"Intimate concerts in which Mike duets with musicians of the highest calibre from the world of jazz"

Mike's SpeakEasy Nights began more than a decade ago at Ilminster Arts Centre.  Latterly there have also been regular sessions at Dorchester Arts and from time to time (by request) at other venues.  The formula has proved very popular with audiences.... and highly enjoyable for the musicians! 


SpeakEasy Nights have featured many top musicians including (but not limited to!) Enrico Tomasso, Steve Graham, Ben Cummings (Trumpet), John Wurr, Mike Snelling, Pete Allen (Clarinet), Jim Fryer (Trombone), Spats Langham, Martin Wheatley (Banjo, Guitar), Mike Piggott, Chris Garrick (Violin).


Emma Fisk

Fri 3 Apr - Sherborne Cheap St Church

Emma Fisk is a UK based jazz violinist, specialising in Hot Club/ Gypsy Jazz, Classic Jazz and Swing styles. She has received critical acclaim both for her spirited gypsy jazz performances, and her interpretations of early jazz violin master, Joe Venuti's music. 

Emma's current projects include her Gypsy Jazz quartet 'Hot Club du Nord' and a Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang inspired duo with guitarist James Birkett.  She appears at festivals and jazz clubs with many of the top UK and international players including for example Keith Nichols, Jeff Barnhart, Remi Harris, Spats Langham, Martin Wheatley, Enrico Tomasso. She was highly ranked in the 2018 British Jazz awards and her engaging personality adds to her appeal.

"a violinist with a dark rich tone, a love for melody, and a way of swinging without being syrupy"
                                    Michael Steinman, Jazz Lives

Sorry - cancelled due to corona 

Mike Denham solo

Fri 8 May - Ilminster Arts Centre

Responding to requests for another solo performance at Ilminster, Mike will play a programme celebrating the unlikely but hugely influential role of the Rent Party in 20th century jazz piano.

The 1920s rent party was a hot bed for the development of solo piano styles including blues, stride and boogie woogie.  Hundreds of long-forgotten pianists competed for engagements (and public recognition) at these informal events.  A few of them made the big time.  Fats Waller, Earl Hines and Jimmy Yancey cut their teeth at rent parties in New York and Chicago.  

Mike will play some of their well-known solo pieces, and some more obscure (but fascinating!) items in the style of Cripple Clarence Lofton, Art Hodes and others.  It was, of course, the era of prohibition and high-profile gangsters, which will no doubt provide a wealth of material for Mike's acclaimed anecdotes! 

Julia Titus

25 Nov - Dorchester Arts

Julia Titus is an actress, poet, singer and songwriter. Among her talents is the ability to convicingly put over the songs of that great blues & vaudeville singer of the 1920s, Bessie Smith.


Building on her passion for the 'Empress of the Blues', Julia started to perform as Ma Bessie in 2015, sharing the music of Ms Smith and her contemporaries with a new generation of listeners. Expect to hear classics including 'Careless Love', ‘Nobody Knows When You’re Down And Out’, ‘Gimme A Pig Foot (And A Bottle Of Beer)’, and of course 'Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight', all delivered with verve and style.

Bessie Smith recorded many titles accompanied by pianists James P Johnson & Clarence Williams with trumpeters Joe Smith & Louis Armstrong.  On this occasion Mike, at the grand piano, will be joined on trumpet by long-time colleage, Steve Graham.

This combination was a great hit at Ilminster Arts in 2019 - clips on YouTube.