The Jazz Café
The Jazz Café in Camden Town, London has spent a quarter of a century bringing the most respected names in jazz and soul to town. Names including Amy Winehouse, D’Angelo and Bobby Womack have all played at the venue, which has now undergone refurbishment.
The Columbo Group, who run a string of London venues, have given the space a new look and intend to carry on its legacy by presenting exciting sounds from the wider jazz community to customers.
Riz Shaikh from The Columbo Group said: “The Jazz Café is an iconic venue with huge history and heritage in London. It has hosted some incredible acts and has an emotional attachment to a lot of Londoners. It was an exciting project to be able to bring the venue back to life as it had become quite tired and unloved. It is a project that is really close to home and it was important to understand the heritage of the site when thinking about design.”
Work began on the project in January 2016 and saw The Columbo Group undertake a huge amount of work to redesign the space. The chimney breast was removed and the kitchen was opened up and moved upstairs.
Riz commented: “The first thing to consider was the practical element of a site like this and how you can get the best out of it ergonomically. We really wanted to open up the space and that involved a huge amount of structural work, so it proved to be the biggest structural project that we have done. By doing the structural aspects, we opened up the whole venue, which was really important, not just in terms of how the venue worked but also in terms of its layout. We have not only increased the capacity but have also moved and reworked the bars so you can get a drink much quicker. Most importantly we’ve increased the sound quality. The key to design is that it has to meet the practical considerations of a venue and increase the customer’s experience. It’s the balance of both which was the biggest challenge.”
The Columbo Group also wanted the space to reflect London with an urban feel, mixed with art deco aspects.
Riz added: “It was important that the venue had a strong sense of place – you need to understand who your customer is. That starts with an understanding of the history of the building and respecting that history, but at the same time investing an energy and passion that was sadly lacking in the last few years. The Jazz Café had lost its identity both in the experience and in design and our job was to bring it back to life and make it the best live venue experience in London.
“We wanted it to have this urban feel to it but at the same time, have patches of art deco in there because of those influences of jazz.”
The team also used a lot of pavement lights and glass blocks to create a collection of materials throughout the space. The main lights are old deco lights from Penn Station, which act as a centrepiece, and a lot of brass has been used in the upstairs dining space to create a sleeker dining environment, compared to the lower music venue.
“We worked on the live music venue and the dining area at the same time,” said Riz. “It needed to have a cohesive current flow between both spaces. It takes you on a journey from going through the live venue space to the dining area, so you feel part of the same venue –you don’t feel like they are separate.”
The Jazz Café reopened in May with a 22a Records Showcase.
Riz concluded: “A lot of thought went into The Jazz Café and it was what was needed and right. If you know the venue intimately, like we did, then you know what it needed. We designed it with what it deserved in mind and I think we have done that and have made it great again. When the project came along, we thought ‘wow, what a project to really get our teeth stuck into.’ We really understood it and knew what we felt it needed, so I hope the reaction is good and I am hopeful that it will be.
“There is something really special and unique about the Jazz Café that makes it one of the best live music venues in the world – that’s why it is loved by customers and artists alike. Retaining that special character and charm whilst moving into a new era and new special chapter wasn’t easy and I hope we have pulled it off.”