Change is afoot in London’s nightlife scene: jazz is thriving. It’s made it on the airways, too: at tomorrow’s Mercury Prize, a jazz influence can be found in a quarter of the nominees (Ezra Collective, Raye, and Olivia Dean — who all hail from London — take from jazz, blues and soul).
Meanwhile, some of the capital’s most exciting emerging talents are found on the jazz scene. Take south London-based Ella Knight, the 25-year-old singer who founded Madame Jazz as an events platform for young women. “There are many amazing jazz communities and events in and around London,” says Knight. “But the percentages of women on these stages are very small. Madame Jazz aims to abolish this ideology.”
There’s also the Londoners who have been slowly dominating festival line-ups and gaining attention in recent years. Just look at saxophonists Nubya Garcia and CKTRL; drummers Moses Boyd and Yussef Dayes; Ezra Collective’s Joe Armon-Jones; and newcomer, singer/songwriter BINA, who infuses jazz with R&B.
It’s taking over TikTok too. Venues such as NT Loft and Dalston Jazz Bar used to be relatively under-the-radar spots that attracted regular, loyal customers. Now, thanks to several viral TikTok videos, people queue down the street hours in advance. “Several TikToks were made which went viral and targeted a different demographic, therefore business especially rose significantly around the time the post went live on TikTok. The laid back family run atmosphere facilitates a very relaxed environment suitable for all age groups, from all parts of the world,” says Duke Uibel, director of operations at Dalston Jazz Bar.
If pop, mud and debauchery made up summer’s mood board, then it’s high time to show a little decorum heading into autumn. Swap seltzers for bottles of red and drop the Barbie soundtrack for London’s flourishing jazz. Here’s where to go — and the names to know.
Hackney’s intimate NT Loft — an off-shoot of E8’s Night Tales — has lately scored social media virality. As such, this is a place where arriving early is essential and booking ahead is always smart. Every Wednesday, see live performances for free while the sun goes down. The Overground rattles past as guests indulge in empanadas, Estrella and sultry jazz beats. It’s worth the social hype. Go before 7.15 pm to avoid the £5 entry.
Which gig? Every Wednesday works, but try the Patterns vibe session on Sept 13 (@patternsweekly_).
207, 1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL, ntloft.co.uk
For those wanting to capitalise on these last summer evenings, Grow does jazz on a canal-side terrace every Thursday. Musicians are stationed on a floating barge and a fee of £6 guarantees a good view. Boats drift silently by as guests chat, drink and date in the sun. There’s even homemade Hackney rum.
Which gig? Catch Stratos tomorrow, led by Mercury-nominated Rio Kai.
98C Wallis Road, E9 5LN, growhackney.co.uk
The early Ninteies had something. In 1993 came Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues on Kingly Street (still there and worth visiting) while since 1995, The Crypt in Camberwell has become one of the capital’s favourite late-night jazz haunts. The Crypt has raised some of south London’s most exciting musicians making waves today, including Dayes and Kamaal Williams, who formed Yussef Kamaal here. Concerts are every Friday, plus some Thursdays and Saturdays.
Which gig? Don’t miss the James Kitchman Quartet on Sept 15.
St Giles’ Church, Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8JB, jazzlive.co.uk
Dalston Jazz Bar
Dalston’s first jazz bar was opened by Robert Beckford 23 years ago and is now more popular than ever, recently scoring half a million views on TikTok. From 8pm on Thursdays and 6pm on Friday and Saturdays, the venue is a seafood restaurant that operates on a pay-what-you-want basis, with a base donation of £20pp for three courses (and jazz show). At 10pm, the tables are cleared and the dance floor erupts into Noughties classics. It stays open until 3am, and when Beckford gets his drumsticks out you know you’re in for a good night.
Which gig? Any — you’ll find Beckford on the decks every Friday and Saturday.
