Known as the home of Duke Ellington and Shirley Horn, among other illustrious jazzers, Washington DC has long had a thriving jazz scene. Historically clustered in the U Street Corridor, the best jazz clubs in DC are now scattered throughout the city. Some of the best bars in DC and some of the best dance clubs in DC lend a stage to jazz musicians of all calibers, from the famous to the up-and-coming and the traditional to the modern. For blues, R&B and related genres, you’ll want to consult our picks for the best live music clubs in DC.
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Best jazz clubs in DC
This iconic jazz supper club founded in 1965 has hosted such major names as Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. With world-class blues and jazz acts and top-notch acoustics, paying the club’s ticket prices, plus food and drink minimum ($12 per person) is well worth the money. The venue is open daily and offers Creole dishes in addition to steak and seafood.
The KC Jazz Club at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has moved into the REACH—aka, that new arts annex you may have seen while driving by the center. The cabaret-style lounge will present jazz, hip-hop, comedy and contemporary music in its first season with performances Thursdays through Saturdays from January to April. Both established and up-and-coming talent will hit the stage and the venue will continue to host the annual Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival each spring.
When The Birchmere made its debut back in 1966, it quickly became the go-to hub for bluegrass music. In its more than 50 years, the historic hall has grown into an internationally renowned music destination welcoming artists of all calibers and genres, including about 60 jazz shows per year. The FlexStage accommodates 1,000 standing and the music hall seats 500, yet The Birchmere still provides the intimate ambiance that concertgoers crave. You’ll find a funkier brand of urban jazz in regular performers like Boney James, Brian Culbertson and Maysa.
Although Sotto D.C. doesn't call itself a jazz club, the spirit of the genre is very much alive here. Nestled in the space formerly occupied by jazzy spot HR-57, Sotto is as sleek and sultry as the live jazz music that fills the air every Thursday evening. Local and national talents serenade guests as they dig into Italian fare and sip Jazz Age-inspired craft cocktails. Friday through Sunday often brings more jazz, but other genres like folk, blues and hip hop also make appearances.
This two-level brick-walled spot on U Street pulses with the sounds of local and international live jazz and blues acts on Tuesday through Sunday nights. Musicians perform on the first floor from 6pm–1am Fridays and Saturdays (7:30–11:30pm on other nights), while the second level features a cozy vibe thanks to a fireplace and lounge seating. The restaurant plans to debut a piano bar on the third floor in 2020. American fare like burgers, lamb chops and herb-grilled salmon can be found on the menu.
More than 25 years since it opened, Eighteenth Street Lounge remains DC's coolest and most unique lounge. Housed in a former mansion, the space exudes a fancy house party vibe with vintage-inspired couches and sparkling chandeliers. The dress code is notoriously strict, so it's best to leave your flip-flops at home. If you manage to get past the doormen, you'll be treated to top-notch DJs and live bands playing traditional jazz, funk and reggae. On Fridays and Saturdays, the Donvonte McCoy Quintet performs traditional jazz with guest vocalists in the jazz bar on the second floor.
Billing itself as the “home of Roberta Flack,” this Capitol Hill venue where the famous singer reportedly got her break hosts a live jazz supper club upstairs every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night (and intends to add a Latin jazz night on Thursdays). Local acts perform for up to 64 guests who are settled in comfy seating and nosh on comfort foods like fried chicken and jambalaya. On weekdays, there’s a $12 food minimum.
Twins Kelly and Maze Tesfaye are the dynamic duo behind this mainstay DC jazz club, which has drawn legends like Stevie Wonder as well as local aspiring musicians. Expect live, traditional jazz music every night of the week as you grab a drink from the mosaic-tiled bar and devour some Ethiopian, Caribbean and American fare. With room for only about 100 patrons, the intimate experience will get you pretty darn close to the action on stage, no matter where you’re sitting.
This not-for-profit jazz club in Brookland runs all-ages shows from 6-9pm Wednesday and Sunday nights, with each show generally requiring a $5–$10 cash-only cover. Find the colorful windows painted with musicians and head inside for a retro jazz experience in a relaxed space decorated with instruments hanging from the ceiling. There’s no alcohol allowed on the premises, but food is offered by a local catering company.
Originally an Art Deco theater built in the 1930s, this space went through extensive renovations before reopening in 2013 as a jazz supper club. Still boasting the vintage vibe of the original space, the club is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For performances, the 300 dining room seats must be sold out before they’ll open up the additional 200 theater seats. Doors open for dinner two hours before show time, and service continues throughout performances.
The smooth sounds of jazz and signs outside touting happy hour drink prices lure passersby into Columbia Station in Adams Morgan. The vibe here is chill—there’s no dress code and no cover charge. With a different musician every night, it’s a great spot to discover the talent of an up-and-coming local. Saturday and Sunday nights bring jam sessions.
Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights are jazz nights at Takoma Station Tavern. If you drop by any other night of the week, you’ll be treated to soul, go-go and other sounds. Whatever the night, the ambiance here is warm and inviting thanks to exposed brick walls and wood accents throughout. Although it’s overall a causal spot, diehard jazz lovers willing to throw down the extra cash can opt for the bottle service menu and VIP treatment. Tuesday nights bring a jazz jam session.