Jazz and juleps – it’s never a hard sell. Kansas Smitty’s House Band have left their HQ on Broadway Market to celebrate their new album Basement Tapes with a tour of London’s basement cocktail bars.
One such venue is the B&H Bar on Rathbone place: a cocktail bar, roughly the size of a living room (albeit a generous one) prompting me to wonder how they would fit in a jazzband. The living room feel is enforced by the set up: B&H is a quirky, inspired by 1920s speakeasy bars. The furniture is homely, the wallpaper floral and there are teacups with lights on the table. The cups also feature as vessels for some of the cocktails on the extensive menu.
The night’s special was a gorgeous generous julep, made with Wild Turkey bourbon and fresh mint, which held its own as the fitting refreshment of choice.
The brief for the evening was a little muddled as even the bar staff was surprised that there was an event on. The tables were Reserved but it was not quite clear for whom, though it seemed they were booked for all the guests who attended the music event. All a little unnecessary, as there was no separate space for anyone else to join.
Sitting gingerly, we waited, waited, and waited some more – another writer even left the table when the music hadn’t started by 8.30pm. The event was billed to start at 8pm and finish at 10pm, but without a support act the band left their seats around 9pm to gather in the middle and play.
Yet it was worth the wait. Despite the original eight piece band being whittled down to four, it didn’t matter, since the quartet made up of keyboard, guitar, trumpet and clarinet played swinging tunes that transported you right to the height of the Jazz Age. The swinging 20s got its name for a reason: tune after tune whizzed by and in this perfect setting of prohibition era, the atmosphere was joyous.
The music was over too soon and it was a shame for both sides that the promoted album was not actually on sale in the venue. There is of course a link on their website and honestly, the Basement Tapes would be the perfect alternative soundtrack to the coming festive season: who needs hot chocolate and schmaltz when you can have juleps and swing?
Kansas Smitty’s Basement Tapes tour has now concluded, but you can see the band live at:
63-65 Broadway Market
Tel: 07731 016 744