As you’d expect from one of the biggest cities in Europe, the London jazz scene has always been vibrant. The last few years, however, have seen an explosion of international interest in it and so 2024 is perhaps the best time in recent memory to dive into the best jazz clubs in London.
Here’s our updated and expanded guide which covers everything you might want to see from swinging singers through to contemporary, modern jazz.
Whilst England as a whole is home to many great cities presenting jazz, the London jazz scene is still the biggest and, as such, a must-visit place for musicians and jazz fans alike.
As someone who studied jazz saxophone in London in the early 2000s, then worked as a booking agent with many artists on the scene, I’ve seen first-hand how quickly the city has evolved.
For this round up, I spoke to some of the busiest musicians in the the UK’s capital and pulled together a list of jazz clubs, venues and bars in London which welcome all different styles and types of artists.
The one thing they have in common: you’re guaranteed to find some great gigs there each month, week and – in many cases – night.
Stay tuned for our top insider tip at the end: the many jam sessions which allow you to experience a whole sub-section of the London jazz community in one go!
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
47 Frith St, London W1D 4HT / Ronniescotts.co.uk
Ronnie Scotts is easily the most famous of the London jazz clubs – and arguably one of the most well-known jazz venues in the world.It’s located in the very central Soho district of London which makes it an easy proposition for both fans and journalists to get to (the BBC is just round the corner) and means most shows are sold out.
Depending on the artist, the main show audience sometimes borders on ‘upmarket tourist’ but the club enforce a strict policy of silence during the gigs so music remains very much the focus.
They also host The Late Late Show several times a week: a set from a specially chosen band which merges into a jam session until 3am. Many of London’s best jazz musicians stop by to sit-in with the house band.
Musical Style: Whilst they do programme strands of more niche music (check out the piano festival, for example), the main bulk of the programme is big name international jazz artists – often American.
Past names: Wynton Marsalis, Prince, Stacey Kent, Jamie Cullum, Chet Baker…
Find out more: We interviewed Nick Lewis when he was part of Ronnie Scott’s programming team
Pizza Express Jazz Club
10 Dean St, London W1D 3RW / pizzaexpresslive.com
Situated less than a 5 minute walk from Ronnie Scotts, this basement jazz club has a long history in presenting top local and international jazz artists 7 nights a week.
As part of the Pizza Express chain of restaurants, they have a large reach in terms of mailing list & social media and a decent regular audience – who come for the great pizza as well as the jazz – for its 115 capacity.
Musical Style: As with Ronnie Scott’s, they present some big names in the straight-ahead jazz tradition but with top local British jazz musicians. Occasionally they are presenting artists that veer more towards cabaret, but generally this is reserved for their smaller sister-club The Pheasantry.
They also have several mini-festivals throughout the year which have included “Polish Jazz”, “Steinway Piano Duos” and “Revoice” (vocalists).
Past names: Kenny Garrett, Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, E.S.T
606 Jazz Club
90 Lots Rd, London SW10 0QD / 606club.co.uk
A small but legendary jazz club on the west side of London, in the capital’s Chelsea district, presenting jazz 7 nights a week.
They serve food during the gigs but the audiences are pretty respectful of the music.
There are often 2 different bands a night and, due to the focus on UK-based (but not necessarily British) musicians, it’s a regular jazzer hangout so good for meeting other musicians, especially if you’re new in town.
Musical Style: A pretty even mixture of jazz singers and instrumental (saxophone!)-led groups leaning more towards great straight-ahead swinging jazz or latin music including some big band sessions.
Past names: Gilad Atzmon, Patrick Cornelius, Claire Martin, Mornington Lockett, Stan Sulzmann.
The Vortex Jazz Club
11 Gillett Square, London N16 8AZ / vortexjazz.co.uk
Situated in East-London’s hipster district, The Vortex has forged a reputation as the go-to place for forward-thinking contemporary jazz in London.
In this recent interview with the Vortex’s co-programmer Kim Macari, she said: “The club’s been running for over 30 years and it’s known as a place that champions original music with a particular fondness for music that’s on the freer, more improv-y end of the spectrum. We sit sort of halfway between Ronnie Scotts and Cafe Oto on the programming spectrum.”
The programme features plenty of album launches from London’s leading jazz groups, as well as a healthy mix of European (German, Scandinavian…) musicians.
Its location makes it a little less accessible for the average tourist than the likes of Ronnie Scott’s and Pizza Express but, as long as the music appeals, it’s worth the trip and very much on the radar of international jazz musicians and fans alike.
Guitarist Billy Marrows comment: “I’ve been to the Vortex more than any other jazz club. It really feels like a second home as both a musician and audience member.
Their programming is open minded and they’re really supportive of local and up and coming musicians as well as putting on top international artists in their intimate and welcoming space, with great sound and a really beautiful Steinway piano”
Musical Style: Plenty of instrumental groups with a focus on new, contemporary and avant-garde jazz.
Past names: Evan Parker, Michael Wollny, Ingrid Laubrock, Tim Berne, Kenny Wheeler, Bobo Stenson
Dalston Jazz Bar
11 Gillett Square, London N16 8AZ / dalstonjazzbar.co.uk
Located in the vibrant and eclectic neighbourhood of Dalston (a stones throw from both The Vortex and Servant Jazz Quarters) this intimate London jazz bar has a rich history and unique character.
In their own words, seeing a gig here is like “taking a trip back in time” to an authentic local jazz venue where patrons sit shoulder-to-should within touching distance of the musicians.
