If an evening spent sitting back with peaty whisky in hand, enjoying the even smokier sounds of world-class live jazz music appeals — you are a gentleman after our own hearts.
When it comes to jazz clubs, London may boast Ronnie Scott’s, but there are plenty of lesser-known underground bars ready to rival its legendary status; a goldmine for both established and emerging artists on the scene.
Gentleman’s Journal asked jazz and blues musician Collette Cooper to let us in on the city’s best-kept secrets, and the jazz bars she loves both to play in and party at.
For any night of the week: The Piano Bar, Soho
Situated just off Soho Square; the little sister to Ronnie Scott’s. “It’s an amazing place to dance and go crazy, or to just sit back and enjoy the music and ambience,” says Collette.
The Piano Bar is also a favourite hang-out for celebrities including Nick Grimshaw and Sadie Frost (we even hear rumours that Helena Bonham Carter has been known to take to the stage here after a couple of drinks…)
The vibe: Low-lit, old-school, and members-only (memberships are only £10). Come for the real deal.
On heavy rotation: The best in international emerging musical talent.
Black roll neck factor: A full-blown Louis Armstrong 10/10.
For food as good as the soundtrack: Blues Kitchen, across London
“What I love about performing is standing before a crowd who aren’t shy — and that’s what you get at Blues Kitchen” says Collette. With outposts at Camden, Brixton and Shoreditch, expect a party atmosphere, a total lack of pretension, and enough food and cocktails to fill your dancing shoes.
The vibe: A slightly younger crowd and a dancefloor you won’t want to step foot away from all night.
On heavy rotation: American jazz club favourites
Black roll neck factor: A saxophone-blasting 8/10
For fine dining and finger snapping: The Ned, The City
A world-class hotel with the jazz credentials to match. You’ll find everything from improvised horns to syncopated piano performed in The Nickel Bar from 11am until midnight every single day.
Collette says, “there is a real early 20th Century feel to the performances, with the stage set in the centre of the restaurant, and different musicians performing throughout the day.”
The vibe: Like an 1930s American jazz club, but with more City suits, and smoked salmon on the menu.
On heavy rotation: Soul-soothing, gentle jazz
Black roll neck factor: A just-swinging-enough 4/10
For illustrious musical history: 100 Club, Oxford Street
Jazz and blues turned this tiny basement at the scruffier end of Oxford Street into a hallowed space for music. It may have since played host to the likes of Alice Cooper, Paul McCartney and Sex Pistols, but remains a bastion of jazz.
Collette says, “76 years old and it still has that underground edge. A great space to play!”
The vibe: Sticky floors, questionable toilets and a brilliant night out. As authentic as an original vinyl pressing of Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue.
On heavy rotation: Homegrown, edgier sounds across an array of genres.
Black roll neck factor: A little more punk 6/10
For loosening your tie: The Jazz Cafe, Camden
The more militant jazz purist may turn their roll neck up at a venue that hosts everything from Electronica to neo-soul, but here you can also be sure to find the best jazz and blues musicians on the circuit.
Collette says, “this is the place to come and see an eclectic mix of performers, and enjoy some delicious food!”
The vibe: Come for the party, stay for the food. A low-key venue with big name stars.
On heavy rotation: Honestly, there’s no theme here.
Black roll neck factor: A Converse peppered 7/10
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