When Jazz@Southbridge moved to 7atenine last year, loyalties were tested. Trading in its motley, ragtime leanings for florid pink tones and leisure centre-turquoise stools was always going to be a big ask for the club’s long-held, beardy purists who like their jazz in more underground, sullen settings. Jazz doesn’t need plush environs. While the standard of music was upheld, the move felt like a saddening Disneyfication of a fondly cherished musical institution. The faithful wept.
Where, then, for Singapore’s lone-wandering, head-bopping jazzbos? Playing a more old-time, backdoor Chicago den is the Fairmont’s Ink Bar, which, for our money, is Singapore’s most rewarding jazz haunt. And, weirdly, also its most unsung. Sleek, but with a kind of closeted, smoky hue in the tradition of all great jazz labs, Ink has its own lick of neon but is otherwise entirely oil-black and makes a pleasingly blues-y backdrop for local jazz grandee Jeremy Monteiro and friends to hold sway most nights of the week.
At the bar, a small roster of cocktails are perfectly rendered and wickedly strong. Gin-based classic The Aviation (here, cocktail geeks will note, made with the once left-out crème de violette), made an unapologetically powerful first sip, the tart lemon juice grounded with faint almond-y undercurrents of the cherry maraschino liqueur. Much more bitter was the Italian classic Negroni, which perhaps showed too much Campari but still adequately enabled the Martin Miller’s four-year gin.
The only dud was from the local cocktail list, the Little India – ‘like drinking a Thai green curry’, said a friend, and he was right. Back to form was the easy-sipping Hemingway Daiquiri, which had a neatly balanced sweetness and was, like the jazz, both subdued and dapper. Alexander Barlow
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