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The best jazz clubs in NYC

We round up the best jazz clubs NYC has to offer including old standbys and cutting-edge jazz favorites

Photograph: Donald Yip
Village Vanguard

Everyone knows that jazz in New York is some of the best in the world. But with so many live-music venues around the city, how do you pick where to go? We've rounded up the top jazz clubs NYC has to offer from Greenwich Village, Manhattan to Gowanus, Brooklyn, 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

Birdland

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

Blue Note

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

Cornelia Street Café

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

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

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

Ibeam Brooklyn

It’s easy to walk right past the inconspicuous steel door that leads to Ibeam. The compact practice-pad-cum-venue is run by trombonist Brian Drye and has become a go-to for Brooklyn’s avant-jazzers. Doubling as a members-only rehearsal space, Drye’s tiny, cozy, art-adorned digs keep overheards down to offer a low-cost alternative to the city's more lavish jazz venues and highlight the most progressive minds in the local scene.

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East Village

Iridium

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

The Jazz Gallery

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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Midtown

Jazz Standard

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

ShapeShifter Lab

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

Smalls

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

Smoke Jazz & Supper Club

Owners Paul Stache and Frank Christopher have created a jewel of a jazz joint. On weekends, folks line up around the block to hear a set by one of jazz’s remaining big names, and they are well rewarded: Low-lit chandeliers, comfy sofas, plush carpeting and unobstructed sight lines make it seem like the greats are playing in your living room. Early in the week, evenings are themed: On Sunday, it’s Latin jazz; Tuesday, organ jazz; Wednesday, funk. On weekends, internationally renowned jazz locals (George Coleman, Eddie Henderson, Cedar Walton) hit the stage, relishing opportunities to play informal gigs in their own backyard.

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Upper West Side

Village Vanguard

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

Comments

3 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.

Justin J
Justin J

@Andrea Thanks for your review Andrea. I am coming to NYC this June. Send me some info about about the Zinc Bar and Nublu and the hotel on 38th St and Park Ave. I don't need uptight and overpriced. Send info to me at Majicman2k5@yahoo.com if you don't mind.


Matt H
Matt H

@Andrea Also, 55 Bar on Christopher & 7th Ave.