As part of our series of guides to jazz clubs around the world, we stop today in the great city of Houston.
Whether you’re a gigging musician booking a tour, or a jazz fan looking for tips in a new city, we hope you’ll find some useful ideas for live music…
As one of the top five most populous American cities, Houston jazz clubs have a large and enthusiastic audience to cater for.
Jazz fans can enjoy everything from downtown listening rooms and cabaret to down-home restaurants – all in service of storied musical history.
And whilst it might not have the worldwide fame of New York or New Orleans, Houston has connections to some of the jazz greats, all the way from Illinois Jacquet and Joe Sample to contemporary jazz luminaries like Robert Glasper, Jason Moran, and Eric Harland.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best jazz clubs in Houston!
Cezanne: The Houston Jazz Scene
Also known as Cezanne’s, this club is a champion of the local jazz musicians in Houston.
Some of the top local players who regularly perform at the venue are pianist Bob Henschen, bassist David Craig, and vocalist Horace Grigsby, whilst live albums released here include a disc from legendary vibraphonist Harry Sheppard.
Saxophonist and club owner Woody Witt is in charge of booking Cezanne at a new location in downtown Houston and keeping the local scene active. Witt, while booking the Friday and Saturday nights, also performs here himself.
Some artists with bigger online profiles – like trombonist-singer Aubrey Logan and guitarist-YouTuber Gabriel Santiago – have also performed and released their new projects at Cezanne.
Billed as “the premier jazz club of the southwest” experienced jazz fans and musicians alike will love the ‘listening room’ atmosphere of this venue.
Approximate capacity: 120
Booking style: mainstream straight-ahead jazz styles
Visit Cezanne via https://cezannejazz.bandzoogle.com
Ovations Night Club: Intimate Live Music
Ovations Nightclub in the Rice Village area of Houston stands out for its long-term support of live music.
Whilst it originally started out as a venue for opera (!) Ovations now presents a wide range of genres and owner-booker Frank Tilton has a long history of hiring top quality jazz musicians at the club, both local and international.
The room is an upscale supper-club environment, with the promise of a respectful audience for the performers. Dining tables surround the central stage, where you’ll hear a baby grand piano and a small-to-medium size ensemble.
Approximate capacity: 100
Booking style: bebop, cabaret jazz styles
Visit Ovations via http://www.ovationsnightclub.com
Rockefeller’s: The Classic Jazz Joint
When a venue has a past performers list including BB King, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Domino, and Ray Charles, you have to take notice!
If that’s not enough, blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan’s famous lyric, “The house is a rockin’, don’t bother knockin” reportedly refers to Rockefeller’s, a venue at a heritage building in Houston’s Rice Military area.
And while Rockefeller’s has closed and reopened since those heady days, Mike Pittman manages the venue for its current ownership and continues to book blues-oriented groups.
The room is large and reverberant with a mix of seated and standing audience, on two tiers of floor space.
That said, it is not a home for classic jazz artists any more – you’ll find mixtures of electric blues, soul, and R&B filling out the calendar.
Approximate capacity: 250-400
Booking style: blues, electric blues, soul, R&B
Visit Rockefeller’s via http://www.rockefellershouston.com
Phil & Derek’s: A Down Home Restaurant
Billed as a Cajun restaurant with live jazz and R&B, Phil & Derek’s present music on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
Beyond the local zydeco music you’d expect, they have welcomed artists with smooth jazz & fusion sounds like saxophonist Kyle Turner and vocalist-producer Frank McComb to the city.
The establishment is known as a wine bar and a destination for friends and family to celebrate. It’s a spacious rectangular room with plenty of bar and table seating.
Approximate capacity: 50-100
Booking style: jazz fusion, funk, R&B, zydeco
Visit Phil & Derek’s via https://philanddereks.com
BONUS: Miller Outdoor Theatre
OK, so it isn’t exactly a jazz club, but this outdoor theatre located on around 7.5 acres of land in Houston’s Hermann Park not only presents free jazz concerts during it’s 8-month season, it’s also home to the Houston Jazz Festival.
With space for more than 1700 fans, the festival presents a range of headline and local band performances each September.
Visit: Miller Outdoor Theatre
Thanks for reading!
If you’re looking to discover some more great jazz clubs around the world, you can check out our city-by-city guides here.
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!