Jazz is considered by some to be a niche music genre, played by expert musicians and loved by obsessive fans, but impenetrable to those who believe it is not for them. Conversely, the truth is that jazz is a music for everybody, and unites people in all corners of the globe.
That is the message which International Jazz Day highlights every 30th April, an idea by Herbie Hancock that is recognised worldwide. The jazz scene has evolved progressively in recent years, and now in Leeds there are several great jazz bars to celebrate on this day and enjoy thereafter.
The Domino Club
This hidden underground speakeasy in the Grand Arcade is the city’s favourite secret. Despite actually achieving great popularity, it retains the magical feel of a unique discovery, like stepping into a timeless era in another world. Lush interior, dimly lit, classic cocktails and hip vibes, it can only be soundtracked by live jazz every night from house bands and occasional guest stars. A jazz gem.
The Grand Arcade gained a second jazz bar when Tailors opened in 2018, and its quality confirmed it as a fitting addition. Named as such because this place is a traditional tailors by day which transforms into a gin lounge at night, suitably inspired by the roaring twenties. It’s as stylish as it sounds, and you can sip their own house gin whilst lounging to great jazz records or intimate live music at a Gin’n’Jazz session. Smokin’.
As much as the jazz world is very much of itself, it can also link in with blues and soul, and can even innovate with other influences too, such as poetry, hip hop and folk music. One venue in Chapel Allerton showcases all these things and more at their eclectic art space, with jazz very much at the centre thanks to regular gigs hosted by Jazz Leeds, who also put performances on at nearby Inkwell Arts. A community cafe bar too, swing by and you’ll be sure to dig Seven.
Leeds had a basement jazz bar long before the current craze, with Sela spinning underground sounds to the city’s cool cats since 2004. Their friendly laid back vibe has always appealed widely, whilst live gigs kept an emerging jazz scene happy. That mix of social bar with pizza and jazz club with drinks continues to be a successful recipe. Smooth.
Leeds Jazz Club
The beautifully named Leeds Jazz Club leaves you in no doubt what you’ll be getting, and they make sure it’s the best of it. Not a venue in itself, Leeds Jazz Club is a weekly jazz indulgence for discerning listeners at Armley Conservative Club. It covers a wide array of jazz interpretations, from trad to modern, by different bands. The night often includes musicians from Leeds College of Music, a renowned conservatoire which ensures jazz always has a strong presence and talent in the city. Nice.
Image: Jazz Leeds (Seven Arts)