How to Find Great Jazz in New York City

Great jazz is easy to find in New York City, the jazz capital of the world. You just need to know where to look.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Head to the Village Head to Greenwich Village, the home of jazz in New York City. Wander the cobble streets and you’re sure to find some cool spots.
  • TIP: You can’t go wrong with the Blue Note or the Village Vanguard, the legendary Greenwich Village club now in its seventh decade.
  • Step 2: Check out Birdland Check out Birdland. Now located north of Greenwich Village on West 44 Street, Birdland originally opened a few blocks up Broadway in 1949—with headliner Charlie Parker.
  • TIP: Know your jazz etiquette. Don’t talk loudly—you’re supposed to be listening!—and applaud at the end of each solo.
  • Step 3: Head north Head north to Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in Columbus Circle’s Time Warner Center. The club, which is run by Wynton Marsalis’s influential organization, Jazz at Lincoln Center, features after-hours sets five days a week.
  • TIP: Some jazz clubs can be expensive—find out how much they charge before you go.
  • Step 4: Continue up Broadway Continue up Broadway to the Upper West Side club Smoke, famous for its Monday night jam sessions.
  • TIP: Most clubs have multiple sets—or at least an early and a late show. Find out when each set starts.
  • Step 5: See Starry Nights Swing by the Museum of Natural History’s live jazz program, Starry Nights, held in its stunning Rose Center for Earth and Space on the first Friday of every month.
  • Step 6: Head to Harlem Check out jazz clubs in Harlem, like the storied Lenox Lounge, which has endured since 1939 and hosted such legends as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane, as well as historic Harlem literary regulars like James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.
  • Step 7: Go to the Carlyle If you’re feeling flush, see Woody Allen and his New Orleans jazz band at Café Carlyle in the Upper East Side’s swank Carlyle Hotel. The group plays there many Monday nights—but be sure to call ahead and check. It’s expensive, but if they’re playing, it’ll be worth it.
  • TIP: If you’re visiting New York in the summer, check out the free concerts put on in Queens by Astoria Jazz Nights at both Astoria Park and the Bohemian Beer Garden, the last beer garden in New York City.
  • Step 8: Ask around Ask around. Just walk into any jazz club and ask either your fellow patrons or the bartenders for suggestions. True lovers of jazz are always happy to share what they know.
  • FACT: The origin of the word 'jazz' is unknown, but it was first used to describe music in Chicago in 1915.

You Will Need

  • An openness to little-known clubs
  • A willingness to venture outside Manhattan

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