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Top jazz venues in Cape Town
A selection of great clubs, bars and restaurants where you can listen to live jazz
A selection of great clubs, bars and restaurants where you can listen to live jazz
No longer reserved for dark, smoky basements as it was in the 50s, jazz culture is a celebrated form of social commentary and poetic expression. Cape Town jazz culture is no different, and boasts a variety of jazz clubs and events, including the much anticipated annual Cape Town jazz festival. We compiled a list of jazz clubs in the Mother City. If we’re missing out on something, let us know.
The Crypt Jazz Restaurant
Based in the historic stone crypt below Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral (hence the name), this swanky city centre jazz club and eatery, which takes its cue from esteemed live music establishments in London and New York, is arguably one of the Mother City’s most distinct spots to take in the sweet sounds of this genre. From Tuesday to Saturday, the restaurant’s circular stage plays host to performances by lauded local and international musicians (in fact, several members of the founding team are renowned SA jazz artists), and guests can take in the upbeat tunes from one of the sophisticated spot’s candlelit tables. Though the melodies take centre stage, the venue, which boasts plush furnishings and low-key lighting, does also dish up a tasty selection of tapas, starters, mains and desserts (think options like Grilled BBQ Chicken Wings and Beer-battered Fish and Chips) and serves a range of top-notch wines, MCCs and authentic French Champagne. Visitors should note, there is a cover charge of R65 (R30 for students) between 7pm and 10pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays and between 8pm and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays when live jazz is performed.
The Crypt | St George’s Cathedral | 1 Wale Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0)79 683 4658
The Piano Bar
The first official piano bar in the city, this moody musical revue joint gives a stage to professional and up-and-coming soul, funk, blues and jazz performers every night of the week (even on Mondays and Sundays). While the beautiful baby grand in the corner imbues the place with a certain kind of decorum, at The Piano Bar, it’s more about having fun and less about purely focussing on the music. So, expect easy listening not improv, and come prepared to be satiated in more ways than one: the sophisticated watering hole makes unbelievable cocktails (the menu changes monthly) and innovative cuisine that's far more complex than it seems. Not to mention, guests can cosy up around the crackling fireplace during winter and tuck into oysters and Champagne on the wraparound terrace when the weather’s warmer. The music starts around 8pm each night, and there’s no cover charge. To find out more about the venue’s line-up of artists, check The Piano Bar's Facebook page.
47 Napier Street | De Waterkant | Cape Town
Straight No Chaser
Formerly Mahogany Room, this intimate jazz club changed its name and expanded its repertoire in late February 2014 to better accomplish what it’s always strived to create: a stronger, more respected local music scene. Thus, while the look and feel of the sultry hotspot may change slightly and the acts on stage may transcend more genres – think everything from Ethiopian funk to experimental electronica – the core ethos prevails. Straight No Chaser, like its predecessor, will continue to give musicians a space where they can express themselves freely and provide audiences with a listening environment that’s all about the tunes. In short, don’t expect to come for a good chit-chat; the club is serious about the sounds coming from within, so while the performers are doing their thing, attendees are expected to be respectful and interested. Craft beer, wine and hard tack are available from the bar, and there are two sets per night (cover is charged on a per set basis). Booking is recommended as there is limited seating and often high demand. The club is open from Tuesday to Saturday.
79 Buitenkant Street | Cape Town | +27 (0) 76 679 2697
Though based in a Claremont ministry, the only thing religious about these weekly Friday jazz sessions is the pure soulfulness of the music. Running since 2005, the regular entertainment evenings aim to both give audiences the opportunity to take in performances by aspiring and established artists and to support the virtuosos themselves. Some of the Kaleidoscope Café’s initiatives include a fund to bury artists whose families do not have the means to do so and a programme to equip undiscovered musicians from the Cape Flats with skills through training and workshops. Currently the organisers are working toward creating a medical/provident fund that can help jazz performers live out their twilight years with dignity. Attendees pay around R120p/p for entry, a cost that includes both the music and a hearty dinner (usually of curry and rice). The good times get rolling around 7:30pm; booking is recommended.
