New York City is home to some of the world’s best jazz clubs, so it can be hard to determine which ones to visit. Yet the good news is that there’s something for everyone, from hallowed landmarks and no-frills joints to cutting-edge swanky spots for younger crowds. Therefore, we felt it was necessary to create a guide to the best jazz clubs in NYC. We’ll discuss everything a visitor needs to know about venues in every borough, so sit back and let’s take a jazz tour around NYC!
You'll also love this:
History of Jazz Music in New York City
Before we begin discussing what you need to know, it’s essential to understand why jazz music is so prevalent in NYC. And the truth is that it actually represents one of NYC’s most infamous eras. From changing sexual and social norms to the booming music scene, New York quickly became a hub for celebrating a new time for American culture.
As you already know, the Big Apple is often referred to as one of the world’s capitals for entertainment, of which a great deal involves music. And music is not a new concept for NYC; in fact, it peaked during the era of jazz music in the roaring twenties. The majority of original jazz artists were African Americans, such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong.
My tip: check out this amazing Jazz Private Walking Tour 👇
01 Louis Armstrong and Jazz Private Walking Tour
This is a really great guided tour for all jazz fans who want to learn more about the life of the famous Louis Armstrong and his work in New York. You’ll start at Jazz At Lincoln Center and see major venues and jazz clubs on the tour. As an option, you can attend a jazz concert in the evening!
It was commonplace for New Yorkers during the 1920s to visit Carnegie Hall for their jazz music fix by attending one of many concerts that would be hosted within the walls of this famed building. Additionally, many would attend speakeasies such as The Cotton Club or The Back Room.
Yet, aside from being associated with illegal alcohol and parties, the jazz era was obviously mostly known for the music. As jazz made its way into the spotlight, it became America’s music of the 20s and 30s. Though it was not a new form of music, these were the decades when it became popular. It began and still remains a large part of African American culture, having started among slaves that arrived in America at least 300 years before jazz gained popularity.
Today’s NYC Jazz Scene
Jazz music as we know it may not have ever existed without the help of cultural bebop-era clubs found on NYC’s 52nd street or continue to remain relevant without the promotion and patronage of hotspots by subsequent generations. Today, New York City is home to a plethora of venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn that work to appease the public’s need for jazz performances from up-and-comers and vaunted vets alike. While the blues scene that was so hot in NYC during the 80s and 90s is mainly gone, there are still a few spots to enjoy this form of musical expression if you know where to look. So, if you’re in the mood for some jazz or blues music and are looking for the best jazz clubs in NYC, you’ve come to the right place – let’s get started!
The 22 Best Jazz Clubs in NYC
01 Blue Note Jazz Club
The Blue Note Jazz Club has called NYC’s Greenwich Village home since 1981. Danny Bensusan, the founder, and owner set out on a quest to create a Greenwich Village jazz club that treated artists with respect and provided patrons with only the finest jazz music in a setting that’s comfortable yet intimate. After its opening, the Blue Note Club was so well-loved that even retired artists such as Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Lionel Hampton, and Tito Puente would return to music and call the club home.
Today, the Blue Note works to preserve the history of jazz music while also acting as an innovative and progressive place to practice and play on a nightly basis. Aside from main acts that include Pat Metheny, Ron Carter, Robert Glasper, Chris Botti, Joshua Redman, and Christian McBride, the club is also a great place to find up-and-coming artists playing a wide array of musical types from jazz and soul to funk, R&B, and hip-hop.
02 Village Vanguard
The Village Vanguard is located at Seventh Ave South in the West Village. It was first opened by Max Gordon in 1935, making it New York City’s oldest operating jazz club. Though, many people didn’t realize that this venue actually hosted beat poetry and folk music until 1957, when it became a home for jazz music. Even the legends John Coltrane and Miles Davis played here.
Many New Yorkers can’t remember a time when Smoke Jazz Club’s current venue wasn’t home to bebop and jazz. Before the beloved club opened its doors in 1998, an equally important jazz club called Augies stood in the same place. With this history dating back to 1960 and numerous live sessions and grammy nominated album recordings, Smoke is where you head to for serious Jazz.
04 55 Bar
The 55 Bar is a Prohibition-era dive bar that offers nightly funk, blues, and jazz performances in Greenwich Village. Essentially considered the gem of Greenwich, it’s been in business for over 100 years, but don’t let their tagline fool you – it’s not a place for swing or retro jazz. In fact, in recent years, this homey downstairs club has hosted some of the top innovative names from modern jazz.
