|Friday band the ‘Evening Standards’:
Pianist Nathan Britton with trumpeter Andy Davies
A new venue, Piano Bar Soho, a “members’ jazz and cocktail den” in Carlisle Street off Soho Square opened its doors last year. Sebastian interviewed Nathan Britton, the music director of the venue, and asked him to explain the concept:
LondonJazz News: You are the host of the Piano Bar Soho? Where/ when is it and how often does it run? When does it go on until?
Nathan Britton: The Piano Bar Soho is at 16 Carlisle Street- just off Soho Square. It currently runs live music 3 nights a week (Wednesday, Thursday & Fridays). I think the long term plan is to introduce music 7 days a week if it continues to be successful.
LJN: How long has it been going and how did you first get involved?
NB: It has been going for about a year now. I first got involved when they were running the bar as pop-up event. I was looking around the web for for some freelance gigs and came across the opportunity (on Gumtree of all places!).
LJN: For people unfamiliar with you can you tell us where you are from , what your main daytime musical exploits and where your career has taken you so far (?)
NB: I was born in London and grew up in Kingston-upon-Thames. I suppose you could say that my musical career has been pretty varied- I’ve had quite a lot of formal training in both Jazz & Classical Music but I am also a self-taught producer.
A couple of years ago I set up a production company called EC1 Studios. We produce/record all styles of music including some of my own projects (London Neo Soul Collective & 30Ducks). Recently, we have ventured into video production to help promote our musical content and artists. We are working on several exciting video projects including the Piano Bar YouTube channel.
Besides the studio work I play as a session pianist for various artists around London and have performed all over the place (including the Voll-Damm International Jazz Festival Of Barcelona).
LJN: Do you have regular mates in the house band?
NB: There are a few regulars who perform at the bar- I have a duo with Andy Davies called ‘The Evening Standards’ (we play there most Fridays). The music schedule varies each month and there is a real mix of vocal/instrumental talent coming through.
LJN: What are the challenges in running a night like this?
NB: Apart from staying focused for 3/4 hours there aren’t many difficulties with running the music at the bar. We recently hosted a street jam which required 6 hours of music so that was a bit more challenging to organise (but definitely worth the effort!).
LJN: What have been the high points ? Famous / amazing / surprising guests sitters-in?
NB: This summer, when we decided to close the street and host the Piano Bar’s very first live street jam. It was an amazing day and there was a great turn out (over 1500 people). The jam featured some brilliant musicians from our network and there was also some special guests including Mo Pleasure (MD of Earth, Wind & Fire). You can check out the wrap up video HERE.
(Another high-point at the bar was this one night when I met Helena Bonham-Carter. She said she loved my playing and kissed my head as I serenaded her!)
LJN: How big is the venue? What is the atmosphere?
NB: The venue is small and really cosy inside- It has a great vintage style with jazzy decor, lighting, candles etc
People say it’s ones of Soho’s hidden gems and also that it is really good for date night. Customers can get really close to the musicians which I think also adds to it’s charm.
LJN: What age of audience normally comes?
NB: There is a great mix of people who come to the bar. It attracts a lot of young people who maybe aren’t used to seeing live music. It’s great to see their reaction and hear their appreciation for the art.
LJN: What food /drink specialities are there?
NB: The bar specialises in cocktails- They do an amazing Espresso Martini which keeps me going throughout the night!
LJN: Do people need to book or do they just turn up? Are there a lot of seats ? Do most people stand? Do they dance ? Is it encouraged?
NB: The Piano Bar is a members only club and people can turn up on the door to get a membership. It accommodates about 80 people and there is seating but on the more rowdy nights people do tend to stand and dance around (especially when we set up the drums).
LINK: Piano Bar Soho website (Online membership is £5)