All About Jazz Praises Ubuntu Music

Chris May writes, “One of the few British labels looking at the 360-degree picture is Ubuntu Music.”

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The intense media interest surrounding the rise of the British woke jazz movement is welcome, but it is increasingly monopolising local bandwidth. Great British jazz which adheres more closely to the founding American tradition is becoming sidelined. Babies and bathwater come to mind.

One of the few British labels looking at the 360-degree picture is Ubuntu Music, on which tenor saxophonist Paul Booth's Travel Sketches is released. Ubuntu—the label's name is taken from the Southern African word meaning "I am because we are"—shifted into top gear in 2017 and only two years later has three dozen albums either out or scheduled. These include such high-carat items as: Inspiration (2018), harpist Alina Bzehezhinska's spiritual-jazz debut; Isang (2016) and The People Could Fly (2018), deep woke-jazz from alto saxophonist Camilla George (of whom Dee Dee Bridgewater said after appearing in concert with her, "the world is safe because we have Camilla"); and Kavuma (2018) and The Banger Factory (2019), present-tense hard-bop heaven from trumpeter Mark Kavuma. Tip in a couple of previously unavailable live recordings made of Chet Baker in London in 1983, and you are getting an idea of Ubuntu's well rounded catalogue.

Also to its credit, Ubuntu proclaims its principles on its sleeve—or at least at the top of its website's January 2019 Year End Review. The page calls out the "chaos" spawned by "Trump and Brexit" and celebrates releasing albums from a wide demographic of artists: "male and female; young, old and deceased; beautifully diverse in terms of race, creed, ethnicity, colour and nationality."

A Lost Album From John Coltrane Is Found, With Thanks To A French-Canadian Director

"There is never any end," John Coltrane said sometime in the mid-1960s, at the height of his powers. "There are always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at." Coltrane, one of jazz's most revered saxophonists, was speaking to Nat Hentoff about an eternal quest — a compulsion to reach toward the next horizon, and the next.

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For the full article, please click on the image, above.

The Best Jazz Bars and Clubs in London

Eschewing the concert halls in favour of more intimate spaces, London’s jazz scene is as thriving as ever. It’s not a matter of harking back to the days of prohibition — though the history is always considered — jazz here is about what’s hot right now and what we can expect for the future.

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For the full ranking, please click on the image, above.

For the full ranking, please click on the image, above.

In the basement of an east London bar or in a Belgravian Scottish restaurant — you never know where you’re going to find it.

Eschewing the concert halls in favour of more intimate spaces, London’s jazz scene is as thriving as ever. It’s not a matter of harking back to the days of prohibition — though the history is always considered — jazz here is about what’s hot right now and what we can expect for the future.

There's a bold new crop of players, dominating the capital's circuit and proving just how vital a genre jazz can be. Beside them, there are the venerable old guard, still captivating as ever.

The venues are just as diverse. There are widely loved institutions and there are grassroots venues. Some sit proudly as the cultural jewel of their area, others are harder to find, tucked away on side-streets or in the corner of low-lit bars. Each them of them is well worth a visit.

1. Ronnie Scott’s

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As one of the world’s oldest jazz bars, Ronnie Scott’s in Soho has hosted Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie and Miles Davis. Despite having been around for as long as it has, Ronnie’s doesn’t peddle out the same old stuff — this is as much a place to find new voices as established ones. The Late Late Show takes music into the wee hours and Ronnie’s Bar upstairs presents an eclectic mix of blues, Latin, flamenco, jive and jazz jams where you can join in. Booking in advance is essential as many shows sell out in advance.

47 Frith Street, Soho, W1D 4HT, ronniescotts.co.uk

2. Kansas Smitty’s

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Kansas Smitty’s House Band were a house band without a home until they opened this speakeasy in Broadway Market. The seven-piece group had residencies all over, but it wasn’t until 2015 that they opened the doors of their own bar. Down the stairs at the back of Off Broadway, Kansas Smitty’s has a friendly rather than exclusive feel, something you have to be on board with, given its tiny size. Table sharing is often a must, but the joyful jazz will definitely make you want to socialise, with live music every night of the week but Monday.

