Nick Elmer Quartet at MAP Studio Café, London

A hidden gem of a band plays at a hidden gem of a new jazz venue in north London

Nick Elmer Quartet at MAP Studio Café, London. Photo by Thomas Fletcher

The MAP Studio Cafe was the location for an intimate performance led by emerging guitarist, Nick Elmer. This quaint little venue in Kentish Town won’t sound familiar to many, but it hosted a captivating evening of jazz in its vibrant and quirky upstairs performance space.

It holds regular jazz jams on Sunday evenings as well as sit-down gigs with a featured artist. It’s certainly a venue that is causing quite the stir. Artists such as Goldie, Roots Manuva and Omar have all performed there.

Nick Elmer is currently completing his master’s degree at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama alongside the rest of his quartet. Having previously studied at Leeds College of Music, Elmer has enjoyed moving to London and making new connections.

The material in both sets was largely made up of original compositions by Elmer. However, we were treated to a few harmonically adjusted standards that included Smile by Charlie Chaplin and All the Things You Are, both of which were cleverly arranged with dynamic outbursts. There was plenty of substituted harmony – as one might expect from music students – yet the themes were still recognisable.

There were several highlights, including Saturn’s Child, a composition by Joe Locke that featured Sam Davies tucked away in the corner on the upright piano. Another was an Elmer original titled Eden, inspired by a doorbell jingle at his grandparents’ home, Eden Cottage.

Crazy Sunday was a tune lethargically written by Elmer in order to “tick a box” ready for composition class at Guildhall the following morning. It gave him the perfect opportunity to showcase his improvisation skills. He even managed to accompany his solo with his own voice, in true Jarrett style. The final song favoured a well-loved standard, Body And Soul, where Elmer whispered to Seb Maniura on bass “Not too fast!” to chuckles from the crowd.

Nick Elmer and his quartet and the MAP Studio Café are hidden gems that both deserve success. It can’t be too far round the corner.

Nick Elmer Quartet: Elmer (g); Sam Davies (p); Seb Maniura (b); Ollie Peszynski (d). MAP Studio Café, Kentish Town, London. Sunday 1 August 2021