A Lindy Hop, skip and a jump from the Barbican tube station lies a new, neatly tucked away jazz club freshly built and still hot to the touch. Piano Smithfield, a veritable portal into the lost art of cabaret, welcomes punters into the finger-snapping, toe-tapping, crushed velvet world of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and the great Nat “King” Cole. This week marked the venue’s first live music night, hosted by the JBGB Events company, the beginning of five weeks of live jazz, and it was a truly enchanting experience.
From the first steps into Piano Smithfield guests are greeted by the top of the house piano’s lid strapped to the wall, assuring you that, yes, this is where good music now lives in London.
Steps lead down into a cosy, candle-lit bar oozing charm, elegance, and a sublime menu of cocktails named after the world’s greatest artists (would you prefer the Sinatra Old Fashioned or the Presley Collins?)
Balancing on a low stool and sidling up to a stranger has never felt so oddly welcoming. As the lights dimmed and the anticipation for the live act grew, Piano Smithfield really came alive. Between a shared glance and settling into the woodwork, the venue created an easy, laid-back atmosphere built for appreciating the music.
And what music there was! To mark Piano Smithfield’s first live music event James Hudson and his Trio provided the superbly suave entertainment for the evening – and he did not disappoint.
The London-based jazz singer had a voice that enthralled the room at every verse and simply did not quit.
Eloquent vibratos matched effortless falsettos, leaving the young singer with an entirely captive audience.
And when it seemed as if Hudson’s voice had reached its boundaries, a devastatingly powerful note in Nat “King” Cole’s Mona Lisa left Piano Smithfield in a state of shock. Truly, it was a sight – and a sound – to behold.
The stunningly well-dressed dulcet tones were joined by a guitarist and a pianist – both of whom excelled in their musicianship – and were just enough to take hold of the entire venue, as well as being more than enough to fill the relatively quaint stage.
Hudson performed a collection of classic hits by the legendary artist Nat “King” Cole in what JGBG Events dubbed ”The Nat “King” Cole Songbook”.
From the best-known hits, such as L-O-V-E, to some, perhaps, lesser-known crooners including Paper Moon, Hudson managed to bring Piano Smithfield to a standstill, often leaving the atmosphere hanging on his every word while cocktail shakers could be heard bouncing in the bar behind.
After almost two years without real live music, the unmatched melodies of the King’s beautiful Autumn Leaves was the perfect booster needed for the starved audience.
Piano Smithfield is a truly mesmerising venue and the ideal place to swill a beverage while soaking up the tragically dwindling art of true jazz.
As is tradition in cabaret, each week sees the arrival of a new artist at the Piano Smithfield paying tribute to the jazz standards of old.
The fun doesn’t stop after five weeks, either. JBGB Events told me they have wonderful shows planned “well into 2022” – beginning with some Christmas themed events.
Two shows are taking place in the first week of December titled “Jazz at the movies: A swinging Christmas!” where punters can enjoy the festive tunes originally delivered by Frank Sinatra, Eartha Kitt, and the one and only Bing Crosby.
Get your tickets to the upcoming Piano Smithfield Jazz gigs here.
Grab tickets to the festive Jazz at the Movies: A Swinging Christmas here.
Catch James Hudson’s next gig at the London Jazz Festival here.