With its long winter nights, perfectly mixed cocktails and illustrious history of producing talented musicians, London is a great place to hear some live jazz. From the classic to the avant-garde, we’ve rounded up a list of the best spots to inspire any jazz lover.
If you’re looking for a combination of some of the best cocktails in the world and some of the best jazz in London, this is where you’ll find it. Nightjar is one of the finest examples of the speakeasy-type bars that London does so well. Head through the discreetly marked door after booking in advance, go down the stairs and into the intimate, dimly-lit basement. The bar hosts a variety of live acts, most frequently jazz and blues, and have pulled in an impressive array of artists since being open. While you’re not likely to hear anything avant-garde, Nightjar is ideal if you want a night out listening to jazz and a guaranteed good time – everything always runs like clockwork.
Not a place to sit in silence and appreciate the groove, Camden’s Jazz Cafe will get you up and dancing in no time. You can catch some of the funkiest acts from around the world, with bands like Royal Southern Brotherhood, The Suffers and Jocelyn Brown treading the boards. It also has regular club nights, a sizeable dance floor and a restaurant serving southern American classics.
Think beyond doughballs and mozzarella – this historic Pizza Express hosts a lineup of very respectable jazz offerings that you can listen to while enjoying a classic pizza and bottle of wine. Open since 1976 in the heart of Soho, the intimate basement venue lets you get up close and personal with your musical heroes. It’s won plenty of awards and has seen the likes of Norah Jones, Gregory Porter and the great Amy Winehouse play there, as well as the stars of tomorrow. Make sure to book your ticket in advance and prepare to peer at your pizza in the dimly lit room.
Opened in the ’80s by former taxi driver David Mossman and businessman Irving Kinnersley, this music institution started as an art gallery on Church Street. The Vortex Jazz Club is now a full-fledged jazz venue in Dalston, dedicated to spreading traditional and offbeat interpretations of the New Orleans-born genre. As a host of the London Jazz Festival and blues masterclasses, this avant-garde spot is the real deal.
Hidden at the less salubrious end of Chelsea, this place is popular with the hardcore jazz crowd. As secret a spot as you can find in the UK capital (the club is hidden behind a door marked only with the number 606), it’s the place to go to connect with other jazz fans. It’s been around for more than 30 years, and as it also serves food, it’s best to make a night of it. With live music from British jazz musicians seven nights a week, the party is always jumping.
Café Oto is more on the weird and wonderful side of the jazz club arena. Mainstream is definitely not in the vocabulary of this vast airy venue located behind Dalston’s Kingsland High Street. Discover music you never knew you needed in your life, every day of the week. There’s a huge array of styles on show, including improv, free jazz, psych-rock and lots more. Not one to be missed for adventurous music explorers.
This one needs almost no introduction as it has jazz club legend status. Open since 1959, it’s hosted the biggest names in jazz, from Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald, to Katie Melua and Jamie Cullum. For an evening in the original club on the ground floor, you have to book a table and eat dinner in the venue, but for the less committed there’s a club with dancefloor on the first floor. You can’t call yourself a jazz fan in London if you haven’t been here at least once.