Wanganui Jazz Club

About Us

In 1993,  a group of like-minded people got together to discuss the forming of a jazz club.   There were 14 of us, and we met up at the airport lounge.  From that meeting, a committee was chosen, and our first meeting was at the then Quay restaurant…now an Italian restaurant, formerly Vega. At the time , local band “Jazz Connexion”  was the feature band there, with Denise McNeill and then Erna Ferry.

At the time, we persuaded the Quay to pay $300 for each Sunday meeting.  For the next 2 years, we brought in different people from various bands, with the venue paying the bands.  We charged $5.00 at the door, and slowly built up a following.

Current club president – Ken Chernoff

Our first Festival was at the Golden Oaks, and we put together 6 acts, including John Carson and Erna Ferry.  It was a packed venue, again keeping the door charge to $5.00, with Golden Oaks paying a small fee to each band. Our next festival was at the Palm Lounge, before it burnt down.

By this time we had built up a small bank balance, a good monthly audience,  & some loyal musicians from around the local region. It was decided to have a regular annual festival.  By this time we had moved our club days to the Red Lion. After a spell there, we went to “Caruso’s Restaurant” in Wicksteed St, owned by one of the members.  The club was starting to get too big,  so our next venue was the back bar of the Grand Hotel.


By this time, the committee decided to seriously look into funding.  This was done and in 2004, we managed to get enough funding to bring the Fireworks band from Melbourne over.  This was a highlight, as, with the co operation of Collegiate School, this festival was held in their auditorium. We had a large crowd,  360 people, and this was the event that sealed our annual Festivals.  The club made some serious money and from that point on, never looked back. We then had subsequent Festivals every year.   The years of 2002 – 2006 saw some great artists come to the club.  From the states we had Bill Cunliffe, Holly Hoffman  {they both came twice,}  the Fireworks Jazz band, and top NZ groups The Jews Bros, Nairobi trio, to name but a few.  These were probably the halcyon years.  Many of NZ’s best musicians came often,  mostly from the Conservatorium of Music. The club has built up a good relationship with these people which is ongoing.


A move to the upstairs of the Commercial Club finally guaranteed our club a large membership, which supported us,  and we were able to purchase some quality equipment.   Because of the demise and closure of the Commercial club, it was decided to find new premises.  A short stint at the Stellar function room, made us realize it was not very suitable from an audience point of view.


In 2007, we moved to the RSA, which was our home until October 2018 when we moved to St John’s Club in Glasgow St.    The club’s annual Jazzboat Festivals put the club out there in the community, as well as help our bank balance.  Economics unfortunately depleted any further funding, and we ceased to have Festivals, from 2008.  We put our club fees up in 2007 after holding them for many years at $5.00 and $7.00.

What is extremely pleasing is that some of our members go back to our foundation years … and they are still coming along.

The club has been steered by some very good committee members,  who have played a big part in the club’s success.  There have been only 4 presidents in that time: 1992 Ash Mayor.  1992 – 1994 Barry Goold.  1994- 1997 Ash Mayor.  1997 – 2007 Angela Crawford .2007 -2016 Michael Smyth  – and the current President, Ken Chernoff.

Jazz Connexion Band with Ash Mayor on vocals and special guest from Christchurch, Lana Law on Alto – Christmas up at the Funky Duck café, Virginia Lake

Our club musicians play throughout the city, and are called upon at different times to support community based events, including the Masters Games, and annual Hospice Funding evenings.  In the 17 years this club has been going, it has gained in stature, and is now a respected and appreciated icon within Wanganui.

Our first Public meeting was called on Sunday 13th September 1992 and the original committee members were:  Ash Mayor, Denise McNeill, Vi Davies, Ray Isaacs, Barry Goold, Angela Crawford, Arahi Haggar, Mike Bignell and Mollie Bloor.