In many ways, NYC is the centre of the jazz world.
And, as such, New York jazz clubs, bars & venues provide a place where jazz fans and musicians alike can hear some of the best music of the day. From living legends to the stars of tomorrow – and everything in between – this city has it all!
So whether you’re a musician preparing to make the pilgrimage to the capital of jazz, or a fan looking to check out some killer music, we’ve put together this list of some of the best venues in New York City as part of our collection of jazz clubs and festivals around the world.
It’s not a usual ‘best of’ list though: we’ve asked a bunch of New York-based musicians from the Jazzfuel community for their help in deciding which clubs should be here – as well as getting extra input on the style of each venue as quotes. Big thanks to those people, some of whom you’ll find quoted in this article with their top tips.
I know it’s a bit of a cliché to ask for comments in the comments section, but we really mean it: where did you go and what did you see last time you were in New York? What other venues should we add to this list and why?
The original version of this legendary New York jazz club opened in 1949 and the great Charlie Parker was the headliner – which may explain where the inspiration for the club’s name comes from.
Aside from this bebop pioneer, the past bookings read like a who’s who of jazz history: Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Stan Getz, Lester Young, Erroll Garner…
The 2nd iteration of Birdland opened in 1986 on the Upper West Side before relocating to it’s current premises in Midtown, where it continues to welcome the modern day jazz greats – as well as jazz fans and musicians from around the world who make the pilgrimage to this piece of jazz history.
Approximate capacity: 200 (main room) 100 (downstairs theatre) Booking style: Singers, contemporary swing, latin Visit Birdland jazz club via Birdlandjazz.com
Established in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1981, the Blue Note is possibly one of the biggest and most legendary ‘brands’ in jazz.
Alongside the flagship Blue Note New York is a portfolio of clubs which includes Milan, Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Napa, Nagoya & Hawaii.
Many of the biggest names in American jazz have performed at the club – Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner, Joe Lovano and John Scofield to name just a few – and, like it’s counterpart Ronnie Scott’s in London, it often welcomes celebrity musicians as on-stage guests and patrons.
Alongside these artists, though, it provides a platform for some of the many killer up-and-coming musicians on the New York scene.
Approximate capacity: 200 Recent bookings: Ron Carter, John Scofield, Marcus Miller, Michel Camilo Visit Blue Note jazz club via bluenotejazz.com
An intimate jazz club in the heart of New York City institution The Lincoln Center, Dizzy’s runs its popular late show alongside the traditional sets.
Trumpeter, composer & educator Wynton Marsalis is the artistic director of Jazz at the Lincoln Center and, as such, the club welcomes some of the best rising stars from the world of jazz – as well as some of the modern-day greats.
Jazz singer legend Tony Bennett hailed Dizzy’s as “the best jazz room in the city” – something which is on display 7 days a week.
Approximate capacity: 140 Recent bookings: Helen Sung, Bobby Watson, Melissa Aldana, Dave LiebmanVisit Dizzy’s via jazz.org
Jazz Standard (closed)
Sadly closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, Jazz Standard was one of the most famous jazz clubs in NYC, and remains in this list as testament to the modern day jazz greats it welcomed onto its stage, but also in the hope a new iteration will arrive soon.
Maria Schneider, The Mingus Big Band, André Previn, Nancy King & Fred Hersch are just some of the names to have released live albums recorded at the club.
Industry veteran and artistic director Seth Abramson oversaw the club booking, which resulted in at least two shows a night, seven days a week.
Jazz Standard built a strong reputation for given many now well-established jazz artists their first major break on the NY scene, with a ‘debut’ list which includes Esperanza Spalding, Jon Batiste, The Billy Hart Quartet, Gerald Clayton & Theo Croker.
Approximate capacity: 150View the Jazz Standard closing announcement
Opened in 1994, Smalls provided a valuable platform for the new generation of jazz musicians coming out of New York in the 90s: Omer Avital, Peter Bernstein, Avishai Cohen, Ari Hoenig, Jason Lindner, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Mark Turner…
In fact, we did an interview with guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel who talked about it: “Having a weekly gig at Smalls in New York every Tuesday in the 90’s with my own band really helped me develop to the point where international presenters and industry people became aware of me.
The word spread about our night and we started getting offers for jazz festivals in Europe and when the lines were always down the block and around the corner, thats when I started getting interest from the labels and eventually got signed…”
Aside from the live shows, this New York jazz club has built up an incredible archive of more than 16,000 recorded gigs, meaning you can watch many of the great shows there online.
Approximate capacity: 75 Visit Smalls jazz club via smallslive.com
Located in Tarrytown, just a short train ride away from the Grand Central station, this New York jazz club describes themselves as a community held together by the artistry of jazz musicians and their patrons’ love of live music.
Recently celebrating it’s 5th birthday, it was opened in 2017 with a performance by the legendary Roy Hargrove Quintet.
In addition, at the Jazz Forum, there is a rotating exhibit of local and regional artists in the club space, available for sale. Proceeds go to the artists and Jazz Forum Arts, the not-for-profit organisation that runs the club.
“This is one of the greatest jazz clubs in the world. Everywhere your eye lights is something beautiful to look at. And the food is terrific.” – Bill Charlap, Grammy award-winning pianist
Approximate capacity: Main room: 85 people; Lounge: 15 people
Recent bookings: Bill Charlap, Joe Lovano, Eliane Elias, Catherine Russell, Paquito D’Rivera, Monty Alexander, Bill Charlap, Ann Hampton Callaway, John Pizzarelli, George Coleman, Nicholas Payton, Roberta Gambarini, Samara Joy and many more.
