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Jazz in New Orleans
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Where to hear jazz music in New Orleans

In funky dives and classy lounges, here's where to listen to jazz music in New Orleans, from traditional to contemporary

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
&
Sally Tunmer
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There’s no better place to hear live jazz music than New Orleans – this is a city full of music that dances to its own groove. 

New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, and musicians around the city have refined and expanded the genre in all kinds of ways. While you’ll likely hear jazz music spilling out of homes, cars and businesses at any time of the day, catching a band live at one of the many clubs and bars around town is a must. Fans of traditional jazz might find a fave at a classy cocktail lounge, while the down-and-dirty type can seek out funky jazz in a casual club. Whatever your predilection, you’re sure to find it here in the Crescent City.

If you’re looking for a serving of all-you-can-hear jazz, you might want to prioritize checking out Jazz Fest, Satchmo Summerfest or another local festival that features many great local jazz musicians in one spot. But a true aficionado will seek out the haunts that showcase talent right from the start, where you can get up close and personal with the greats and the soon-to-be greats. You can see world-class performers on a variety of stages just about every single night of the year, and even during the day at some of the city’s famed jazz brunches.

So whatever brings you to NOLA, listening to jazz music in New Orleans is pretty much mandatory. 

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Best jazz music in New Orleans

Preservation Hall and its resident band are New Orleans jazz institutions. Located in the heart of the historic French Quarter, this legendary jazz club was opened in 1961 by a young couple enamored by the traditional jazz of the city, at the time overshadowed by early rock and bebop. The son of that couple, Ben Jaffe, owns and operates Preservation Hall today. The venue is open nearly every night of the year, with a line of people waiting before each performance. It’s the ideal intimate space to enjoy the sounds of the world-renowned Preservation Hall Jazz Band, with a quaint courtyard in the back. 

The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street is the illustrious destination for all things jazz, brass and funk in New Orleans. This is a must-visit bar and music venue, where you’ll get to listen and dance to local favorites like the Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, Meschiya Lake and the Little Big Horns, Miss Sophie Lee, Hot Club of New Orleans and more. The small, casual space is adorned with quirky artwork by local folk artist Dr. Bob. 

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Snug Harbor on Frenchmen is a classic jazz lounge. The historic building offers something for everyone: three separate rooms are dedicated to drinking, dining and live music respectively. Members of New Orleans music royalty, like Charmaine Neville, Stanton Moore and James Singleton are Snug Harbor mainstays. Whether in the mood for low-key vibes or a swinging night out, this intimate, dimly lit space will deliver. 

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Nestled in between the strip clubs, neon signs and bars serving Hand Grenades and Hurricanes on Bourbon Street is the oldest operating jazz club in New Orleans. Fritzel’s European Jazz Club is the place to hear traditional jazz and French gypsy jazz music with a classic cocktail in hand every night of the week. 

Maple Leaf in the Riverbend area of Uptown always feels like a really fun house party. It’s a local favorite for seeing New Orleans legends and newcomers every night of the week. Its humble digs, back patio and social atmosphere are always prime for a good time. World-class jazz and jazz-influenced musicians like John Cleary, George Porter, Jr. and Johnny Vidacovich play the venue regularly.

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Dos Jefes is an unassuming oasis tucked away on Tchoupitoulas Street in Uptown, boasting laid-back vibes alongside live jazz music. It’s where the New Orleans jazz tradition thrives in a low-key, relaxed setting perfect for hanging out with old and new friends inside or on the tropical patio. New Orleans jazz professionals John Fohl, Rick trolsen and Joe Krown are Dos Jefes staples.

Right inside the entrance of the Pontchartrain Hotel is the cozy, wood-paneled Bayou Bar. Its storied past includes frequent visits by Frank Sinatra and Truman Capote, and it’s the spot where the New Orleans Saints franchise was christened in 1966. But the intimate vibe is perfect for live music — mostly jazz trios and solo artists — on tap Wednesdays through Saturdays.

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Three Muses, as the name suggests, checks all the New Orleans boxes: music, food and drinks. You’ll find the highest quality versions of all three at this cozy club on Frenchmen Street. Listen to jazz and its variations while enjoying an expertly mixed drink and delicious small plates. Don’t miss the La Soldadera cocktail, the chili verde pulled pork and Ms. Moon’s Bulgogi rice bowl.

Not only does the New Orleans Jazz Museum celebrate the history of jazz and its influences on the city through engaging, interactive exhibits, it hosts live music in the courtyard, on the balcony and virtually. One of the best series the museum hosts is Prime Examples of Excellence in Music, curated by composer, jazz pianist and educator Jesse McBride. The series pays tribute to the legacy of the Prime Example Jazz Club (closed in 2020) and features musical arrangements by McBride performed by up-and-coming contemporary jazz musicians and veteran musicians.

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Although Tipitina’s isn’t primarily known for jazz, any music-related New Orleans list would be remiss to exclude this institution. The venue was named after a song by Professor Longhair, who spent his later years playing here and whose portrait is displayed above the stage. Tipitina’s is a favorite of both local and touring bands playing funk, brass, rock, hip hop and, of course, jazz. 

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Located on the third floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Canal Street, this elegant lounge features its namesake musician Jeremy Davenport every Friday and Saturday night. Davenport, a renowned jazz trumpeter and singer, performs originals and standards with his band. It’s a classy spot to hear some swinging jazz before or after a night out in the Quarter.

One of several Frenchmen Street clubs, d.b.a. is among the top places to hear many different types of New Orleans music, including jazz. Its sleek, dark wooden interior generates cool vibes and those who appreciate craft beer and cocktails will love the extensive and well-curated drink selection. Hear the likes of Treme Brass Band, Smoking Time Jazz Club and the Palmetto Bug Stompers, among other genres.

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Besides being one of the top wine bars in the country, Bacchanal down in the Bywater neighborhood offers a dreamy setting to hear local jazz bands. After picking out a bottle of wine from the front shop, head out to the spacious patio, cozy up by a canopy of trees and order from the excellent food menu. To complete the experience, Baccchanal hosts a variety of established and up-and-coming musicians, part of the next wave of New Orleans talent.

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