London boasts jazz venues renowned around the world and cozy holes-in-the-wall where you can catch a legendary performer ten years before they become famous:
Hoxton Out of all the places on this list, Troy Bar has to be my favourite, just in terms of how full of life it is and the intensity of music the performers provide across genres. The place is known for its open mic on Tuesdays, with the likes of Erykah Badu and Macy Gray having stepped up on that stage. The house band and host are the real attraction; the band will riff with any performer that comes to the stage – despite not knowing what they’re planning to perform – and with the host, they flow in and out of interludes tightly. The rest of the week is filled with amazing nights: fusion jams happen on Wednesday and Friday, and a reggae night is held on Thursday. The place is open ‘til 1am most nights and is worth checking out, even if it’s just to try some pretty decent Caribbean food.
Soho The most renowned jazz club in London, Ronnie Scott’s, delivers the highest quality live music in the whole of the city. It must be the reputation of the place, because world famous jazz artists down to anxious students always play at their finest, hoping to prove themselves in front of their musical peers. The jam upstairs on Wednesdays is definitely the best night for 50s/60s jazz vibes: hosted by a trumpeter who plays all your favourite licks one after the other, the music goes on ‘til 3am. The jam opens up after the first set, and musicians who want to perform sit behind the band, waiting to be called up. In terms of the music they play, it can be a bit showoff-y, with performers playing their fastest lines in the highest register possible. But it’s still very impressive to watch, and if you’re lucky, your favourite musician travelling through London might even show up and play a couple tunes.
Vortex Jazz Club
Dalston The Vortex holds many great performances from a variety of international acts; they hold a pretty decent jam session on Sundays also. Lead by a guitarist, which gives a different dynamic to the usual piano combo, the house band perform to a high standard, similar to Ronnie’s, yet without the same pressured atmosphere (or cleanness). It’s quite a relaxed environment, with seats and a small bar with an accompanying view of Gillett Square (one of the weirdest places in Hackney). It’s more of an alternative to Ronnie Scotts (essentially a free version of the club) but still provides excellent music from very competent musicians.
Mau Mau Bar
Notting Hill Home to the Jazz Re:freshed residency, Mau Mau Bar hosts all the best up-and-coming London musicians on their Thursday shows. This place gives you the opportunity to hear the next stars in the London jazz scene before they blow up. Groups such as Binker and Moses, Yussef Kamaal, and the Ashley Henry Trio have come through Mau Mau Bar into popularity. The intimate setting of the stage is slightly raised above the audience who crowd round, giving a unique experience to the listeners; probably the last time that you’ll be able to stand so close to them.
Metric Jazz Jams
South Kensington Okay, maybe not on the same level as the other places, but the jazz jams at Metric every other Tuesday are a great place for Imperial students to listen to decent live music at their favourite local venue. Plus, it’s probably the only time you’re gonna see Metric filled with not (completely) pissed people. Being a student-lead jam, it’s a very accessible way of playing jazz with people of similar skill levels and the organisers are very welcoming to whoever wants to come up and play a tune. Even if jazz isn’t your thing, they do cheap cocktails too!