Best jazz clubs in NYC
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 Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra.
The Blue Note prides itself on being "the jazz capital of the world." Bona fide musical titans (Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner) rub against hot young talents (Brooklyn soul act Phony PPL), while the close-set tables in the club get patrons rubbing up against each other. The late-night weekend sets and the Sunday brunches are the best bargain bets.
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. Catch a range of jazzy fare from avant-garde boppers to classic vocalists.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At the jazz den below restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke barbecue joint, the room’s marvelous sound matches its splendid sight lines. The jazz is of the groovy, hard-swinging variety, featuring such musicians as organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and Larry Goldings.
First-timers at this remote Alphabet City outpost will have to ask the smokers outside if they’ve come to the right place: Only a blue light marks the spot. Inside, the crowd settles in for the offbeat jazz and avant-garde acts like owner Ilhan Ersahin’s Wax Poetic. Excellent live Brazilian music and dancing are the draws on Wednesday nights. A sister venue, Nublu 151, also hosts live music just a few blocks away.
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.
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.
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. Bookings mix internationally renowned jazz talent (Nicholas Payton, Harold Mabern) and promising local musicians.
Since 2005, the prolific composer and improviser John Zorn has operated his nonprofit venue, The Stone, with one-of-a-kind curated lineups and a no-beverages-or-merch policy out of an East Village storefront. That space shuttered in March 2018, but the music keeps going at its new home: the New School’s Glass Box Theatre. Expect the same adventurous music organized by world-class curators (Sonic Youth rocker Thurston Moore and jazz-guitar wiz Bill Frisell are among the names penciled in for residencies).
After more than 80 years, this basement club’s stage—a small but mighty step-up—still hosts the crème de la crème of mainstream jazz talent (Billy Hart, Andrew Cyrille, Vijay Iyer). 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 five decades years.