If you’ve seen any Woody Allen film, chances are you’ll have had your toe tapping away to some of the gorgeous jazz music that he always uses in his soundtracks. With the director’s new movie Irrational Man hitting cinemas Friday 11 September, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, we’re bringing you a hit-list of the UK’s top jazz spots – so when you come away from the cinema humming The Ramsey Lewis Trio’s The In Crowd – you’ll know where to go for more.
Scroll down to hear the jazzy soundrack in the Irrational Man trailer
Named after the iconic British jazz saxophonist, it’s no surprise that other famous saxophonists have played in this intimate venue. Musicians who have played include, but are not limited to, Johnny Griffin, Lee Konitz and Sonny Stitt. Though it serves food, you don’t have to eat to be seated - but you do need a ticket. Ronnie Scott’s is a great jazz bar if you want to know who you will be seeing perform that night. This bar does not allow everyone with an instrument to come in and jam. What this means is, if you wish to attend definitely book in advance. There are almost always two shows a night, one in the early evening and another in the late evening.
47 Frith Street, Soho, London
If you’re looking for something that is just as intimate, but has a stronger emphasis on improvisation, Vortex will do the trick. Anyone can drop in with their music and go up on stage. You’re almost sure to witness greatness, whether it is an up-and-coming artist or a well-known jazz band like Polar Bear. In 2013 this venue won the Live Jazz Award, hosting nearly 400 performances in one year. They encourage their performers to improvise and experiment on-stage for their audiences. What we love most about this venue though, is that it is run by a not-for-profit organisation, which means that ticket prices are affordable and the volunteers are passionate.
11 Gillett St, London
The 606 club has existed for more than 30 years and has been run by musician Steve Rubie since the mid-seventies. Much of 606 Club’s audience is made up of other musicians, so you might even spot someone well known sitting alongside you in the crowd. What makes this club unique is that it has always existed to focus on promoting and supporting British jazz performers first, and visitors second - if at all. They book about 20 performers a week, making it the biggest employer for British based artists in all of the UK. This is a more upscale venue, but maintains a relaxing atmosphere. It also remains fairly affordable. You can join the membership programme as well for some benefits, but this is not required for attendance.
90 Lots Road, Chelsea, London
Matt and Phreds
In Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter, this venue has developed a reputation for showcasing the finest in jazz artists. With local and international artists on the line-up, Matt and Phreds offers an amazing night, six days a week, with free admission on Monday and Thursday nights. At the weekend the door fee is £5, which is not too steep a price for awesome music – but it’s best to book in advance and get a table, as this is a lively place to be.
64 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LW
You will most definitely forget that you are in the middle of a city once you step into this chill and cool jazz bar. Being that it is in Glasgow’s city centre, it’s a very popular venue for jazz lovers, with performances nearly every evening. The decoration is a nod to the jazz era as well and the venue even has its own especially made bean bag chairs. This venue is busy every day of the week, no doubt due in part to it not having an entry fee.
203-205 Bath Street, Glasgow
Blue Dog is a jazz piano bar, where many resident jazz pianists come in and play for an audience almost daily. Just about anyone can be found in this bar – professionals young and old, couples, friends, and solo jazz fans. To get the full experience, a weekend is best, but if what you are seeking is a more laid back evening, then midweek will suit just fine.
151 W George St, Glasgow
A popular venue that offers free entry, The Caledonia invites local artists as well as international artists to perform for the evening. Mostly the shows take place at the weekend and include jazz, Cajun, blues and soul. The club even offers instrumental classes during the week, including some for free. The locals love this place – and you can even bring your dog along.
22 Caledonia Street, Liverpool
The Jazz Bar
This is the place to go for all things jazz with every sound you could desire: soul, blues, funk and more! The performers range from local Edinburgh residents to international touring groups. There are multiple shows per evening making this a non-stop atmosphere. With around 22 performances per week and an emphasis on a modern sound, this bar is not only one of Edinburgh’s finest jazz venues, but all of Scotland’s. The audience is usually made up of locals of all ages, musicians, and tourists. Also, fun fact: none of the ticket revenue goes to the venue itself, all revenue goes to the musicians.
1A Chambers Street, Edinburgh
The Jam House
This cool venue promises to be one of the best places to catch a live jazz show in the Birmingham area. Its three stories hold 600 people, and the second level boasts a fantastic balcony that looks over the stage, so that clubgoers can watch shows from below or above. The Jam House attracts a variety of people: families, friends, professionals and more. An especially great venue if you want to throw a party, as the club offers bespoke cake and cupcake making services for hire.
Caroline Street, Birmingham
Berts Jazz Bar
This is Belfast’s only true jazz bar, offering 1930s American glamour tucked away in The Merchant Hotel. Monday to Sunday, pop in ahead of 9pm to catch the jazz show that evening. If you prefer a more relaxing atmosphere, join Berts Jazz Bar on a Saturday or Sunday between 12 and 2pm for a side of live music with your brunch/lunch. And for those who like the later evenings at the weekend, be aware that there is an entry fee of £10 for a seated area after 8.30pm.
16 Skipper Street, Belfast