SUMMERTIME, and the livin’ is easy.
Or at least, we’d like to think it is.
Fortunately, you can unwind with a few drinks and music in the best bars that make up London’s very vibrant jazz scene.
RONNIE SCOTT’S JAZZ CLUB
OK, so this establishment goes without saying. It’s like chucking The Beatles in a ‘famous bands article’, which is why we’re getting it out of the way.
Beyond merely its legacy, the bar still attracts the biggest names in jazz while offering an intimate atmosphere that is pretty unchanged since 1959.
Book well in advance, or attend the jam sessions. Choose the steak, or caviar, and wash it down with anything from champagne to a house cocktail.
Recent acts have included Macy Gray, Jools Holland and Jeff Goldblum, keep an eye on their website to avoid disappointment.
ronniescotts.co.uk / 47 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4HT
Yes, this is the hotel with great Italian food and a cigar lounge that your friend keeps telling you to go to after they’ve had some whisky. The Wellesley is also host to live jazz on Friday and Saturday evenings from 8:30pm, though you’ll have to make reservations.
Dining options come from Oval Restaurant, serving fine Italian cuisine alongside vintage wines and bespoke cocktails.
Why is the hotel adamant on playing jazz music? Well, because it’s where Pizza on the Park used to be. The famed established that regularly saw the likes of Amy Winehouse grace its stage.
In keeping with tradition, the interior also pays respect to the roaring 20’s ambiance and art deco design. Its pink velvet curtains and chandeliers are in themselves worth seeing.
Oh, and there’s a dress code: elegant - like all good jazzers. Plus, if you’re hitting up the cigar room, you want to be looking good, don’t you.
marriott.co.uk / 11 Knightsbridge, Belgravia, London SW1X 7LY
Leave your snobbery at the door: PizzaExpress live is the real deal. Founder Peter Boizot was big into his jazz: he was also responsible for aforementioned Pizza on the Park. The original PizzaExpress Jazz Club is in Soho but there’s now one in Holborn, and a third in Chelsea (which, being Chelsea, has a fancy name of its own: The Pheasantry).
The Soho venue has been established for well over forty years and has seen the likes of Gregory Porter, Diana Krall and Van Morrison on its stage, so it is quite different to the chain’s typical restaurants.
While fairly unassuming on the outside, inside, you’ll find marble tables pretty tight together under orange lights, tucked right next to the stage. It’s sort of like that scene in every mafia film where they main guy and his date are watching someone sing and eating food, but without the violence and relatives everywhere.
You’ll find an act playing here every night of the week. Bookings are advised, but sometimes you can get in on the night.
If pizza and a Peroni is your thing, head down soon.
pizzaexpresslive.com / 10 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 3RW
City Road’s own answer to the scene is as known for its cocktails as its music, which is only ever a good thing. The bar is 21 and over too, so you won’t have to deal with your interns rocking up.
Here the music starts from 9:30pm and contains everything old school: From bebop to blues, ragtime to swing. The place oozes a similar style and coolness, a pure prohibition time aesthetic: dark, small, boozy, vibrant.
If you like cocktails, you’re going to need to visit, even if you have to bring headphones to listen to like, soundcloud rap, or whatever. The menu is separated by time periods: pre-prohibition, prohibition, and post-war with drinks pay homage to their respective eras.
There’s food served until 11:30pm also, so you can drink a good amount, responsibly.
nightjar.com / 129 City Rd, Old Street EC1V 1JB
Another long-standing institution on the scene, and one favoured by Jamie Cullum, so you’re kind of obliged to check it out if you claim to like 1) London, 2) jazz. There’s music on 7 days a week spanning jazz, r&b, soul, (and a lot more).
The basement venue (again, it’s jazz - it has to be in a dark room) seats 120 people, but often sells out.
There is a membership system that you can become a part of, which grants priority bookings.
You also cannot drink here as a non-member without ordering food, so should you be a regular attendee it may be wise to be a member, if you don’t fancy dinner each time.
606club.co.uk / 90 Lots Rd, Chelsea, London SW10 0QD
This is a relative wildcard on the list. The Hackney-based premises puts a lot of effort into championing younger artists, and it is tiny – tucked in the basement floor of a pub. There’s music on most nights, a small but self-devised cocktail menu, and typically no need to book.
This is the kind of place where you’re likely to spot a really good new artist that you can then brag about to your friends (if you’re the kind of person) when they become famous.
The house band are also acclaimed and have released three albums, if you want the safer option you can’t go wrong with catching them at the venue. As well as knowing all the classics, they often play their own compositions.
While the venue is a connoisseurs choice musically, it is also accessible, cheap and welcoming – an ideal casual date option, or initial foray into jazz.
kansassmittys.com / 63-65 Broadway Market E8 4PH