The best jazz bars in Melbourne
Melbourne plays host to New York City's famed Birdland sister club, Bird's Basement – a gutsy 200 seater that runs in line with the Birdland model of two dinner shows per evening. It shares international and local jazz talent with its dead-cool older sibling (Ravi Coltrane, John Scofield and ‘80s teen star Molly Ringwald have all graced the stage) but also shines a light on local musicians who’ve nailed the old school aesthetic. Throw in some well-priced Italian dining from Beer Wine & Calzone upstairs and you’re in for a ripper night.
Located down one of Melbourne's many CBD laneways, the Paris Cat is cool and cosy, emanating a '20s and '30s Parisian-chic feel. Featuring two band rooms with a lounge bar in the middle, the Paris Cat has played host to some seriously good international and local performers since its doors opened in 2006. Jazz greats cover the velvety walls, with an intimate atmosphere setting the tone for easy music listening.
Walk up the unassuming stairs under the neon 'Uptown Jazz Cafe' sign and you'll find this trendy little jazz bar that boasts live music four nights a week. These guys take their craft pretty seriously – you can tell by the giant shrine to Charlie Parker that’s on the wall. Uptown revere the 'Melbourne sound', a rough-around-the-edges sound with improvisers often making their mark on stage. Park yourself beside the window looking down on Brunswick Street.
Jazz doesn't have to be grungy and underground, and Dizzy's Jazz Club proves how to do it with a bit of old-school pizzazz. Dizzy's hosts international and local acts, and prides itself on offering upcoming jazz bands the chance to show their stuff. On Wednesdays, Dizzy’s trademark big band hits the stage, Fridays and Saturdays up-and-comers wander through with special events taking place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Don't believe they're that into their music? They've even got their own motto: "Dizzy's – where life is jazz!"
The colourful, shabby 303 is usually a hub of activity, so it’s no surprise you’ll find some of the city’s best live music here. Since its inception, 303 has supported quality, no frills music, with a smattering of jazz musicians hitting their band room over the years. 303 aren’t defined as a jazz club per se, but they offer jazz in bite-sized and accessible bouts, perfect for the casual jazz aficionado. Only a few doors down from the Northcote Social Club, 303 usually has bands playing free from noon until late.
The weirdest-shaped pub in Melbourne feels more like a cosy lounge room than a music venue. Here, you can catch live music several nights a week; often jazz, funk, country or blues. The Pinn is no frills, no bull – just couch-dwelling jazz fans hunkering down for a chilled-out sesh. Be sure to check their updating gig guide for crooners, beboppers and genre-straddling multi-instrumentalists.
On Wednesday nights head over to this under-the-radar Brunswick Street gem that serves up cocktails, craft brews and a free jazz show to boot. Settle in beside their cosy indoor stage where jazz hepcats The Rookies do their thing. As the Rooks Return’s house jazz band, the Rookies have mastered a set list of ballads and uptempo bebop numbers which are often accented by special guest performers.