London might be better known for its rock and dance scenes, but Jazz has been popular in the capital since 1919, when American musicians like Sidney Beckett came to our shores. The city is also home to EFG London Jazz Festival, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022. From legendary old clubs, to small, neighbourhood venues and weekly jazz jams, here’s our guide to Jazz Clubs and bars in London.
Nightjar is a bar, rather than a music venue which is as famous for its cocktails as for its live jazz. The subterranean venue is on City Road, close to Old Street station – look out for the nightjar symbol that marks the entrance — you won’t find any big neon signs here. As well as signature cocktails including Nightjar Pisco Sour, you can also get bar snacks and small plates while you watch acts perform.
You should book ahead, and reservations can be made for groups of up to 8, as the venue is on the smaller side (150 capacity). There is live jazz every night with the first set at 9pm, and the later set at 10:15pm. Friday and Saturdays are for night owls, with late shows on from midnight to 1am. The dress code is the dreaded smart casual, interpret that as you see fit. But, to be clear, Arsenal shirts and presumably other football shirts are not welcome.
Ronnie Scotts, Soho
We can’t write about Jazz in London without waxing lyrical about legendary Soho venue Ronnie Scott’s. As well as being one of the city’s best-loved music venues, Ronnie Scott’s is actually one of the oldest and most famous jazz clubs in the world, hosting world-class musicians since 1959. Over the decades, the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, Miles Davies and Pharoh Sanders have all played there.
Ronnie Scott’s is open seven days a week, with two shows per night on Monday to Saturdays. There are two venues at the club, the main downstairs 220 seater venue is where you’ll see the bigger headline artist, with standard tickets ranging from £30.00–£47.00 and seats are allocated.
For less formal seating, and cheaper tickets, visit Upstairs at Ronnie’s. Here you can grab a ticket for around a tenner and see events including the weekly jazz jam as well as New Orleans Funk, Cuban club nights, and swing. There is no specific dress code, although flip-flops are forbidden (quite right, this is a jazz club, not a beach, sunshine!). Book in advance, especially if you want to see one of the main shows as they often sell out.
Jazz Cafe, Camden
Another stalwart of London’s live jazz scene, the Jazz Cafe has been in business for over 30 years. With two-levels and capacity of 440, it’s also one of the bigger jazz venues in London. There’s plenty of space for dancing downstairs or sitting back and enjoying the tunes with a decent view of the stage from upstairs in the restaurant.
Jazz Cafe has put on shows by international jazz, soul, and reggae acts over the years including the likes of Adele, D’Angelo, Amy Winehouse, Jill Scott and Sister Nancy. Tickets for live shows range from £20.00–£40.00 depending on the headliner. The venue also hosts regular club nights including Soul City on Saturdays.
The Jazz Cafe
606 Club, Chelsea
This intimate, 150 capacity jazz club is tucked behind an unassuming door on Lots Road in Chelsea. The 606 Club has been putting on shows since 1976, and you can catch live music every night of the week. There are two sets per night, and a single lunchtime show if you want something more soothing on a Sunday lunchtime. Tickets cost £15.00-18 for evening shows, and advance booking is recommended. Most of the acts are from the UK jazz scene, including singer Beverly Skeete and saxophonist Paul Booth.
Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston
Tucked off a side street off Dalston’s main drag, Servant Jazz Quarters is a cosy, dimly-lit bar and venue that has a speakeasy feel. Music programming is eclectic at the SJQ, so grab a drink upstairs, then head downstairs to the 100 capacity live room for a mix of experimental music and hip hop as well as jazz subgenres including afro jazz fusion, and Latin sounds. Prices range from £10.00-16, and it’s a great place to catch acts before they get bigger and command higher ticket prices.
Servant Jazz Quarters
Vortex Jazz Club, Dalston
Like touring Jazz musicians, the Vortex in Dalston has moved around a bit, and has a great backstory. It was originally opened in 1984 by former London cabbie David Mossman (who is also a mountaineer) and his business partner Irving Kinnersly. The club’s first home was a small gallery on Church Street, Stoke Newington, but it had to move when the lease was up and it was priced out. Cut to 2005 and the Vortex re-opened on Dalston’s Gillett Square, where the venue may be less rough and ready, but the musical remit is still very much on the experimental end of the Jazz spectrum. There are live shows from Wednesdays to Saturdays from 7pm-11pm, and you can join the free weekly downstairs jam as either punter or musician.
Vortex Jazz Club
Hidden Jazz Club at The Vaults, Waterloo
Although it’s a relative newcomer, the artist-run Hidden Jazz Club has fast become a favourite of the London Jazz scene. It started life as a pop-up in 2017, and after a nomadic time in cities including New York, Paris and Tokyo. Nestled underground as part of The Vaults on Leake Street, Waterloo, the atmospheric and low lighting of the arches are a beautiful space to hear live jazz on Tuesday nights, and you can grab tickets in advance for £20.00.