Detroit, better-known for its rock and hip hop scenes, is not as renowned for jazz as cities like New Orleans or Chicago, however, Detroit jazz clubs have played a significant role in the early development of the genre and the city has a thriving modern scene of talent that is well worth following.
For example, many new and old jazz clubs operate in and around the city. The options below are among the most acclaimed, enjoyable, and exciting places for young people to check out great new jazz.
Cliff Bells: A Fine Choice for Traditionalists
The modern jazz experience lacks some of the wild and exciting elements of the early jazz club. At Cliff Bells, this style is emulated with a traditional design that feels almost like a speakeasy.
Many of the groups who come through are dedicated to more conventional, old-school jazz techniques. However, the jazz club also books young new talent and strive to produce a unique atmosphere that pulls listeners into the performance.
Cliff Bells also includes a delicious menu with unique food options like oysters, deviled eggs, and Creole shrimp.
This menu is designed to emulate the old-fashioned palate of jazz fans from New Orleans up to Kansas City. And the drinks menu includes specially brewed beverages, a wide variety of various beer types, and much more.
Approximate capacity: 300
Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe: Perfect for a More Intimate Atmosphere
The Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe has quickly become one of the most popular Detroit jazz clubs.
Located in Grosse Pointe, the jazz club brings in a variety of big names within the jazz scene. They focus on contemporary favorites alongside more classic and renowned performers.
For instance, they have booked long-time guitarist Ron English, a musician with a pedigree of avant, classic, and funk jazz.
This cafe also includes a variety of different dishes that you can enjoy while the band plays.
In addition, their British-style pub atmosphere is designed to be a bit more intimate and welcoming than other jazz clubs in the area, meaning you can enjoy the musicians on a more personal level.
Many jazz fans appreciate this ability to be so close to their favorite musicians.
You can also rent the private boardroom to host parties of up to 25 or the whole dining area for gatherings of up to 80 people.
Approximate capacity: 25-80
Baker’s Keyboard Lounge: A Big Part of Detroit History
As one of the world’s oldest jazz clubs, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is an essential part of Detroit’s music history.
It was originally opened as a restaurant before the owners’ son, Clarence Baker, began programming jazz and took over the venue in 1939.
Greats like Art Tatum, Dave Brubeck, and Gerry Mulligan have played in the club through its operation. Part of its modern charm is its intimate setting, unique decorations, and a piano-shaped bar that perfectly sets the mood.
Tilted mirrors allow visitors to see any pianists at the lounge play, providing an exceptional level of intimacy.
And while it came close to closing several times, a series of sales and a historic designation keep it standing.
In addition, it has become popular as a dining destination for many in the area in recent years, with various delicious foods and drinks. It also includes decorations that showcase the unique history of the club. For example, it is thought to be the site where Miles Davis finally began to kick his heroin habit.
Current shows offer a unique blend of piano-oriented performers with fresh and young talent. Its continued popularity during the Detroit Renaissance has helped make it a vital part of the city’s continued influence on the modern musical landscape.
Approximate capacity: 100
Aretha’s Jazz Cafe: One of the Most Rapidly Growing Detroit Jazz Clubs
Over the years, Aretha’s Jazz Cafe has constantly been called one of Detroit’s “best-kept secrets”.
Founded in 2006 as Detroit’s Jazz Cafe at Music Hall (before a name change in 2018), the club has become well-known for hosting some of the best live jazz in the city.
Aretha’s is dedicated to helping young talent find its footing by providing a friendly, comforting, and welcoming atmosphere to new performers.
Over the years, they have hosted well-known jazz legends and superstars before they became prominent, poets, and even Broadway performers.
Some of their biggest names include Elaine Stritch and Kern Bradley. The latter is one of the biggest names in Detroit jazz. The club also consists of a diverse menu and a retro design that features individual tables located near a stage with a beautiful grand piano.
This setup recalls the halcyon earliest days of jazz history.
Approximate capacity: 150
Booking style: Modern jazz, vocal jazz, poetry readings
The Raven Lounge and Restaurant: Suited for a More Modern Style
While most of the best Detroit jazz clubs focus mostly on acoustic and more traditional jazz, Raven offers a slightly different take. While they book a wide variety of live music options, many of their shows focus on improvisational electric or jazz bands with a more modern bent.
And while they do also book rock, rap, and other types of music here, many of their best performances are from jazz groups. Beyond that, the club’s excellent acoustics help create clear sound during your show, giving you the best chance to hear fine musicians playing great music.
And like many of the clubs on this list, Raven’s offers much food and drink options for visitors. As a result, you can enjoy various tastes while listening to some of the most unique and fresh sounds in modern jazz and blues in a more electric format.
Approximate Capacity: 150
Booking style: Blues, rock, electric jazz styles
The label ‘Discover Jazz’ is attached to articles which have been edited and published by Jazzfuel host Matt Fripp, but have been written in collaboration with various different jazz musicians and industry contributors. When appropriate, these musicians are quoted and name-checked inside the article itself!