The Best Jazz Clubs in NYC: A Refinery Guide
Image source Tom Marcello via Flickr
Jazz, long ago replaced in America’s mainstream, remains must-hear music in New York City’s vibrant jazz scene. Every great jazz musician has visited New York, playing all-night speakeasy sessions in Harlem, intimate club sets in the West Village, and swanky Midtown lounge performances.
Despite the waning popularity of jazz across America, NYC still boasts a thriving scene, including a number of standout venues, bars, and legitimate speakeasies, each offering a unique take on our nation’s most essential art form.
The Jazz Standard
116 E 27th Street
The Jazz Standard is a moderately sized venue that sits below Blue Smoke in the Flatiron district. That means — unlike at many other jazz clubs — you can actually get a meal here that’s as good as the music. The menu consists of BBQ and other southern offerings. And don’t let being owned by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group fool you into thinking the Standard is anything short of authentic. While the Jazz Standard might not quite live up to the history evoked by its name, its performances rival any its Downtown competitors have to offer. Note: Jazz Standard shows are ticketed, so make sure to buy in advance.
The Village Vanguard
178 7th Avenue South
Speaking of living up to a name, The Village Vanguard is touted by counter-culture periodical The Village Voice as “radical” and hailed by many as the best jazz club in NYC. The Vanguard’s pedigree is astounding: a few of the legends to have graced the stage include Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis. The club continues to host great talent with bands now playing one-week residencies. Anywhere in the house is a great spot to hear the music, but come early if you want to grab a prime viewing seat.
Learn more: www.villagevanguard.com
Bar Next Door
131 MacDougal Street
Situated adjacent to La Lanterna Caffe in Greenwich Village is the appropriately-named Bar Next Door. This is a romantic spot. Surprise your date with a walk through Washington Square Park before enjoying an intimate night of jazz and Italian food. With its subterranean location and somewhat misleading signage, make sure you know where you’re going before you look foolish in front of that special someone. Once inside, you’ll discover a candlelit atmosphere, amazing music, and some of the city’s finest pizza, as well.
148 W 133rd Street
Central Harlem was a focal point of the 1920s Jazz Age, with 133rd Street earning the name “Swing Street.” Located at #148, Bill’s Place occupies the same space as a once well-regarded speakeasy. Bill Saxton knows all about the history, and invites you into his living room Friday and Saturday nights, where he shares his tales and his music. It doesn’t get much more speakeasy than this. Adding to the edge factor, Bill’s Place advertises as a “dry establishment,” but those in-the-know know it’s BYOB, supplying ice, cups, and a wine bottle opener or two. Just keep that between us.
Jazz at Lincoln Center
3 Columbus Circle
For a completely unique experience from Bill’s Place, take the red or blue subway lines downtown 60 blocks to Lincoln Center. Better-known for its classical music and opera, the center is no slouch, as jazz is concerned. Nightly performances are held at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola with select performances at the Allen Room. Both venues boast amazing views of Columbus Circle and Central Park, and Dizzy’s Club also offers a full food and bar menu. For the night owls, Dizzy’s Club hosts late-night sets at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, featuring the city’s best up-and-comers.
57 Grove Street
Arthur’s Tavern is the oldest continually operating jazz club in the city. Once called “Home of the Bird” for regularly hosting the great Charlie Parker amongst many other legends, Arthur’s still brings in big names. One to look out for is Sweet Georgia Brown, whose soulful voice brings down the house at least once a week — it’s a treat to behold. The space is tight, so arrive early if you’d like a table for the set, but Arthur’s is great for just popping in and checking out a few songs, as the club never charges a cover.
Learn more: www.arthurstavernnyc.com
75 Christopher Street
Fat Cat is unlike any of these other places — in a good way. With infinite board games, 10 pool tables, 10 ping pong tables, three shuffleboard tables, a $3 cover and good cheap beer, the crowd tends to be on the younger and more casual side. If you’re just about the music, you can lounge for hours on Fat Cat’s comfy couches, enjoying first-class performances every night of the week. Late-night open jam sessions go strong until 4 a.m., reasserting New York’s hold on the title of jazz capital of the world. While the genre sometimes carries the connotation of stodginess, it’s great to have Fat Cat for a fun, simple evening of jazz.
Be sure to check out our live jazz performances nightly here at Winnie’s Refined Spirits!