadn't even known who the great saxophonist Charlie Parker was... 

We headed on down to Tib Street for Matt and Phred’s monthly Monday Blues and Jazz nights, that sees a selected group of oh-so-very-serious musos in flatcaps and waistcoats-over-t-shirts perform all evening long.

The small gig venue’s focal point is a small stage (and haberdasherie looking curtain), where unknown and soon-to-be-known musicians can share the song they have in their hearts with willing ears and people drinking huge quantities of red wine.

Everyone there, the House Band, the audience, the bar staff, was feeling ‘it’.

Img_5730She's feeling it

If you’ve ever been to a Gospel church, you’d understand the Jazz concept of ‘feeling it’ a little more. Where in church you’d be overcome with the 'Holy Ghost', here it’s the music that inspires you to shout out ‘Yes!’, ‘umm huumm’ and break out into tongues.

Or, in the jazz sense, ‘scatting’. There was good scatting to be had and all the ske-bad-de-deeble-dees and harmonica moans became a perfect soundtrack to a really sophisticated evening.

Img_5731Bluesy harmonica playing

Looking around the sea of flatcaps, most had come with a partner and it was clear that it was not just about jam sessions: Matt and Phred's is a hot spot for wooin’ and courtin’.

It’s an understatedly sexy venue.

The combination of the crying saxophone, dim lights and the glowing scarlet red walls set Matt and Phred's mood at romantic. The small size of the bar and viewing area also add to the intimacy – after all, as the room starts to fill up to capacity there’s no other option but to bunch your chairs together and get cosy.

Matt-And-Phred-S-JazzMatt And Phreds: Squeeze in

Even though most seemed to be on the vino, Matt and Phred's have a large cocktail list. I went for a Singapore Sling which at £7.20 felt fair for the good sized and well crafted drink. Food was also available until midnight.

I’m not sure what type of cuisine the jazz greats would have chose to represent their genre, is there even such a thing as Jazz food? Still, Matt and Phred's opted for pizza and nachos.

Img_5900Charlie Parker pizza (£8.20)

As food there to fill peckish bellies and not win Michelin stars, sure, pizza is a safe and inoffensive option. In keeping with the jazz theme, I went for the Charlie Parker pizza with parma ham and Milano salami (£8.20). Out came a small, thin crusted pizza, which, emitting the stage name, is just a pepperoni pizza. But then, folk go for the music and drink, not to be wowed by the food. It's functional grub.

Img_5737A lesson in jazz and bluesOver the night it became clear I’m not as well versed in jazz music as I am jazz hands. Until I was presented with Matt and Phred's Charlie Parker pizza, I hadn't even known who the great saxophonist Charlie Parker was.

Nonetheless, the lingo, the culture and all that other jazz entices me enough to want to develop a jazz palette and broader understanding.

That’s where Matt and Phred's comes in.

The venue with its collected and cool style makes you want to dust off some suede slippers, don a pipe and get into character, to really ‘feel it’ in the way everyone else appeared to.

Of course, suede slippers (or flatcaps) aren't an entry requirement. However, an open mind and a good ear for music seemed to be, and that I had. 

One thing to note, Matt and Phred's is loud with both music and chatter, all fighting hard to be heard. What becomes the beauty of it though, is when a solo musician has closed his eyes, scrunched up his face and really starts to wow the crowd. The chatter then quiets to a hush and all just sit and listen. It's a collective feeling.

Img_5733They're feeling it. 

In recent weeks, much has been discussed of the importance of Manchester’s small and independent music venues. Fellow Northern Quarter venue Night and Day’s ongoing noise dispute provoked a knee jerk reaction from those who feared it would close. Signatures piled up and memories of intimate gigs from musicians before they hit the big time flooded Twitter and beyond.

Matt and Phred’s is equally as cherished. The venue is packed out and the variety of ages in the room speaks volumes about the venue's popularity.

In its 20 plus years of being tucked away down a Northern Quarter side street, Matt and Phreds has built a reputation as a welcoming, homely and relaxed music centred venue. One that welcomes all styles, as long as you have a little soul. With that as an ethos there's no wonder Jamie Cullen and a pre-superstardom Adele have performed on Matt and Phred's humble stage. 

I truly enjoyed the authencity of the place. 

It's cool, indulgent, unfrivolous and great to enjoy mid-week. Where nearby larger gig venues have been jumping with the likes of Prince and Beyoncé recently (for £70 plus a ticket, may I add), Matt and Phred's provided a down-to-earth live music alternative - and mostly for free. 

I left with red wine stained lips and a scoop-de-be-bop in my heart. What ever 'it' was they were feeling, it was clearly infectious. 

Flatcap jazzFlatcap jazzFollow @LOreal_B on Twitter


Matt and Phreds: 64 Tib St, Northern Quarter M4 1LW

 Phone: 0161 839 7187

Rating: 14/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Drinks: 4/5. A good and wide selection of cocktails

Service: 4/5. Very friendly and relaxed. Almost too relaxed. could do to speed up.

Ambience: 4/5. Intimate, romantic and jazzy. Can feel a little tight.

Food: 2/5. There's no such thing as jazz food.  

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Img_5908 - Copy

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Lauren MellorFebruary 27th 2014.

Matt & Phreds is one of Manchester's finest treasures. The pizzas although 'functional' do not deserve a 2/5, they are consistently great tasting and make the most perfect and simple accompaniment to the jazz and a cocktail or two or three... Nobody wants to be clattering around with knives and forks in the middle of a set. Top venue, super vibe, great pizza and an abundance of jolly staff.

1 Response: Reply To This...
PiemanFebruary 27th 2014.

I agree with every point Lauren

MarkFebruary 27th 2014.

The place is amazing. Thoroughly recommended. Too good to allow my inclinations to insist it remains a secret

JacobFebruary 27th 2014.

The dave walsh special. Chorizo and anchovy. Hmmmm! Music's good too!

GarethFebruary 27th 2014.

I agree with Lauren Mellor. Matt & Phreds pizza deserves far more than 2/5. Everyone who lives in the NQ know's that Matt & Phreds is renowned for its pizza's. Maybe L'Oréal Blackett doesn't like pizza.......

John RogersFebruary 28th 2014.

The original Pizza Express restaurant was (and still is) a jazz venue. It's caught on there as a concept, I reckon. I agree with Lauren Mellor too. The pizzas in Matt & Phreds are tasty, quick to arrive, easy to eat and share amidst the bustle of a lively music venue. Don't change it please M&P.

AVOMarch 1st 2014.

£8.20 for a freaking pizza?!?! I remember when the pizzas used to be free when you bought two alcoholic drinks.

Claire TurnerMarch 2nd 2014.

AVO, the pizzas are still free during Happy Hour if you buy two alcoholic drinks! HH times; Mon / Wed / Thurs 6pm - 8pm Tues 6pm - Midnight Fri 5pm - 7.30pm Claire (M&P's)

1 Response: Reply To This...
IanMarch 4th 2014.

nice! not been for years need to revisit

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