Kansas Smitty’s bar hopes to bring jazz to the people in Broadway Market

Kansas Smitty's. Picture: Rah Petherbridge

Kansas Smitty's. Picture: Rah Petherbridge - Credit: Archant

Zoe Paskett talks to Giacomo Smith, whose band bought the bar earlier this year to establish their own community.

Jazz can be an alienating genre for many. Whether it’s the ambience, the reputation for being snooty, or the usually exorbitant entry prices, young people have tended to shy away from listening to this type of music.

The Kansas Smitty’s House Band wants to change that. Made up of eight 20 and 30-somethings, they are trying to bring the live jazz they love to their contemporaries.

The band launched their own bar earlier this year in Hackney, hoping to open up their music to a different crowd and have since welcomed a dedicated weekly following.

Their recently-released self-titled debut album is a culmination of the non-stop gigs they have performed together over the past few years. Recorded, mixed and mastered last year in less than a week, they decided to forgo modern technology in favour of analogue, recording straight to tape.

“The album demonstrates the different styles of music that the people in the band like,” says clarinettist and alto saxophone player Giacomo Smith. “It’s not just one person featuring on all the songs so you get a lot of different moods.”

As well as Smith, who brought the band together, the group is made up of Pete Horsfall (trumpet, vocals), Ruben Fox (tenor saxophone), Dave Archer (guitar), Theon Cross (tuba, trombone), Pedro Segundo (drums), Ferg Ireland (bass) and Joe Webb (piano).

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“I collected everyone from all over the place,” says Smith. “Ronnie Scott’s, Nightjar, Cucumbar. You just meet people along the way who you click with, or whose music is so awe-inspiring that you need to play with them.”

The group has performed all over London, from well-established jazz clubs like Ronnie Scott’s to the more edgy Dead Dolls Club under the railway arches in Bethnal Green.

Still maintaining a presence on London’s underground scene, they play at their own bar, a tiny cavern under Off Broadway in Hackney, which only just manages to contain the volume of sound they create.

“The bar was an ironic development of a house band in search of a venue,” says Smith. “We can hang out, write material and bring the public into that process. It’s about spending time together and having a community around us. People can see us in our element. It’s like being in our living room.”

Having had a busy year opening a bar, recording an album and still playing nightly gigs around the city, they have no plans to slow down.

Smitty’s Big Four, a derivative of The Kansas Smitty’s House Band made up of Smith, Horsfall, Archer and Ireland, are playing a free gig at artsdepot in North Finchley on November 22 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Kansas Smitty’s bar is beneath Off Broadway at 63 Broadway Market in Hackney. Visit kansassmittys.com