56 Main Road | Claremont | +27 (0) 21 674 5761
Swingers in Wetton
Every Monday and Friday you can bob your head to contemporary African jazz performed by local and visiting musicians. Famous for its experimental jazz sessions, legendary acts including Melanie Scholtz and Erica Lundi have graced the stage with their presence. The club opens from 12pm till late.
1 Wetwyn Road | Lansdowne | +27 (0) 21 762 2443
West End Jazz Club
Regarded as a prime venue for live performances, you can expect to rub shoulders with serious jazz fundis. Dark velvet drapery and opulent contemporary furnishings set the scene for top local and international artists to do what they do best. Open every Friday and Saturday from 5pm till late. No under 21s allowed.
Cine 400 Building | College Road | Rylands | +27 (0) 21 637 9132/3
Thuthuka Jazz Café
Owner Laura Ndukwana offers visitors a night overflowing with local flavour at this popular Gugulethu-based café. Enjoy world-class jazz that’s infused with traditional musical elements. Popular amongst Capetonians and tourists alike, one can expect a truly South African experience: a potjie of culture, musical expression and culinary splendours. Make sure to call ahead for confirmation on jazz performances.
Gugulethu | +27 (0) 82 979 5831
Generations Café (the G-spot)
One of the few places where adults can act like children. Generations Café, or The G-Spot as it is better known, is one of the few venues which hosts live bands from Wednesdays to Saturdays. Acts like Spyro Gyra, Jonathan Butler and the Jazz crusaders have all taken to the stage at this prestigious venue.
Gerry Ferry Crescent, off Gunners Circle | Epping | +27 (0) 21 535 1873
Hanover Street Jazz Club
A double-storey, classy jazz venue housed in Cape Town's Grand West Casino. Think New Orleans circa 1920—the golden days of jazz. The well-stocked bar will keep you happy while tapping your feet to the beats from the Voodoo-capital. Doors open at 9pm.
Grand West Casino | Goodwood | +27 (0) 21 505 7777
Tuesdays are Asoka-jazz-nights. Continental decor, Asian cuisine, a diverse crowd and Cape Town’s oldest olive tree; Asoka is a firm favourite amongst Capetonians. Always busy, enjoy a partly open roof and gaze at the stars, yummy tapas-style food and excellent, funky local jazz. Get there early if you want a table. Shows start at 9pm.
68 Kloof Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 422 0909
This is a real Observatory spot. This late night bar is somehow still an insider tip. Its hidden away Moroccan-feel bar attracts the bohemian crowd. There’s a frantic line up of live jazz on Friday nights. Next to live music, Tagore's offers you walls covered with poetry and pictures of jazz icons to stare at in the early morning hours.
42 Trill Road | Observatory | Cape Town
The Melting Pot
What do you get when you mix a great selection of music, catchy vibes and interesting people in a space with an abundance of creativity and community? The Melting Pot, of course. This musical institution in Muizenberg offers regular open mic nights and jamming sessions, and they are some of the biggest supporters of up-and-coming talents in jazz and afro-fusion. Keep an eye on their line-up, as there’s a different act every week.
15 Church Street | Muizenberg | Cape Town
Sunday Jazz Brunch at the Winchester Mansions
For a Sunday brunch with a difference, head out to the seaside hotel, Winchester Mansions. Enjoy the live jazz band while you browse the complimentary Sunday newspaper and sip on a glass of bubbly. Choose from a selection of mouth - watering dishes from the buffet table. Cost is R225 per person, and the music starts at 11am and ends at 2pm.
221 Beach Road | Sea Point | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 434 2351
If you’re partial to intimate, private concerts, you will love this new Sea Point establishment. Face brick walls, wooden floors and soft sofas provide the ultimate relaxing environment for some serious musical reflection. The acoustic stage has showcased some talented local musicians, including Zolani Mahola, Vusi Mahlasela, Arno Carstens and Albert Frost. You can catch some of these talented musicians on the first and last Sunday of the month.
213 High Level Rd | Sea Point | Cape Town | +27(0)83 399 3334
Up for some African moves and grooves? Check out our list of African restaurants with live music. You can also catch Dave the Piano man upstairs at The Dubliner on Thursdays from 6pm – 10pm (+27 (0)21 424 1212).
Jazzy tip: Mike Laatz is the man that knows it all when it comes to jazz in Cape Town. Check out his gig-guide.