The 55 Bar charges a modest cover, but they book major talents, so the experience is well worth the cost. Some patrons even claim that this bar is among the best jazz venues in all of New York City. It’s been a longtime home for acts like Wayne Krantz, Mike Stern, and Sweet Georgia Brown. They offer live music every night of the year, and you can expect to hear something ranging from the blues or jazz to avant-garde varieties.
05 Birdland Jazz Club
Birdland is a New York City jazz club that first opened in December 1949. The original location was at 1678 Broadway, which is in Manhattan, slightly north of West 52nd Street. However, this club was closed due to increasing rent costs in 1965 but reopened for only one night in 1979. A revival began in the late 1980s, as a second nightclub using the name was opened in what’s now known as Manhattan’s Theater District.
Charlie Parker, or as his friends and family know him, “Bird”, was the inspiration and headliner for the Birdland Club. Soon after the 52nd Street scene caved, Birdland was created and gained notoriety over the following fifteen years, as they were home to double and triple bills that would begin around 9 pm and sometimes last until dawn.
Birdland was home to Charlie Parker and other jazz legends such as Count Basie, who made the club his headquarters. In fact, “Lullaby of Birdland” by George Shearing was recorded there, as was John Coltrane’s “Live at Birdland.”
06 Dizzy's Club
There are really great jazz clubs in New York, which not only show first-class artists and bands, but also radiate the typical atmosphere. Besides the Birdland, The Iridium or the Smoke Jazz & Supper Club we can recommend the Dizzy’s Club at the Time Warner Center. Why? Because here the cover charge and the prices for drinks are not as high as in some other places.
07 Smalls Jazz Club
Smalls Jazz Club can be found on W 10th Street in NYC’s Greenwich Village. The club first opened in 1994 and quickly earned the reputation for being one of the top places to see NYC’s newest jazz musicians. These musicians are noted for being largely unknown but talented in music that’s described as a mix of modern hard bop and bebop. The club’s main room is a 50-person basement that’s been expanded to seat up to 60 guests.
Anyone wanting the most authentic jazz experience possible should attend Smalls Jazz Club. It’s not a cheesy dinner club like many other clubs; Smalls gives the vibe of an authentic speakeasy which sets it apart from the competition. Be sure to check out their calendar, as there are always events planned for every night of the week. Depending on the occasion, ticket prices range from $35 to $40.
08 Terra Blues
We’ve spent some great evenings at Terra Blues, because it’s probably the most authentic and relaxed blues club in New York. Since 1990, you can experience well-known and up-and-coming blues artists from New York City and the entire USA. Artists like Hubert Sumlin, Magic Slim and the Holmes Brothers have performed here and have their names written on the walls.
It’s located right on Bleecker Street between The Red Lion and Peculier Pub and directly above Wicked Willy’s bar. Those are three more spots I always enjoy visiting.
09 Cellar Dog
Cellar Dog is located on Christopher Street and is open Wednesday through Sunday. This venue sets itself apart from other New York City jazz clubs because it doesn’t just focus on music. Instead, you can grab a few friends and spend until 4 am at Cellar Dog just playing pool, ping pong, or shuffle while listening to some of NYC’s best jazz musicians play.
If you’re looking for a really awesome jazz club in the West Village, you should stop by the Cellar Dog, which was known as Fat Cat until 2021. They generally host two sets from two bands, with the first starting around 6 or 7 pm and the second at 9 pm. You can expect to see acts such as Nicole Glover Trio, Erik Robert Jacobson, John Benitez Quartet, and Kyoko Oyobe Quartet.
10 Marian's Brooklyn
Marian’s is a live jazz and event space on a cozy little corner in Bedstuy. Their mission is to bring live music and warmth to the community, combined with the breathtaking taste of seasonal cooking. There is nothing like sharing a meal, or a beverage coupled with live entertainment. Every Thursday to Saturday night they have live jazz, and many other events. That’s why I had to add this amazing spot to my list of the go-to spots when you are interested in jazz.
What really stands out is their food. The chefs are hyper-focused on quality, and pride themselves on providing hand-crafted, homemade, fresh, and locally sourced ingredients to provide that mouth-watering flavor. Everything they serve is made in-house daily and their approach is to get the freshest ingredients. What I personally really like is the menu that changes often and is focused on seasonality.
11 Zinc Bar
For over sixteen years, the sister-and-brother owners of Zinc Bar patiently watched the Club Cinderella space in NYC’s Greenwich Village. This building is iconic within the jazz world; it’s a legendary forties nightclub that’s hosted jazz royalty within its walls. Housed in the very basement where Thelonious Monk played as the house pianist, Billie Holiday performed, and Frank Sinatra attended to watch her, Zinc Bar is a jazz lover’s must-see place.
