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Best jazz clubs in New York City: The city's top venues

We round up the best jazz clubs in New York City, including old standbys and cutting-edge favorites.

Donald Yip, Photograph: Donald Yip
Village Vanguard

Everyone knows that NYC is the best jazz town in the world. Here we present our roundup of the top jazz clubs in New York City, touching on hallowed landmarks, swanky newcomers, cutting-edge outer-borough spots, no-frills insider-friendly joints and more.

RECOMMENDED: Full coverage of jazz in New York

Best jazz clubs in NYC

Village Vanguard

Critics' pick

After 75 years, this basement club’s stage—a small but mighty step-up—still hosts the crème de la crème of mainstream jazz talent (Joe Lovano, Barry Harris, Lou Donaldson). Plenty of history has been made here: John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans have grooved in this hallowed hall. The 16-piece Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has been the Monday-night regular for more than 30 years. Doors open at 8pm.

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West Village

Birdland

Critics' pick

The flagship venue for midtown’s jazz resurgence, Birdland takes its place among the neon lights of Times Square seriously. That means it’s a haven for great jazz musicians (Joe Lovano, Kurt Elling) as well as performers like John Pizzarelli and Aaron Neville. The club is also notable for its roster of bands-in-residence. Sundays belong to the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra.

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Hell's Kitchen

Jazz Standard

Critics' pick

Renovation was just what the doctor ordered for the jazz den below restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke barbecue joint. Now the room’s marvelous sound matches its already splendid sight lines. The jazz is of the groovy, hard-swinging variety, featuring such musicians as organist Dr. Lonnie Smith, Larry Goldings and Cedar Walton.

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Midtown

Iridium

Critics' pick

Iridium lures upscale crowds with a lineup that’s split between household names and those known only to the jazz-savvy. The sight lines and sound system are truly worthy of celebration. Long the site of a Monday-night residency by guitar icon Les Paul, the club now hosts a steady stream of veteran pickers who perform in Paul's honor.

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Midtown West

ShapeShifter Lab

Critics' pick

Jazz bassist Matthew Garrison's slick Gowanus performance space hosts nightly performances of live experimental music. During the day, the joint provides state-of-the-art rehearsal, recording and exhibition space to the neighborhood's artists.

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Gowanus

Cornelia Street Café

Critics' pick

This 30-year-old bistro-cum-clubhouse features a miniature basement cabaret devoted to readings and music, along with a genial dining room that opens wide to the sidewalk in summer. The colorful, if dated, menu is consistent with the place’s bohemian roots. The eclectic fare ranges from glorified bar food like a light, gooey flatbread pizza, to more ambitious mains, like al dente lobster ravioli surrounded by snow peas or plump satisfying veal sausage on a mashed potato heap.

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West Village

Smalls

Critics' pick

For those looking for an authentic jazz club experience—rather than the cheesy dinner-club vibe that prevails at too many other spots around town—Smalls is a must. The cozy basement space feels like a speakeasy, or more specifically, one of those hole-in-the-wall NYC jazz haunts of yore over which fans routinely obsess. Best of all, the booking skews retro, yet not stubbornly so: You'll hear classic hardbop as well as more adventurous, contemporary-flavored approaches.

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West Village

Blue Note

Critics' pick

The Blue Note prides itself on being "the jazz capital of the world." Bona fide musical titans (Cecil Taylor, Charlie Haden) rub against hot young talents (the Bad Plus), while the close-set tables in the club get patrons rubbing up against each other. The Late Night Groove series and the Sunday brunches are the best bargain bets.

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Greenwich Village

The Jazz Gallery

Critics' pick

This beloved haunt, one of the city's premier incubators for progressive-jazz talent, has relocated from its former Soho digs to a gallery-like space near the Flatiron Building.

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Downtown

Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (at Frederick P. Rose Hall)

Critics' pick

The jazz arm of Lincoln Center is several blocks away from the main campus, high atop the Time Warner Center. It includes three rooms: the Rose Theater is a traditional midsize space, but the crown jewels are the Allen Room and the smaller Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, with stages framed by huge windows overlooking Columbus Circle. The venues feel like a Hollywood cinematographer’s vision of a Manhattan jazz club. Some of the best players in the business grace the spot, among them Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s famed artistic director.

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Upper West Side

Comments

1 comments
Andrea
Andrea

This review is good for those who like the "Elite" expensive up-tight jazz scene in New York. I've been to all those places and they have the best musicians, but the truth is that those venues are uptight and overpriced. Plus, you can see some of the greatest living jazzers in relaxed, nice, and not overpriced venues like Zinc bar or NuBlu, or that hotel at the corner of 38th st and Park av.