Many musical genres can be defined quite easily but try to put parameters on jazz and it will leave you scratching your head because improvisation is at the heart of this soulful music. As the birthplace of jazz legend Duke Ellington, Washington, D.C. has a number of venues that will keep your toes tappin' and fingers snappin.'
Opening its doors in 1965, the Georgetown-based Blues Alley has welcomed many jazz legends over the years including Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis. While taking in a show at this intimate venue, be sure to order an entrée off their menu -- each selection is named after a great jazz performer. Anyone up for Tony Bennett's shrimp and artichoke hearts or Jerry 'The Iceman' Butler baked salmon?
Some venues focus exclusively on jazz talent while others offer shows in additional to other genres of music. Be sure to check the show calendar at hot spots like Madam's Organ and Bossa Bistro + Lounge to find out when amazing jazz acts while grace their stages.
A number of area restaurants like Georgia Brown's and the Tabard Inn host jazz nights where performers can showcase their talent in a relaxed. causal atmosphere.
Whatever venue appeals to you, jazz up your night by heading to one of these top district clubs.
Bossa Bistro + Lounge
Weaving together a bistro, lounge and art gallery, this Adams Morgan favorite is known for its nightly live shows. You will see every genre of music grace the stage including jazz, rock and salsa. Meander through the venue's two stories and you will find intimate nooks, dance floors and an art gallery with local works displayed. Check out their website's events page where you will find a show booked almost every day. Sometimes there are shows scheduled for both floors. While you may come for the music, be sure to check out the northern Brazilian-themed menu. Their tapas are not to be missed. METRO: Woodley Park/Zoo (202-667-0088)
Named for the Adams Morgan neighborhood the venue calls home, Madam's Organ features live entertainment seven days a week and bills itself as the place "where the beautiful people go to get ugly." While known for showcasing jazz and blues bands, they also have rock, R&B and salsa performers. Featuring five bars throughout its five levels, the club offers free pool on the second floor and more than a dozen appetizers to wash down its tasty assortment of beers and spirits. Their signs say "Sorry, We're open," but they have nothing to apologize for since many are sad when they close for the night. METRO: Woodley Park/Zoo (202-667-5370)
Seating between 65 to 100 guests, this jazz club gives patrons the opportunity to listen to music in an intimate setting that is full of unique character. The stage may be small but the music remains big. Order a dish off their internationally-themed menu or grab a drink at their colored ceramic cave-like bar but always be prepared for a great show. Besides offering a fun venue with delicious food, the venue has formed the Twins Jazz Foundation which provides opportunities for local students to participate in weekly jam sessions and be mentored by area musicians. METRO: U Street. (202-234-0072)
Tabard Inn Restaurant
Dubbing itself a European-style oasis on American soil, this venue offers both a charming place to sleep and a restaurant featuring a seasonal dish menu which changes every day and inspired by local, fresh offerings. Be sure to go for dinner when live jazz music is played at the bar and lounge every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night. Be sure to get to shows early because setting is on a first-come, first serve basis. The lounge has quite the cozy atmosphere including a fireplace and antique furnishings. Check out their website to see which act will be gracing the stage during your visit. METRO: Dupont Circle (202-331-8528)
Located in Adams Morgan, this night spot is a place where jazz and blues fans can come to have a great time and listen to some great music. The atmosphere is cozy and family-friendly so where something comfortable or get dressed up in your favorite outfit. Their menu features American fare such as pasta, pizza, sandwiches and burgers. Grab a drink at the bar where cocktails are named after jazz legends like The Duke, Fats Manhattan and the Billy Holiday Tini. Grab a spot on the patio to people watch or just enjoy a beautiful evening out on the town. METRO: Woodley Park/Zoo. (202-462-6040)
Takoma Station Tavern
Different musical genres perform at this venue which showcases not only new talent but some nationally known artists as well. Jazz jam sessions take over the stage every Tuesday beginning at 7 p.m. The venue has musical performances every day except for Monday when the tavern is closed. While enjoying a performance, nosh on some appetizers, party platters, burgers or sandwiches. If you are coming to celebrate a special event, why not make VIP reservations? They will reserve a section of the club just for you complete with velvet rope to keep the table open. METRO: Takoma (202-829-1999)
Sunday brunch never sounded so good when you combine great food with live jazz music. If you like the show on Sundays, be sure to come back for another jazz performance held on Wednesday nights from 6 to 10 p.m. Fine Southern cuisine is on the menu at this establishment so bring a healthy appetite. If it is a beautiful crisp night, try to get a seat out on their patio. Valet parking is available during Sunday brunch service and every evening after 5 p.m. Reservations are recommended and business casual attire is suggested. METRO: Faragut North. (202-393-4499)
Trying to find Bohemian Caverns is not hard. Just look for the oversized saxophone and piano keys that adorn the outside walls. Once you step inside, be teleported back to the 1920s when the club was first established. The nightclub boasts being the sole home of soul jazz and has welcomed many jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Nina Simone and Ramsey Lewis. With a supper club layout, guests may order from their dinner menu while attending a show. Seating is on a first-come, first serve basis. Tickets may be purchased online but are non refundable if you can't make the show. METRO: U Street. (202-299-0800)
KC Jazz Club
The Kennedy Center is one of the country's busiest performing arts centers hosting more than 3,000 events and welcoming more than 2 million guests so you will enjoy the intimate setting they provide for jazz music.
From hosting fresh, new talent to welcoming seasoned veterans, this venue is a must-visit. See a show on their intimate rooftop terrace theater or take in a performance in the cabaret setting of the club. Whichever you chose, your ears are sure to thank you. Drinks may be purchased along with light fare snacks. Check out their website to see what act will be gracing the stage during the upcoming season. METRO: Foggy Bottom (202-467-4700)
Walk through the doors of this Georgetown gem and you will be transported back to the supper clubs of the 1920s and 1930s. Founded in 1965, many well-known artists have played here including Dizzy Gillespie and Wynton Marsalis. While taking in a performance, treat yourself to their scrumptious menu with entrees named after jazz greats like Tony Bennett's shrimp and artichoke hearts and Jerry 'The Iceman' Butler baked salmon. This venue is known as a listening club so be respectful during performances. Once you purchase tickets, make sure you can attend because sales are final and non-refundable. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis so get there early. METRO: Foggy Bottom (202-337-4141)
About Gina Gallucci White
Gina Gallucci White is an award winning freelance writer with articles appearing in such regional publications as Frederick Magazine, The Daily Record, Montgomery Magazine and The Gazette. She writes about a wide variety of subjects and holds a Bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University. Gina has two kids, can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi in a blind taste test and admits to knowing all the songs from Frozen.
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