Blues and jazz have an extensive history in this town, which used to host defining establishments like the Lenox Lounge, Cotton Club, and the first Birdland. Even though most of the classic venues are no longer around — some of which have been turned into tourist attractions and museums of sorts — there are still an abundance of clubs around the city where you can indulge in live music. Check out some of our favourite jazz clubs in NYC, and let us know what yours are in the comments below.
VILLAGE VANGUARD: The underground jazz club in the West Village is almost 80 years old, and some musicians consider it an honor to play there. Regarded by many as the jazz equivalent of Carnegie Hall, this modest place is known for its superior acoustics and flawlessly controlled mood lighting, both of which sync with the performances on stage. However, the seating areas can be quite narrow. That aside, the Village Vanguard is all about the music, not the visual performance. In fact, several critically acclaimed artists, such as Bill Evans and Miles Davis, have performed here while patrons listened to their act with their eyes closed. You can actually feel the vibration of sound when certain musicians practice their craft. The Village Vanguard generally charges $25 to get in with a one-drink minimum. There is no reserved seating, so it pays to arrive early.
JAZZ STANDARD: This affluent Flatiron venue is a cross between the gaudiness of Time Square and the intimacy of some of the West Village clubs. You’ll often find barbecue being served while patrons listen to blues and jazz in this roomy-yet-plush space. The club has played host to infamous jazz musicians, such as Jimmy Cobb and Bill Frisell, as well as the sensational 10-piece Mingus Big Band (sometimes playing as the Mingus Dynasty or Mingus Orchestra). Because the Jazz Standard is situated under the Blue Smoke restaurant, patrons of the club feast on items from the eatery’s menu during a performance.
BLUE NOTE: Calling itself the “the jazz capital of the world”, the Blue Note has featured live performances by Charlie Haden, Cecil Taylor, and other known artists, as well as newer talent, like the Bad Plus. Inside the narrow venue, tables are situated inches away from one another. Regular guests don’t seem to mind though. In fact, such closeness at the Blue Note has become synonymous with Sunday brunches, as well as the Late Night Groove series.
IRIDIUM: The upper-class crowds who frequent Iridium come to see a mix of established blues artists and obscure jazz players. The views and acoustics are what keep bringing those crowds back. The Iridium was the place to visit guitarist Les Paul on Monday nights, and in his absence, various recognizable jazz musicians pay musical tribute to him on those same weeknights.
BIRDLAND: Birdland is where Midtown’s resurgence of jazz took place. Great jazz artists, such as Kurt Elling, Joe Lovano, Aaron Neville and John Pizzarelli are the attractions that drew in patrons. In-house bands are also beloved at the venue, particularly the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, who is a mainstay of Sunday evenings.