Think jazz and images of dark, smoky 1940s New York style basements bars immediately spring to mind. Venues reminiscent of this are hard to come by in London – mainly owing to the pesky smoking ban; and the fact that London isn’t in New York; and that the year is in fact 2010 and not 1940. But fear not, London still offers an incredible array of venues to get your jazz fix – ranging from refined restaurants in Belgravia to venues frequented by the cool cats of Camden.
Sophie Atkinson dusts off her pork pie hat, grabs her finest pack of Cubans and orders herself a Scotch on the rocks to show us the swishiest, sweatiest and sexiest places to enjoy jazz in London.
Boisdale of Canary Wharf
Canary Wharf / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: Scottish
Live jazz music in Canary Wharf - Not only does Boisdale restaurant serve up some of the most divine food in London (and possibly the best haggis this side of Gretna Green) but it also serves up superb jazz, blues and soul in this resplendent restaurant for you to enjoy. There's even a cigar library where you can sample Havana's finest, indoors (a very rare treat!). This place certainly has the old fashioned charm of a gentlemen's club and I personally have struggled to find a better all-encompassing, decadent yet amazingly affordable, night out in London.
Le QuecumBar & Brasserie
Battersea / Bar / Restaurant / Club / Cuisine: Brasserie
Parisian 1930s cafe-society setting with stylish authentic ambience meets hot gypsy swing and jazz music. Soak up the nightly live music, enjoy delicate French cuisine and sample fine (as well as inexpensive) world wines - all in this funky yet laid back club on Battersea High Street. A real treat of a night.
Angel & Islington / Bar / Club /
Only a stone's throw from Angel tube (as long as you have quite a good throw), this intimate little bar/venue hosts astounding blues and jazz gigs on Fridays and Saturdays (with the odd midweek one for good measure). Along with the atmosphere and awesome acts, the real ale and decent bar snacks also pull in the punters (apparently, the hotdogs are incredible). Get there early if there is someone who really want to see - this place fills up quickly, especially on weekdays
Waterloo / Bar / Hotel / Cuisine: Bar
Live jazz music near the South Bank - Overlooking Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament, the Primo Bar offers a fine selection of emerging and established jazz artists such as South African vocalist Kate Winter, high mezzo soprano Josephine Desmond, one of London's finest new vocal talents, Atila, and critically acclaimed saxophonist Renato D'Aiello. Shows run every Tuesday and Sunday and are entirely free of charge. In addition, the Primo Bar offers an amazing selection of cocktails and delicious bar food in a relaxed setting.
Camden / Bar / Cuisine: European
This funky little venue situated slap-bang on Parkway feels like a genuine New York hip-hop venue. Everyone who is anyone has played here - from the legendary Chuck Berry to Martha Wainwright (who came from her hospital bed to perform here recently). Cool, chilled with awesome tunes; this place is quintessential Camden.
Jazz @ Pizza Express
Soho / Restaurant / Club /
Don't let the name fool you, this restaurant and bar serves up some of the best jazz acts in London along with your favourite thin-crust pizzas and garlic dough balls. This illustrious, intimate and ultimately relaxed venue, right in the heart of Soho, attracts local and international jazz stars alike. Be sure to book ahead.
Vortex Jazz Club
Dalston / Bar / Club /
Ronnie Scotts and the Jazz Café may head up the jazz establishment in London, but this Dalston dive is the scene's beating heart. With a diverse programme of artists, running from Mercury nominated jazzers Acoustic Ladyland to the very best nu-folk and no-wave has to offer, even the most discerning pair of ears can be sure to find something to their taste.
Madame Jo Jo's
Soho / Bar / Club /
This may not be your typical London jazz venue, but Madame Jojo's hosts an awesome funk jam night. Maestro Keb Darge spins the best from the last five decades of black American music while some incredible breakers and jazz dancers strut their funky stuff. Many famous names have turned up as surprise guests here over the years (for love man, not money) including DJ Shadow and Paul Weller.
The Bull's Head
Barnes & Sheen / Bar / Cuisine: Pub
The laid back and effortlessly cool Bull's Head has been a jazz institution for over 50 years and still hosts live jazz and swing acts almost every night of the week. Due to the location, you are more likely to find locals and genuine lovers of jazz here than your Nathan Barley types and tourists. In the converted stables at the back of the venue, you'll find the cute little Nuay's Thai Bistro, which serves up authentic Thai fare at very reasonable prices.
Waterloo / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: British
Located on London's South Bank and set in the stunningly converted Victorian railway arches that are just steps from Waterloo Station, this place is constantly packed with arty types and tourists alike. Live jazz fills this place from Monday to Saturday and the delicate modern European dishes pull punters in aplenty.
Lambeth & Elephant & Castle / Bar / Restaurant / Cuisine: French
Streatham & Norbury / Bar / Club /
Chelsea / Bar / Club /
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