The best jazz bars in London have a uniquely soulful and friendly air which many other live music venues in London struggle to recreate. Often small, often full of true jazz fans and always welcoming,
The capital's clubs can effectively be split into three types: lively bars that recall the crackling atmosphere of the 50s golden age, where the audience gets up close to acts and improvised jams are common; sophisticated cabaret-style supper venues where guests can dine while they watch the performers; and clubs where you can dance to contemporary forms of jazz, whether it's soulful home-grown talent, acid jazz, or the latest ‘death' jazz from Japan.
Whatever you're looking for, acid jazz, soul jazz, jazz dancing or jazz performed by musicians with names so big that even you have heard of them, call us so we can advise on what's in town and book tickets.
Ronnie Scott's, Soho 47 Frith Street, W1D
Ronnie Scotts is one of the oldest Jazz clubs in the world, and since opening has featured most of the legendary and popular names in modern jazz and jazz fusion. (And here's your fact of the day - Ronnie Scott provided the sax solo on The Beatles' 'Lady Madonna'. And he didn't like the final recording.)
This is said to be one of the best venues in the UK for jazz. The club is a low-lit cabaret-style venue, with dining tables in front of the stage and benches around the outside of the room.
Jazz Café, Camden 5 Parkway, NW1
The Jazz Cafe was opened in December 1990 after being converted from the Camden Town Barclays Bank branch. It originally ran along the lines of Ronnie Scott's with seven nights a week live Jazz music. After the original owner's went into receivership the venue was bought by the Mean Fiddler and re-positioned as a Jazz, Soul, Funk, World, Dance and Hip Hop venue.
It is focused on contemporary artists, with lots of soul, funk and hip-hop performers.' This big venue is dance orientated and is always packed with a lively crowd. It's standing-room only downstairs, with dining tables on the mezzanine level overlooking the stage.
The Vortex, Dalston 11 Gillett Square, London N16
Established In North London the Vortex has been a fixture on the north London jazz scene for more than 20 years, the club is a beacon for contemporary jazz in the capital. With seven evening performances a week the Vortex programmes cutting-edge jazz alongside contemporary folk and world music.
While it places a strong emphasis on, and provides support for, young local talent, it also regularly features leading world-class artists, both from the UK and overseas – for example – from the UK, Stan Tracey, Tony Kofi, Evan Parker, Sir John Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine, Mercury Music Prize Nominated Polar Bear and Zoe Rahmann, John Taylor and Gwilym Simcock and award-winning saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock.
The downstairs Ochre Works bistro serves food, while the low-key, almost industrial, space of the upstairs club is filled with small tables that stretch out in front of the stage. This is a jazz lover’s venue.
606 Club, Chelsea 90 Lots Road, SW10
With its distinctive but discreet red brick arched doorway, the 606 Club is one of Chelsea's most popular jazz venues. People have crammed into this Chelsea basement venue since the mid-70s to listen to some of the best home-grown jazz. It has now existed as Jazz Club restaurant for more than 30years, originally a small 30 seater basement venue at 606 Kings Road, it built up a solid reputation through the 70’s and 80’s amongst musicians and audiences as the Jazz hang-out. The popularity of the Club amongst musicians led to the policy of only booking British based musicians in order to support the local scene, which has continued unchanged to this day.
Even though there's no dancefloor, this small club has a blistering energy: tables are packed together and the audience is so close to the stage that you can practically feel the air blowing from the sax. The club can only serve alcohol to non-members if they're eating, but fortunately there's a decent menu on offer
Bull's Head, Barnes 373 Lonsdale Road, SW13 9PY
The Bulls Head has been featuring jazz acts for the last 50 years and host live music every night of the week. This historic pub in Barnes may seem like an unlikely champion of modern jazz, but it's been one of London's best places to see big bands, blues performers, swing acts and vocalists since it began staging music nights in 1959.
It's not uncommon for members of the audience to bring their own instruments along for a jam. It doesn't take bookings, and gigs start at 8.30pm every night of the week and 1pm on Sundays.
Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho 10 Dean Street, W1D
The Pizza Express chain's cabaret-style jazz club tends to draw vocal performers, featuring established acts as well as up-and-coming talent: both Jamie Cullum and Amy Winehouse performed at the Jazz Club before they became household names. Many of the artists that play here crossover into the mainstream, the jazz club it's a good place for accessible jazz music.
Le QuecumBar, Battersea 42-44 Battersea High Street, SW11
Le QuecumBar is a funky, laid back jazz club on Battersea High Street dedicated to hot club gypsy jazz swing. A unique wine bar from a bygone era: pre-war Parisian club, with Hot Club gypsy jazz, invented by Django Reinhardt. Based in London, they offer the best in live music and gypsy jazz, this wine bar and French restaurant has established itself as one of London's best venues to hear furiously melodic gypsy jazz guitarists, romantic accordion-backed bal musette acts and Edith Piaf-style Chanson Francais vocalists.
They offer all you'd expect from a great wine bar, plus mouthwatering food and an unequalled atmosphere worthy of the best jazz clubs around. A must for all jazz and live music fans in London