Visit Jazz Forum jazz club via jazzforumarts.org
Another Greenwich village gem, the 55 bar has been open for more than 100 years (!!) and describes itself as “a prohibition era dive bar with incredible live Jazz, Funk & Blues nightly”.
Don’t let the ‘prohibition’ tagline fool you into thinking of retro jazz and swing… in recent years this underground club has hosted some of the most innovative names in modern jazz in a super intimate space.
“In my opinion the best jazz venue in NYC is the 55 Bar. It’s held longtime residencies for the likes of Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, and Sweet Georgia Brown.. This lovable dive has music every night of the year week which spans jazz, blues, and the more avant-garde varieties as well…” – American guitarist B.D. Lenz
Approximate capacity: 75 Recent bookings: Wayne Krantz, Phil Robson, Ben Monder, Amy Cervini Check it out via 55bar.com
Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 3)
Of course, there’s a stage 1 and stage 2 at this venue, but we wanted to focus on Rockwood Music Hall stage 3, which is an intimate, underground jazz club-style venue.
Based on the Lower East Side of Manhattan since 2005, it’s provided an early opportunity for many rising stars in all different genres, including jazz, to perform in New York City.
Approximate capacity: 64 Check it out via rockwoodmusichall.com
Mezzrow Jazz Club
Named after Milton ‘Mezz’ Mezzro – a jazz clarinettist on the 1920’s Chicago jazz scene – this Greenwich Village club is described by the owners as a “jazz venue, a listening room and lounge.” As part of its endorsement from the Steinway Piano Company, it has a full size grand piano, meaning it can feature the jazz piano greats in style.
“A great intimate listening space. Excellent room for hearing piano trios as well as other small groups. Owned and run by the people who run Smalls. A great club.” – Nat Janoff, NYC jazz guitarist
Approximate capacity: 60 Check it out via mezzrow.com
Opened in 1935 by Max Gordon, The Village Vanguard holds the accolade of being the oldest operating jazz club in New York City. It’s intimate room has hosted the real legends in jazz history, including – to name just a few – Lester Young, Ben Webster, Gerry Mulligan, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis & John Coltrane. On top of that, many legendary live albums have been recorded there.
“Go, you will be glad you did! Monday night is big band night – the players are top musicians in New York and the chairs in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra are handed down over the years” – Gary Brocks, NYC-based jazz singer & trombonist
Approximate capacity: 120 Recent bookings: John Zorn, Donny McCaslin, Peter Bernstein, Jakob Bro Check it out via villagevanguard.com
Opened in 2016, Cafe Erzulie is a hidden neighborhood gem tucked along an unassuming street near the bustling Myrtle Broadway subway stop in Brooklyn. The cafe is named after the the Haitian Voodoo spirit of love, beauty and dance, and like the spirit herself, the cafe comes in many forms.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays they open their lush garden to the public for FREE jazz concerts featuring multi-generation talent from around the block and around the world. The crowd is young, diverse and vibrantly engaged in every show. Come the weekend, they transform into a nightclub sporting parties and DJs playing everything from Hip-Hop, R&B and Soul to Afrobeats and Dancehall.
For the Jazz fan, get there early on Wednesdays & Thursdays as seats and tables fill up on a first-come-first-serve basis. You’ll also be able to order delicious Haitian bites at every show!
Approximate capacity: 150 (garden) 150 (inside)
Jazz Booking Style: Contemporary, Brass forward, Latin and Singers.
Check out cafeerzulie.com to see all the shows they’ve got coming up.
Cellar Dog (formerly Fat Cat)
I don’t know about you, but the chance to play ping pong, pool and shuffle (I had to have that one explained too) until 4am, whilst listening to some of the killer New York jazz musicians jam, sounds like a pretty good night out.
That’s exactly what you can do at the West Village hangout Cellar Dog.
Most evenings there are 2 sets from 2 different bands (usually around 6/7pm and 9pm) from local New York-based jazz musicians followed by a marathon jam session.
If the name is new to you, that’s because this venue was known as Fat Cat until July 2021!
Sample bookings: Erik Robert Jacobson, Kyoko Oyobe Quartet, Nicole Glover Trio, John Benitez Quartet Check it out via www.cellardog.net
Thanks for checking out this guide to some of the great jazz clubs that New York City has to offer.
We’ll be updating it regularly, so please feel free to share your own tips in the comments section here…
Musician looking to get a new album together? Check out our pick of 8 of the best NYC recording studios.
5 thoughts on “The Best Jazz Clubs in New York (2023)”
Matt, This is a fresh approach to touting NY Jazz. You cover the clubs old and new with no BS and an appreciation.
This from an LA guy (who is a jazz lecturer at UCLA Extension) who’s lucky to get to The Apple twice a year. Keep me on the active list.
PS: Who DOES own the Village Vanguard now that Max and Helen have departed?
Eddie , Yes the JazzStandard has closed . Also 55 bar has closed as well. I’m among the artist who have played, Blue Note , Birdland, Smalls, Mezzrow, The Jazz Standard and more. Unfortunately just heard of 2 more closings on my NYE gig.
Hi Matt, here’s a place for you to check out in Sugar Hill, Harlem close to where the St Nick’s Pub used to be – The Porch. They have jazz Weds-Sun nights and no cover. Check them out: http://www.theporchnyc.com
It’s an unassuming little hole in the wall, but for my money, Barbes in Brooklyn is the best room in town in which to hear music, and the musicians with whom I speak agree. The music is in the back room, separated from the bar, and audiences are serious and respectful. Prices are reasonable, the staff is attentive but unobtrusive, and the bookings are incredibly varied and eclectic. There’s something for every taste to be found there.
Didn’t the Jazz Standard close in Dec. ‘20?