So, after the Irish rock club closed its doors for good, Kristina Kossi and Alex Kay moved the Zinc Bar into this underground location. Today, it still resembles a Bogie gin joint, with its classic champagne chiller, vintage decanters, and stainless-steel bar. Zinc Bar does not charge a cover, but there is a one-drink minimum during the week and a two-drink minimum on the weekend. However, around the stage, there is a cover charge from $8 to $10. Be sure to check out wild-card sets on Thursdays and Brazilian and African bands over the weekend.
12 Nublu Classic
Nublu Classic is located in Manhattan’s Alphabet City (close to the East Village) and was opened by Ilhan Ersahin, a Swedish-Turkish saxophonist, in 2002. Today, Nublu has two locations, Nublu Classic, found on Ave C, and Nublu 151, that’s located just a few blocks away on Ave C, and they also run a record label known as Nublu Records.
On the club’s 10th anniversary, the namesake festival presented Nublu sound, a mix of African, jazz, Caribbean, South American, dance, and electronic music. Many bands are associated with the clubs and their label, such as Forro in the Dark, Wax Poetic, and The Brazilian Girls, but you’ll also find acts like Norah Jones, John Zorn, Butch Morris, David Byrne, and more.
If you decide to visit Nublu Classic, be sure to keep your eye out, or you may have to ask the smokers out front if you’re at the right spot, as there’s only a blue light marking the spot. But, once inside, you’ll find a calm crowd settled in to enjoy avant-garde acts and offbeat jazz. This is a great spot for live Brazilian music on Wednesday nights, and in the summer, be sure to check out the quaint garden.
13 Apollo Theater
What used to be known for their whites-only burlesque shows in the twenties, the Apollo Theater in Harlem is now known worldwide for its jazz, soul and blues concerts. The Apollo Theater is starting point for many of the biggest stars in Jazz, such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Count Basie. It was also the big stage of many Motown artists like Diana Ross, the Jackson 5 and the Supremes and home to soul musicians like Marvin Gaye and James Brown. Brown was even laid out in the Apollo after his death in 2006.
14 The Django
Look no further than the Roxy Hotel’s The Django if you’re near Tribeca and in the mood for dinner and entertainment. This subterranean jazz venue features vaulted ceilings and exposed brick walls meant to remind guests of Paris’ boites. The Django is home to two cocktail bars, a stage, and an open dining area. Descending into the basement bar almost makes you feel as if you’re entering a whole new world.
This is an excellent venue for date night or hanging out with friends since they offer food and entertainment. The menu features various selections such as chicken, sandwiches, seafood, and more. The Django charges a $25 cover fee Tuesday through Saturday, and they have a two-drink minimum in place. This is a must-visit spot that offers a pleasant atmosphere, deliciously crafted cocktails, and dinner, as well as an excellent jazz lineup that is heard through a top-of-the-line Meyer Sound system.
15 The Jazz Gallery
NYC’s Jazz Gallery was founded by Roy Hargrove and Dale Fitzgerald in 1995 and has gained the reputation of being the city’s most imaginatively booked club. Since it’s a nonprofit, there’s no reason they can’t allow musicians to take more creative risks than would be allowed at other jazz clubs. For this reason, most people consider the Jazz Gallery to be an important hub for creativity among jazz composers and musicians, with many from around the world who have settled in America.
As you can see, this is one jazz club that’s undoubtedly ethnically diverse and draws a wide variety of people who represent a combination of travelers and others who live in New York City. Audiences of all ages are encouraged to attend the Jazz Gallery’s live shows, as even children will be comfortable due to them not serving alcohol. Furthermore, it’s a popular venue for students attending NYU, but you’ll find folks of all ages. Generally, admission is between $10 and $20, but special events can go up to $35 and $40. This club is open between three and five nights each week for 50 weeks of the year.
Mezzrow Jazz Club was named after the 1920’s jazz Clarinetist Milton’ Mezz’ Mezzrow and is located in Greenwich Village. It’s commonly described as a jazz venue, lounge, and listening room, and thanks to the club’s endorsement from Steinway Pianos, they have a full-sized grand piano that they use to feature some of the best jazz players around.
This is the ideal jazz club for anyone looking for an intimate setting that’s bare-bones and focuses solely on providing a live jazz experience inside an underground piano bar. Mezzrow Jazz Club is run by the same people who run Smalls Club, and here you’ll find live pianists nightly, as well as a snack menu and full bar. They require a one-drink minimum, and entry fees are $35 per person.
17 Rue B
Rue B is a small East Village jazz bar that offers Happy Hour daily until 8 pm. You can walk into this bar on any given night and find a mix of hipsters in fedoras jamming to jazz and couples on dates enjoying a nightcap. The dim red lighting make the room a very atmospheric jazz bar.
