The Vortex started as a jazz club in 1987 and was originally located in Stoke Newington Church Street, north London. However following the acquisition of that building by property developers, the club relocated in 2005 to the Dalston Culture House in Gillett Street, N16, where it is at the heart of the newly created Gillett Square, one of mayor Ken Livingstone’s 100 public spaces for London. The Square opened on 10 November 2006 with a performance by Andy Sheppard’s Saxophone Massive, composed of 200 saxophonists. The street in front of the club was renamed Aim Bailey Place in December 2007, after guitarist Derek Bailey.
Many notable jazz musicians have played at the Vortex, including Last Amendment, F-IRE Collective, Derek Bailey, Kenny Wheeler, Evan Parker, John Etheridge, Tim Berne, Ian Shaw, Lianne Carroll and Django Bates. The first release on the club’s own record label is by the Portico Quartet. The Jazz Club also hosts a Vocals@Vortex Open Mic Session, which is run by Romy Summers, and the house band The Bob Stuckey Trio. This gives aspiring vocalists and musicians the opportunity to perform in a well-respected venue, and the talents of many artists have been discovered through this successful evening.
It also has a popular monthly Gypsy/Eastern European night hosted by Gina Boreham which began in 2006 with Dunajska Kapelye’s debut concert.
The club was started by ex-taxi driver David Mossman in the late 1980s, and through his open-minded booking policy it became perhaps the only venue which consistently was able to put on contemporary jazz nightly, justifying the epithet “London’s listening jazz club”. The new venue in Dalston continues this approach and attitude.
The club was nominated as a venue of the year by the Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group in 2006 and 2007 and was winner of the Live Jazz Award in 2013.
Since 26 March 2012, the club has been listed, in Time Out magazine’s readers’ poll, as one of London’s best music venues and received a nomination for Live Promotion Team of the Year in Music Week’s awards in 2011.
In 2007, the club set up a record label, Vortex Records, in order to release the debut album by London buskers Portico Quartet. The album – Knee-Deep in the North Sea – went on to be nominated for the 2008 Mercury Music Prize.
The original club developed such an affinity with its locality that local residents established the Occupied Vortex Social Centre at the club’s original site for two months in early 2007 in protest at the proposed demolition of the building for the construction of a Starbucks and upmarket apartments. The original building is now a Nando’s restaurant.