This world famous jazz club in Dalston is a cultural haven that has to be experienced to be appreciated.
Previously, this venue was located in a small room in a gallery on Church Street in Stoke Newington, and over the years it has attracted some of the best jazz musicians in the world. Today, after various decisions about the development of the club as a jazz venue, it has found itself on the ground and first floors of the Dalston Culture House in Gillett Square. Sat behind Dalston Kingsland Station, this venue is easily accessible from Liverpool Street, Seven Sisters or Angel.
When you think of a jazz club, you might imagine a dimly lit venue with lots of sofas and low-level tables, so you could be in for a shock when you discover the Vortex Jazz Club is nothing like this. Enter downstairs on a modern-looking staircase and you'll approach a medium-sized rectangular room on the first floor. Here, you'll find marble topped tables and chairs that look as if they'd be better suited to a restaurant. It's quite a light venue, too, due to the large windows that look out onto the square (although these can be blacked out if you hire the venue). The stage area is at the far end of the room. It's relatively small and has a grand piano and a space for other instruments – bands are often a little squashed in but that's all in the name of an intimate performance. At the other end, you'll find a smallish bar area and the toilet facilities.
One bonus about the club is it's air conditioned – some may argue this takes away the authentic sweaty feel that you get at a lot of jazz venues, but in reality, it's actually a pleasant feature.
As you'd expect, it's very laid back on the regular jazz nights at the Vortex Jazz Club. You'll find people from all over London (and even further afield) visiting. Well-dressed educated types mix with arty locals and neither feel out of place – what everyone is here for is an appreciation of good music. Payment for shows varies considerably on the door, but you'll never pay more than around £15.
This club has a reputation for attracting big name artists from across the world, and contemporary folk and world music shows are put on every night from around 8.45pm. The Vortex Jazz Club aims to offer music to suit everyone, so you'll hear a selection of things like big band, contemporary jazz, piano trio and folk-orientated tunes. Occasionally, they host guest open mic nights where you'll hear people reading poetry or improvised performances.
There's a huge focus on local talent, so you'll hear some unknown people playing alongside the big names. Generally, if jazz isn't your thing then this isn't the place for you.
The Vortex Jazz Club offers a range of beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks, all of which are reasonably priced for the area. Expect to pay around £12-£15 for a bottle of wine or £4 for cocktails. The choice isn't massive and you're not going to get any of your favourite specialist beers, but the menu includes a number of well-chosen wines that change from time to time. Often, when you visit a famous place like this, you expect over-inflated drinks prices, but this is definitely not the case here.
The Last Word
Classy and cultured, you can't beat the Vortex Jazz Club for a civilised evening watching jazz.