If you arrive at Rue B early, you can avoid paying the $10 cover charge and enjoy half-priced wine and beer during their daily Happy Hour from 5 pm until 8 pm. This is the perfect opportunity to test out their 24 specialty house cocktails made using freshly squeezed fruit juices such as guava, lychee, green apple, mango, and more, mixed with premium liquors. They offer live jazz musicians seven days per week, beginning at 9 pm.
18 The Stone at the New School Glass Box Theatre
The Stone opened in 2005 and was founded by improviser and composer John Zorn. The club is a nonprofit organization that curates unique lineups and a no merch or beverages policy. It was first located in the East Village, but this venue closed its doors in March of 2018, but the music kept going at the New School’s Glass Box Theatre, where it’s currently still located.
For those who attended the original Stone, expect the same intrepid music organized by world-renowned curators such as Bill Frisell and Thurston Moore. The performances are dedicated to Avant-Garde, and experimental types of music, and shows run three to four nights per week. Tickets cost $20 per set, which begins at 8:30 pm on W 13th Street. Due to COVID restrictions, it’s best to check their website for rules and the upcoming calendar.
19 Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 3)
Rockwood Music Hall has served as a beacon of established and emerging live acts in NYC since 2005. It began as a single-stage venue but has since grown into a club that offers three stages, all of which offer nothing but the highest quality sound systems. This venue is well-known in the jazz community for finding music’s next big thing, and among the three stages, you will hear music from many genres from international and local artists.
While the Rockwood Music Hall hosts live music on all three stages every night, we’re focusing on stage 3, which is much more intimate as an underground club. Every show has a one-drink minimum for those standing and a two-drink minimum for those seated, but stage 3 is fully seated. It’s worth noting that Rockwood Music Hall does not allow guests under 21, and a photo ID is required for entry.
20 Bill's Place
You’ll find Bill’s Place in Harlem, New York, and it’s about as authentic as a speakeasy can be, as its roots began during the Prohibition of the 1920s. BIll’s Place has come a long way from the days of serving the very illegal “bathtub gin” and has grown to become one of New York City’s best live jazz clubs. This club’s walls are adorned with history, and it offers a unique experience with live jazz playing inside a century-old speakeasy.
The iconic Billie Holiday began singing at this location during her teenage years, as did Will’ The Lion’ Smith and Fats Waller. Today, you’ll find world-class saxophonist, Bill Saxton, leading the Harlem All-Stars each Friday night, but other jazz artists play on Saturday nights. It’s always recommended that you call ahead for reservations and don’t forget to bring your own favorite type of alcohol.
21 The Flatiron Room
With relaxed live jazz you can choose from a very extensive whiskey repertoire (600 varieties!). What we hadn’t seen before is their program “Bottle Keep”. If you like a whiskey, you can buy the bottle and have it stored – of course labelled – to enjoy your bottle of whiskey again next time.
22 ShapeShifter Lab
Beginning in 2011, ShapeShifter Lab was a 4,200 square foot area in the Gowanus/Park Slope area of Brooklyn. It was born from a vision created by co-owner Matthew Garrison, who was the son of a bass player for John Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, and Fortuna Sung, his business partner. For ten years, the club hosted the world’s top innovative artists who were looking for a more flexible venue to perform their works.
After many years of touring as a successful musician, Matt and his team designed a space that was versatile with lighting, layout, and sound, allowing each to be tailored to an artist’s set. Using state-of-the-art technology, the team created a place that was anything but ordinary and is once again needed in NYC. However, since 2021 is a new era, they do not have a brick & mortar location but may have one again in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
What club in New York was the most famous jazz club?
The Cotton Club is one of the most famous jazz clubs ever to grace New York City. It was located in Harlem for many years and featured many prominent black entertainers. This club helped propel careers for the likes of Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and more.
What is the oldest jazz club in NYC?
The oldest jazz club in NYC is the Village Vanguard. They first opened their doors in 1935, and since 1957 they’ve been exclusively a jazz club. This makes the Village Vanguard the oldest continually operated jazz club worldwide.
Where is the heart of jazz in New York?
While you’ll find jazz clubs in nearly every part of New York City, the heart of jazz in recent years is located in Greenwich Village. This area is home to more jazz clubs than any other part of NYC, but other people may have different ideas of what they consider the heart of jazz in New York.
You'll also love this:
I'm a true New York fan! Not only have I visited the city over 20 times but also have I spent several months here at a time. On my blog I show you the best and most beautiful spots of the city, so that you have a really good time! You can also find lots of insider tips in our New York travel guide. Also check out my hotel finder for New York!