London-based group Kansas Smitty’s are changing the face of jazz in the capital by opening their own basement bar on Broadway Market.
The bar takes its name from the band, which plays regularly in venues such as Ronnie Scott’s, Shoreditch House and the Dead Dolls Club to diverse crowds of jazz enthusiasts and amateurs alike. Claiming that “jazz in the UK is usually confined to niche and expensive clubs or gimmicky theme nights”, the Kansas Smitty’s are hoping to bring jazz music to a younger generation.
“The idea was not only to have a bar but to have a place where people from the jazz community could come and play and have somewhere to call their own like Ronnie Scott’s in the 1950s,” said 22-year-old saxophonist, Ruben Fox.
The band are hoping to make jazz music accessible to a larger audience by alleviating the usual restrictions of high entry and drinks prices and what they believe to be a sometimes unwelcoming environment.
They are using their reputation from playing on London’s existing jazz scene as momentum for this venture. “Our funding came from the Kansas Smitty’s business and our own savings which wasn’t a whole lot,” said Giacomo Smith, clarinettist with the band. “We set up with a little bit of cash, a strong brand and a whole lot of elbow grease.”
According to a research report by IBISWorld earlier this year, the pubs and bars industry is declining, with around 10,000 closing in the past decade. However, the report predicts that the industry will return to growth as businesses adapt to changing consumer trends.
Blogger and musician Matt Hickman feels there is now a gap in the market for a venue such as this. Hickman, who writes restaurant and bar blog Matt The List said: “We’ve got plenty of good cocktail bars but not many good music bars that are easy to get into and Kansas Smitty’s are one of the tightest live bands in London.”
Kansas Smitty’s bar is located beneath Off Broadway at 63 Broadway Market in Hackney.