In addition to the music, the Dalston Jazz Bar also offers a culinary journey, with a menu that includes classic British and international dishes, complemented by a selection of cocktails, wines, and beers. It’s not just a music venue, but a community hub for jazz enthusiasts, providing a space for shared experiences and connections.
Servant Jazz Quarters
10A Bradbury St, London N16 8JN / servantjazzquarters.com
Another venue nestled in the heart of Dalston, Servant Jazz Quarters is a boutique music venue and cocktail bar that stands out for its intimate and elegant ambiance.
A cozy East London music haven, it’s tucked away from the city’s hustle and bustle on Bradbury Street, offering a diverse array of live music and DJs.
With a capacity of around 100, it’s a great hidden gem to discover the unique blend styles which have found their way into the London Jazz scene. It’s a common location for album launches, so see if you can stop by at one of those extra-buzzing events when you visit.
Hampstead Jazz Club
23-25 New End, London NW3 1JD / hampsteadjazzclub.com
It might be situated in the cellar of an old pub (albeit one which was once a popular meeting place for actors Peter O’Toole, Oliver Reed & Richard) but this London Jazz club has made a strong mark on the scene since opening in 2018.
Presenting both local and international artists to a loyal array of fans, the venue – in their own words – “fondly brings back a unique atmosphere, reminiscent of the golden age of jazz”
For international visitors, the jazz is not just restricted to their home-base at London’s historic Duke of Hamilton pub; they’ve also curated and presented concerts under the brand as far afield as Dubai and New York!
90 York Way, London, N1 9AG / kingsplace.co.uk
Not technically a jazz club – more 2 concert halls within the super-modern Kings Place building which also houses The Guardian newspaper – but they present enough quality international jazz to make the list.
They’re often programming quite far in advance (sometimes as much as 12+ months) and focus on ‘strands’ such as 2014’s “Scene Norway” featuring Nils Petter Molvær and 2020’s “London Piano Festival”.
Musical Style: Normally focused on ‘new’ music (as opposed to American songbook or straight ahead jazz) with a slight leaning towards the European jazz tradition.
Past names: Courtney Pine, Thomas Strønen, Kit Downes, Nils Petter Molvær, Nik Bärtsch
Jazz Cafe London
5 Parkway, London NW1 7PG / thejazzcafelondon.com
Ironically, given the name, the Jazz Cafe is actually more of a soul, funk & blues venue that turns into a nightclub later in the evenings, particularly at weekends.
It’s mainly standing-only with a capacity of more than 400 and, as such, doesn’t present a lot of new jazz projects. The bands need to be able to bring a lot of fans with them so it’s more suited to groups who have a touring history in London.
It’s well placed – in the hip Camden part of the city – and is one of the few London jazz clubs that’s widely known internationally.
Past names: Abdullah Ibrahim, Edwin Starr, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Amy Winehouse
Oliver’s Jazz Bar
9 Nevada St, London SE10 9JL / oliversjazzbar.com
Nestled in the heart of Maritime Greenwich in London’s south east, Oliver’s is a favourite London jazz bar which has been a major part of the city’s scene since 2003.
With a heavy focus on homegrown musicians, a trip to the venue is a chance to catch some of the most exciting projects coming out of London today.
As an added bonus, many of the gigs morph into jam sessions at the end, making the most of the venue’s midnight closing time.
18-22 Ashwin St, London E8 3DL / cafeoto.co.uk
Cafe Oto is a distinctive 150-capacity venue known for its dedication to experimental music, spanning genres from folk and rock to noise and electronica.
Established in 2008 in what was once an abandoned paint factory, the venue has been recognized for its eclectic and avant-garde programming, even being noted by Vogue Italia as ‘London’s coolest venue’.
Aside from some of the most interesting artists on the UK’s experimental scene, the venue has welcomed international star guests including Sun Ra Arkestra, Robert Wyatt and Thurston Moore.
The venue (as you might have guessed) doubles as a cafe by day, transforming into a vibrant space for live performances by night. It also supports artists through its in-house OTOROKU.
The venue’s connection to Japanese culture is evident in both its name, which means ‘sound’ in Japanese, and its offerings, like sake and plum wine
140 Newington Butts, London SE11 4RG / toulouselautrec.co.uk
Set in the South-East London district of Kennington, Toulouse Lautrec pays tribute to its vintage French roots with a popular mixture of food, wine and jazz spread across two rooms – a jazz club and a piano bar.
Something of a hidden gem, it’s a firm favourite with many London jazz singers in particular and its shows cover a range of styles taking in Swing, Jazz, Blues, Soul, Cabaret, Musicals & Burlesque.
Venue website: toulouselautrec.co.uk
Bonus: London Jam Sessions
Looking to catch a whole sub-section of the London Jazz scene in one night? Jam sessions – where musician friends stop by and join the band on stage – are a great way to do this.
Whilst there are a lot of options, perhaps the most regular in Central London is at Ronnie Scott’s. Both their upstairs Jazz bar and downstairs main room host regular open sessions; check the website for specifics!
Heading South-East to the historic Greenwich district, long-running London jazz venue Oliver’s also boasts jam sessions after many of their gigs; buy a ticket for the main show and stay for the entirety.
As with any city as vast as London, new jam sessions are popping up all the time, so a great tip is to check this Facebook group which lists latest news on the topic.
If you’re looking to get to know the London jazz clubs – and its scene in general – a little better, I hope that was a good introduction! It’s part of our series focusing on the best jazz clubs & festivals around the world.
If you’re a London-based jazz musician who’s familiar with the scene, I’m sure there’s tons of other venues you think we should have included… feel free to add them in the comments below!
Want more on the UK scene? Check out these 8 great British jazz blogs.