By Eleanor Mills
London has one of the best jazz scenes in the world. With the release of The Great Gatsby fast approaching, why not get in the mood with a visit to one of the capital’s best jazz clubs? If you’re planning a trip later in the year, make it November, for the London Jazz Festival.
Ronnie Scott’s, Soho
The most established of all London’s jazz clubs, Ronnie’s was set up in 1959 by Ronnie Scott who had dreamed of opening his own club after frequent trips to New York in the 1940s and 50s. Some of the biggest names in jazz have graced the stage there, including Miles Davis (above), Wynton Marsalis and even Jimi Hendrix. Ronnie’s has changed the face of British jazz and remains the quintessential jazz experience. With popular acts like legendary drummer Roy Haynes’s Fountain of Youth Band (15-16 May) and vocalist Claire Martin (29-30 May) coming up, be sure to book early.
The Vortex, Dalston
Off the beaten track, The Vortex Jazz Club has provided a platform for the most groundbreaking jazz for the last 25 years, launching the careers of many groups like Mercury prize nominees Polar Bear and Portico Quartet. Easy to get to on the London overground, the club regularly has outstanding musicians playing for very reasonable prices. Look out for a two-day residency with Oriole and Basquiat Strings (featuring the acclaimed drummer Seb Rochford, of Polar Bear) from Friday 17 to Saturday 18 May. Great burgers in the restaurant downstairs too!
Dover Street Restaurant & Bar, Mayfair
For a sophisticated jazz experience book tickets to the Dover Street Restaurant & Bar. With great blues outfits and lively big bands, Dover Street offers a fun night out. For a more traditional sound, watch out for the Sugar Ray Ford Quartet playing jive and swing classics on 3 June, or check out the Blues Engineers on 8 May or 11 June.
PizzaExpress Jazz Club, Soho
It does exactly what it says on the packet: great jazz, great pizza. This PizzaExpress venue is underground, giving the club a great ambience. Acts to see in the coming month include saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch playing with the Moses Boyd Band on Sunday 2 June and elegant jazz singer Nikki Iles with The Printmakers playing on Wednesday 5 June.
One of London’s newest jazz venues, Hideaway has already made a mark on the UK jazz scene with renowned acts like the Neil Cowley Trio, Mark Lockheart, Ingrid Laubrock and Tom Cawley’s Curios playing there. The acoustics are great, food is delicious, service exceptional and, because it’s one of the capital’s best-kept jazz secrets, you’re bound to get good seats and an opportunity to meet the musicians afterwards. Make a trip down there on 16 June for Sunday lunch to see NYJO (the National Youth Jazz Orchestra).