There’s no uncertainty that New York City is where jazz music found its pace—Miles Davis got the recognition in the bebop clubs in the ’40s; Billie Holiday made people crazy in Harlem; and Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker wailed on the trumpet and saxophone, correspondingly. Several of NYC’s iconic jazz clubs continue as exciting as ever, and they’ve been merged by dozens of fresher clubs that carry on the culture of this exclusively American art form. Just as music enthusiasts once made trips to New York to see Parker at Birdland or John Coltrane at the Village Vanguard, today’s jazz fan has lots of choices to catch tomorrow’s legends—whose categories range from Latin jazz to soul to fusion and countless more categories. To assist you to find your way, here are some of the city’s must-visit jazz venues—from fancy spots to casual, more reasonable places.
Whether you’re speaking about jazz history, acoustics or big-name musicians, the Vanguard has it all. Unlocked in 1935, the club has continued its 123-seat-capacity—well-known for its great sound, often credited to the room’s triangular shape. Famous live albums were recorded by John Coltrane, Bill Evans and Wynton Marsalis at this location! A must-visit for every jazz enthusiast!
While it doesn’t claim the Vanguard’s endurance, Blue Note (established in 1981) surely stands up to the legendary space in terms of excellence. Some of the top musicians on the planet tread a pathway through this elegant organization—Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and creator Chick Corea as well as Grammy Award–nominated trumpeter and composer Chris Botti, both performed here. Be sure to reach early, as the seating here is first come, first served basis.
Termed for the ‘Bird’ himself—esteemed saxophonist Charlie Parker—Birdland has gone through numerous personifications since its initiation, which is more than 60 years ago. From Midtown West to Morningside Heights to its present spacious position in Hell’s Kitchen, the club’s tagline—the jazz corner of the world, created by Parker—still rings true. Great artists like – Diana Krall, Pat Metheny, Dave Brubeck and many more have enhanced the stage beauty here.
Jazz at Lincoln Center
It is an expensive spot to hear the whole lot from Afro-Cuban pianists to jazz flautists to unpredicted guests like folk-rock singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega and ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ vocalist Bobby McFerrin. Jazz at Lincoln Center is home-based to three different scenes—the 1,233-capacity Rose Theater, which naturally hosts major national acts; The Allen Room, which accommodates 427 to 467 guests and whose large floor-to-ceiling glass window overlooks Columbus Circle; and its smallest, most close spot, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, with accommodation for 80 to 140 people. Prices and showtimes vary between the venues.
Another gem is the new and enhanced Iridium, where the late guitar legend Les Paul loved his final weekly position. Monday is now Les Paul Guitar Tribute night at the club, and the rest of the week shows some of the best in classic, modern jazz, blues and R&B.
Located just below Danny Meyer’s much-admired barbecue joint Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard lets people to order chilli-crusted calamari or a pulled-pork platter straight from the music haven’s upstairs neighbour. Jazz followers flock here for the venue’s eccentric sight and impressive line-ups.
Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
Smoke Jazz has an ultra-intimate setting with accommodation for 50 people. It gives you a first-class jazz experience at a reasonable price, with free weekend-brunch shows and no cover charge. Make yourself cosy with your partner and other patrons, as the tables are a tight squeeze. You’ll sense like you’re sitting with the band as well.
A throwback to the comfortable, common jazz clubs of the past. Smalls primary opened in 1993 and lately returned from a brief gap to reclaim its place as one of the New York City’s greatest destinations for up-and-coming acts. An extensive collection of stools, wooden chairs and ragged couches lend the feel of a jazz jam gathering in a friend’s basement. Stop by after work—20 bucks get you in for as long as your heart wishes.
The modernized Zebra Room at this landmark Harlem club transports guests back to the days when Billie Holiday chanted here, and Langston Hughes was a frequent visitor. Lenox Lounge’s position as a jazz institute makes this club a must-visit destination.
One of the oldest continuously functioning jazz clubs in New York City, Arthur’s no more hosts the Charlie Parkers of the world—but its house bands have converted into local legends, creating this West Village institute one of the best places in the city.