23:00: “Jazz Bar?” “Yeah”. I’ve had this conversation, in the Edinburgh rain, more times than I can remember. Edinburgh’s live music venues can be hit or miss – sometimes there’s an electrifying gig on, but then the place reverts to being a lovely pub full of old men sipping their beer – and planning ahead can sometimes be a hassle. That’s where The Jazz Bar comes in. Established by the late Bill Kyle, a legend of the Scottish jazz scene, there is a full programme of jazz, funk, blues, and folk here every night of the week, and it’s the first place many musicians turn to for live music in Edinburgh.
A tiny doorway opposite The National Museum takes you down to a dimly lit, underground cavern dominated by a large bar, with a small stage at the far end of the room. The drinks are expensive, but that’s not what you’re here for: many of Edinburgh’s most exciting musicians regularly carry their instruments through that small doorway every night. On Tuesday and Thursday nights Aki Remally, “Edinburgh’s answer to Jimi Hendrix”, delivers blistering solos and danceable funky numbers into the wee hours. You might also hear some international jazz names.
Laid-back acoustic and jazz start around 18:00, but things heat up later on as funkier/rockier acts take the stage and a younger crowd fills the makeshift dancefloor up front. On weekends it gets very packed indeed: if you don’t fancy dancing or standing by the bar, get there early to grab a table.