65 Broadway Market, E8 4QJ, kansassmittys.com

3. Vortex

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If you’re going to fall into a jazz spiral, then this is the place to do it. With seven nights a week of live music, it’s one of the capital’s most prolific venues — it programmes nearly 400 shows a year from traditional to avant-garde. Despite moving from its original home in Stoke Newington to settle in Dalston’s Gillett Square, it has remained a favourite of fans and top-rate players. Saxophonist Evan Parker has a monthly residency and is always a blast.

11 Gillett Square, N16 8AZ, vortexjazz.co.uk

4. Boisdale

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With tartan interiors and an impressive whisky list, the four Boisdale restaurants — in Belgravia, Bishopsgate, Mayfair and Canary Wharf — are most revered for their jazz menu. Jools Holland is at the helm as the Boisdale’s patron of music and helps to curate a varied line-up of nightly music.

Various locations, boisdale.co.uk

5. 606 Club

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Behind an unassuming door in Chelsea Harbour, 606 is one of the busiest jazz bars going. Providing a stage for some big names back in the day – it helped Jamie Cullum build up his profile – there’s still every chance you could catch the UK’s next jazz maestro. It’s a members club, but non-members are more than welcome, provided you can be squeezed in. This is somewhere to really make a night of it, which you'll need to, given you can't buy drinks without food.

90 Lots Road, Chelsea, SW10 0QD, 606club.co.uk

6. Pizza Express

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Don’t be fooled — pizza isn’t the focus here. The Soho haunt has been pumping out top-notch jazz since opening in the 70s. Gregory Porter, Walter Smith III, Amy Winehouse, Trummy Young and Kenny Baker have all graced the stage over the years, and it’s a real experience, especially given you're never too far from the stage. They've another site in Chelsea, the Pheasantry, and another in Holborn,  PizzaExpress Live, and though neither of these deal exclusively in jazz, they both offer an exciting, thoughtful line-up of everything from folk to cabaret, as well as a little comedy.

10 Dean Street, W1D 3RW, pizzaexpresslive.com

7. Live at Zedel

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Live at Zedel sits beside Brasserie Zedel’s historic underground dining room. It’s not just jazz here — they go for the cabaret, comedy and theatre as well — but when it’s a jazz night, you really couldn’t be anywhere else. Expect world-class singers giving tributes to artists such as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. 

20 Sherwood Street, W1F 7ED, brasseriezedel.com

8. Jazz Café

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The Jazz Cafe in Camden is a little less low-key than the others. This is for swinging and jiving, as there’s a dance floor (always impossible to resist). If you’re less of a dancer and more of a diner, you can watch the performance from the mezzanine restaurant, but be sure to book a table in advance. You can find performances from across the genres, as well as nights dedicated to some of the best jazz, blues and soul artists around.

5 Parkway, Camden, NW1 7PG, thejazzcafelondon.com

9. The Crypt

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First things first: this isn’t a bar, or a club — it’s a downstairs crypt in a church, which means you won’t get any of the sultry opulence usually associated with the traditional club. Does that matter? Hardly, given there's still plenty of fantastic jazz. This Camberwell spot has been a fixture of the south London scene for almost 25 years now, and hosts its jazz nights every Friday, with both legacy players and new names on the programme. Food is served at the table and a fully licensed bar runs from 8pm ‘til late.

St Giles Church, Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8JB, jazzlive.co.uk

10. Night Jar

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There’s no denying that the drinks take precedence over the music at this Shoreditch venue, and it has a reputation as being one of the best bars in the area. Still, there's plenty to be enjoyed among Nightjar’s jazz offering, with live music on every night of the week. The artists here are hardly experimentalists, but they provide the perfect accompaniment while you work your way through the drinks menu.

Buster Mantis

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This Deptford spot turned itself into a major outpost of the new London jazz movement after hosting a weekly residency with Steam Down, the innovative collective who have since moved onto bigger things. Their weekly slot has now been transformed into a free-flowing Wednesday night jazz jam, which regularly gets packed out. Be sure to sample some of the excellent Jamaican food on offer too.

3-4 Resolution Way, SE8 4NT,bustermantis.com

Dalston Jazz Bar

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This tiny spot is easily missed, tucked away off the main road through Dalston and with an unassuming exterior. Inside, however, is one of the finest jazz bars in east London. The venue itself certainly believes in its own quality, with dinners offered on a pay-what-you-like basis, and the musicians playing for donations. Stick around after the live music for DJ sets which run until the early hours.

4 Bradbury Street, N16 8JN, dalstonjazzclubrestaurant.co.uk