The Jazz Bar is leased and operated by Edinburgh-based drummer and jazz organiser Bill Kyle, and opened its doors on 1 July 2005. As a musician, Bill has been heavily involved (both playing and organising) on the Scottish jazz scene for many years, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, plus five years in London, and a year in New York.
Coming back to this bar is a bit of a 'full circle' for Bill - he used to play in this very room when it was known as 'Cellar No 1' in the late 90s. It was a lot smaller then, cramped and airless - but a great vibe for jazz! Then in 2001 the property closed when it was acquired by Edinburgh pub operators Festival Inns. It took almost 9 months for Festival to renovate the bar, and it re-opened in early 2002 as their 'Beat Basement', more of a DJ club bar.
Meanwhile also in 2002, Bill Kyle, having lost his regular Cellar Bar gig, was trawling the streets looking for somewhere to play. To his surprise he came across interesting premises just round the corner from the old Cellar Bar, on South Bridge. It was a dingy, run-down Irish theme bar, but the space had good prospects for conversion. So, borrowing shed-loads of cash, he got to work to organise the massive revamp and create a top-class live music venue.
Thus in April 2002, Bill opened up Scotland's first ever full-time jazz venue: The Bridge Jazz Bar. This unique venue became a huge success in a very short time, and staged some memorable performances from top jazz names, eg Joe Locke, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Bob Sheppard, Benn Clatworthy, Theo Travis, Viktoria Tolstoy, Buster Williams, Lenny White and Lee Konitz!
But then, after just seven short months of operation, The Bridge Jazz Bar was totally destroyed (along with all its contents) in the massive Cowgate Fire of 7th December 2002. Although devastated by the loss (in more ways than one!), the strong level of local support that was demonstrated for that venue gave Bill the motivation and determination to do it all over again, so here we are with what's effectively 'Bridge 2'.