10 of the best jazz bars in London

Ready to paint the town, and all that jazz?

Updated on 15 January 2020 • Written By Deborah Reda

10 of the best jazz bars in London

When it comes to music genres, we find jazz to be like brunch: people either love it or (profess to) hate it. If you’re a hater, you might complain that it sounds like a musical mess; if you’re an admirer, you might wax lyrical about the intricacies of an improvised saxophone solo or sing the praises of Ella Fitzgerald (though, let’s be honest, probably not as well as she could sing them herself).

Since you’ve chosen to find out what we consider to be the best jazz bar London has to offer, we’re guessing you’re a jazz fan looking for a soulful night out, in which case, you’re in luck. There are loads of jazz clubs in London, but we’ve narrowed them down to the very best of the bunch. A few are famous, so you’ll almost certainly have heard of them, while others are lesser known gems waiting to be discovered. Some are restaurants or bars that host special jazz nights, meaning you can indulge in a delicious meal before kicking back with a drink and getting lost in the music.

If you’re reading this out of necessity – perhaps because your partner loves jazz and you’ve grudgingly agreed to book something for their birthday – we’re keen to change your mind. We’re not saying that jazz is for everyone, but as there are so many different types of jazz, from be-bop to big band, ragtime to smooth, we reckon you might just find one you like, or at least don’t hate. Our advice? Pick one that serves great food and drinks so if you really don’t enjoy the music, you’ll have something to look forward to.  

And with that, err, positive mind-set, we’d like to present to you our list of what we consider to be the best venues for jazz London has to offer.

 

The Jazz Cafe

Why: The two-tiered layout of this popular jazz club in Camden means music lovers can choose to watch the performance from the comfort of an upstairs table (perhaps with a Negroni in hand) or to be in the thick of things in the downstairs standing area. Either way, guests can look forward to a stellar line-up night after night. The Jazz Cafe has played host to all manner of big names, including Amy Winehouse and D’Angelo, though it’s started to focus more on up-and-coming artists of late, so whatever your jam, you’re pretty much guaranteed a brilliant night.
When: Every night
Where: The Jazz Cafe, 5 Parkway, Camden

 

Ronnie Scott’s

Why: If someone asked you to name the most well-known jazz club London possesses, chances are you’d say “Ronnie Scott’s”. This iconic jazz bar in Soho has been going strong since the fifties and is as special today as it was back then. The intimate club continues to draw in some of the biggest names in jazz, along with plenty of hotly-tipped rising stars, so if you like being the first to witness ‘the next big thing’, you ought to book yourself a seat pronto.    
When: Every night
Where: Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith Street, Soho

 

Jazzgir

Why: There’s no need to cram a quick sandwich in before an evening of jazz if you’re heading to Jazzgir as this waterside restaurant/bar serves up Mediterranean-inspired dishes as well as live jazz most nights of the week. The performances are provided by a rotating line-up of musicians, so you can arrive early for drinks at the bar or just in time for the opening number.
When: Selected evenings
Where: Jazzgir, 15-16 Harbour Exchange Square, Canary Wharf

 

Pizza Express Jazz Club

Why: Dough balls, pizza and jazz are an excellent combination and all can be enjoyed in the basement jazz club located within Pizza Express’s Soho branch. The club has been going since the seventies and has played host to some big names, including Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, Rick Wakeman and Jamie Cullum. You might have to squint at your food in the low lights, but it’s a small sacrifice to hear world-class musicians at work.
When: Every night
Where: Pizza Express Jazz Club, 10 Dean Street, Soho

 

The Vortex Jazz Club

Why: A cool cat among the young Dalston kittens that surround it, the Vortex has been keeping the jazz vibe alive for more than 20 years. It might be housed in a shiny new building, but make no mistake: live music is taken very seriously. Artists range from young local talent to world-renowned jazz musicians, so strap in for some of the best jazz, world music, blues and folk in town.
When: Every night
Where: The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston

 

Nightjar

Why: Not only is Nightjar one of our favourite speakeasy bars in town, it’s also one of the best spots in London for live music. Each night from 9.30pm, two sets take to the intimate stage to perform everything from traditional jazz to ragtime, all while you sit back with one of Nightjar’s delectable cocktails. It’s worth mentioning that you need to request a stage front seat when booking, and that the bar is only open to over-21s.
When: Every night, though a cover charge applies Wed-Sun
Where: Nightjar, 129 City Road, Old Street

 

Boisdale of Canary Wharf

Why: Its resemblance to a smart Scottish gentleman’s club is uncanny, but there’s more to Boisdale than tartan, haggis and whisky. The Canary Wharf branch is actually one of the capital’s top venues for live jazz, blues and soul music, with gigs taking place every night of the week. The line-up is overseen by its patron, renowned jazz pianist, Jools Holland, who curates intimate gigs by big names in the industry.
When: Every night
Where: Boisdale of Canary Wharf, Cabot Place West

 

The Blues Kitchen

Why: Okay, so it’s not strictly jazz, but who can resist hearty Texan BBQ and blues music? Not us. Each of The Blues Kitchen’s three restaurants offer the same spirited mix of American soul food, a bumper crop of over 100 bourbons, and a large helping of live music that includes an impressive roll-call of well-known bands, so you’re guaranteed a great night all-round.
When: Every night
Where: Camden, Brixton + Shoreditch

 

Ruby’s Bar & Lounge

Why: Tucked away down a dubious-looking staircase in the heart of Dalston is Ruby’s Bar & Lounge, a booth-lined basement jazz bar where punters can eat, drink and forget their troubles. Prepare to be transported back to the fifties as some of London’s finest talents on the jazz circuit play bop, swing and groove tunes till late. Entry is ‘free’ (a live music charge applies) and cocktails are all under a tenner.
When: Tues-Sat
Where: Ruby's Bar & Lounge, 76 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston

 

Kansas Smitty’s

Why: This 1950s-style beatnik bunker is run by its own eponymous house band, so you can be sure the music will take centre-stage. The eight-piece band’s full-swing soirées promise to transport you to 1930s Kansas City, but if you’re looking for something a little more soulful, there’s a night for that too. Juleps are the cocktail bar’s speciality, but there are plenty of other strong cocktails to sample too.
When: Every night
Where: Kansas Smitty's, 63 Broadway Market, Hackney

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