4 Bradbury Street, N16 8JN, dalstonjazzbar.co.uk, @dalstonjazzbar
Brilliant Corners is known for its food as well as its music. It serves Japanese cuisine, based on the country’s izakaya culture. Last year, the team behind it also opened Mu just a few doors away, named after an album by legendary trumpeter Don Cherry. Just like Brilliant Corners, it mixes live jazz with experimental Japanese dishes.
Which gig? See self-taught 24-year-old Yohan Kebede on Sept 13 at Mu.
470 Kingsland Road, E8 4AE, brilliantcornerslondon.co.uk
432-434 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA, mu-ldn.com
The names to know
Nubya Garcia is one of Britain’s most famous saxophonists of the moment. Hailing from Camden, Garcia attended Trinity Laban and was in the same graduating class as Ezra Collective’s Joe Armon-Jones.
September 15 at Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX, southbankcentre.co.uk
South Londoner Yussef Dayes grew up going to Jazz Live at The Crypt and is now one of the UK’s most prominent jazz drummers. His debut solo album Black Classical Music was released earlier this year.
October 12, The Royal Albert Hall, SW7 2AP, royalalberthall.com
The Mercury Prize-nominated quintet are at the forefront of London’s new jazz movement. They’ve performed all over the world and worked with the likes of Jorja Smith and Loyle Carner. Their Royal Albert Hall show is guaranteed to be a special one.
November 7, The Royal Albert Hall, SW7 2AP, royalalberthall.com
South London-based R&B singer BINA. made waves earlier this year performing at Mahalia Presents as well as supporting Emmeline. She’s a rising star who mixes smooth jazz undertones with contemporary R&B. Keep an eye on this one.
November 10, The Lower Third, 26 Denmark St, WC2H 8NJ, dice.fm
ES Magazine cover star CKTRL is not only a talented saxophonist, but a favourite of London’s fashion crowd too. From the Serpentine Summer Party to Bush Hall, catch him headlining at this year’s London Jazz Festival.
November 17 at Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Rd, W12 7LJ, dice.fm
The Night Owl
If you’re looking to liven up a Tuesday, look no further than The Night Owl. Directly opposite the Tube station, every Tuesday this unsuspecting north London joint sees musician Bukky Leo and his quartet take over the basement for a jazz jam. Donations are welcomed.
Which gig? The next jam is Sept 12.
5 Station Place, Finsbury Park, N4 2DH, finsburypark.thenightowl.club
Hidden in the basement of The Ned is The Parlour, discreetly situated behind what looks like the door to a cloakroom. This dimly lit, intimate restaurant is about as romantic as it gets, with cosy booths that cradle each couple. On Fridays and Saturdays, sink into your seat for jazz and cabaret performances as you tuck in to chocolate fondant.
Which gig? Spice up your jazz with a side of cabaret as High Society plays on Sept 16.
27 Poultry, EC2R 8AJ, thened.com
PizzaExpress Jazz Club
Don’t leap to judgment. Since 1969, Dean Street’s PizzaExpress has long been one of the capital’s most renowned jazz clubs, with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Diana Krall and Sting all having performed here. A reservation at the restaurant will not get you into the club, so you’ll have to pay separately. Oh, and look out for a fashion set — it’s become an unlikely fave of Vogue-ish sorts.
Which gig? Witness two top tier London groups come together as Naia and Reiss Ellis Beckles Group partner on Sept 28.
10 Dean Street, W1D 3RW, pizzaexpresslive.com
It would be impossible not to mention Ronnie’s. Open since 1959, the venue is a globally-recognised, bona fide Soho legend. A host to the greats, Jimi Hendrix played his last public performance here in 1970, while Miles Davis was also known to swing by. The calibre remains the same today. Start with the Late Late Show, which begins at midnight and ends at 2am. Otherwise, check the website for the big names.
Which gig? Modern jazz at its finest with Uriel Herman Quartet on Sept 19.
47 Frith Street, W1D 4HT, ronniescotts.co.uk