Cape Town jazz culture is a celebrated form of social commentary and poetic expression and the city boasts a variety of jazz clubs and events, including the much anticipated annual Cape Town Jazz Festival. Here you’ll find a selection of great clubs, bars and restaurants where you can listen to live jazz.
The Crypt Jazz Restaurant
Based in the historic stone crypt below Cape Town’s St. George’s Cathedral (hence the name), this swanky city center 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. The melodies take center stage here and the food is not the biggest drawcard, though they do serve a tasty selection of tapas, starters, mains and desserts. Live jazz is performed between 7pm and 10pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays and between 8pm and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays. A cover charge applies.
The Piano Bar
The first official piano bar in the city, this moody musical venue gives a stage to professional and up-and-coming soul, funk, blues and jazz performers most nights of the week. 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 focusing on the music. The sophisticated watering hole makes unbelievable cocktails and offers a wholesome menu complemented by easy listening.
Guests can cozy up around the crackling fireplace during winter and tuck into Spanish tapas and wine on the wraparound terrace or the rooftop loft when the weather’s warmer. The music starts around 8pm each night, and there’s no cover charge (but there is a voluntary fee that patrons are asked to pay to support the musicians).
Straight No Chaser Jazz Club
Formerly Mahogany Room, this intimate jazz club is a long-time and respected venue on the local music scene. The acts on stage transcends genres and strives to give musicians a space where they can express themselves freely and provide audiences with a listening environment that’s all about the tunes. The club is serious about the sounds 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.
Everyone who’s anyone in Cape Town knows that Tuesday is Asoka night. The long-time Kloof Street lounge, restaurant and cocktail bar has made its early weekday evening somewhat of an institution among the Mother City’s trendy after-dark crowd, offering live jazz at dinner and then original deep house into the wee hours of the morning. The in-house band plays from around 8:45pm to 10:30pm every Tuesday, and their African flavor, motuno rhythms and lyrical melodies kick the already buzzing ambience up an extra notch. Following the performance, Asoka shifts gears and transforms into a heady lounge, but those who enjoyed a meal and music are invited to stay the night at their table, sip on some of the bar’s famous cocktails and watch the beautiful people bop around them.
Entry to the jazz night is free, but space is limited – so it’s necessary to reserve a table at least a few days in advance.
Kloof Street House
Every Sunday afternoon, between 12pm and 4pm, the gorgeous eatery hosts a FREE live jazz performance on its veranda-turned-stage. The family-friendly event allows you and your troupe to settle in Kloof Street House’s magical partially covered garden area and enjoy some smooth jazzy tunes. Not to mention, the lunch menu boasts light midday options and it’s the perfect way to make the most of the last day of the weekend.
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 R295 per person for regular events, and the music starts at 11am and ends at 2pm.
― Jene Barnes