NYC’s 5 Best Jazz Clubs

March 8, 2011 4:00 PM

Despite the computer, globalism and the average American’s distaste of music that requires a listener to think, New York is still the center of the jazz universe. Musicians make their name here and get paid elsewhere. Who knew? If you know Bird, Pres, Duke, Newk, or Ornette, Sco, and the “Turbinator,” Here a few no can’t miss destinations.
-By Doug Vannoni

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Village Vanguard, New York City

The famous awning of the Village Vanguard legendary jazz club

Village Vanguard
7th Ave South and 11th St
New York, NY 10014
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Still the most esteemed basement in all of jazz. Walk down the narrow stairs into a deceptively small room and image what being there was like when John Coltrane made his seminal 1961 recording Live at the Village Vanguard. The club is host to top-shelf straight ahead, swing based toonage while as of late, and the booking style has broadened, welcoming giants from every conceivable representation of improvised music. No food. Artists play Tues-Sun. Sets at 9 and 11 Mondays are reserved for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. $30-40

The Jazz Standard, New York City

Inside New York’s Jazz Standard

Jazz Standard
116 East 27th St
New York, NY 10016
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Great sound, tasty grub and a wildly eclectic line-up of artists make this “destination” venue a mainstay on anybody’s top jazz venue list. The room, which sounds full and warm from every angle books big name acts into the space for at most a three-night run. Many acts that enjoy regular gigs at the 55 Bar, Barbes, Smalls and other smaller clubs take a step up in audience size and play the Jazz Standard. Mondays are dedicated to the Mingus Big Band. Roughly $30

barbes blyn NYCs 5 Best Jazz Clubs

A performer at Barbes Jazz Club in Brooklyn

376 9th St
Brooklyn, NY 11215

What’s with all the Balkan brass bands, and how can they possibly rock so incredibly hard? Spend some time at Barbes, located in south Park Slope and find out why the Eastern European influence within the New York jazz orbit has been so massive. Not the least of this newish wave of honking polka punks are the mighty Slavic Soul Party who have played host to a jam-packed Tuesday night throw down. This sometimes really big band (the lineup fluctuates) mixes all your fave Romanian, Moldovan, Bulgarian and Romany sounds along with some tasty American roots stuff like second-line, gospel and jazz. Usually a $10 cover.

55logo2 NYCs 5 Best Jazz Clubs

The front door of the famous little bar on Christopher St. (image from

55 Bar
55 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014
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A very welcome hipster hang. This tiny West Village club is a destination for guitarists from all over the globe who flock to hear frequent gigs from axe wizards like Mike Stern, Adam Rogers, Jim Campilongo and others. Outer orbit atmospherics can be heard here alongside swing and bop. Expect to enjoy the music with jazz students from the New School, Manhattan School and NYU who take the opportunity to check out their heroes in a cozy intimate environ. Sets are twice nightly, starting at 7:00 with a late set at 10:00. Usually $ 10-20.

Smalls Jazz Club, New York City

183 West 10th St
New York, NY 10014

A now legendary basement New York City jazz club. Initially ran from 1994-2003, the room played host to greats like Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Norah Jones, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Roy Hargrove The club reopened in 2004, and sports a spiffed up 48-seat room, a website that features streaming video of all performances and a rebuilt Steinway grand piano. Smalls — which books everything from traditional jazz to bands that explore the avant-garde — has always been an after-hours club, hosting well-attended jam sessions every night with jazzers playing a final chorus at 4 a.m. $20 Cover.

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