10 Best New Orleans Jazz Clubs: Get Your Groove On
By Kristopher Neild
Palm Beach / West Palm Beach Local Expert
Jazz is a religion. The city of New Orleans conceived Jazz in the early 20th century. It was expressive of their way of life; relaxed but subtly shifting and churning on a daily basis. Jazz and the clubs that house said music continue to power the city's nightlife scene.
The city's two main late night strips, Bourbon and Frenchmen, are where to find the majority of clubs and lounges that book the city's best Jazz acts.
Head to Bourbon for the more upbeat and lively jazz that you can sing and dance along to. The Krazy Korner is known for putting on some energy filled late night shows. The venues here are typically bigger, louder and more conducive to grooving.
Frenchmen Street is where to find the more intimate jazz settings. Check this places out if you are on a date or with a smaller group that would like to be able to converse while soaking up the music.
A top Jazz Club list description paragraph would not be complete without mentioning and paying tribute to Preservation Hall. This is the holy mecca of Jazz Music for the city and quite possibly the world. If you don't feel like waiting in line to see a set, at least walk by it.
10 Palm Court Jazz Café
Traditional jazz sounds emanate nightly from the Palm Court Jazz Café. The ambiance is classic and the house musicians, who most likely have been playing for decades, start at 8pm. Although the café is upscale and pricey, it continues to be a favorite with locals, tourists and musicians, with a crowd that leans toward the 40s plus. The decor features exposed brick walls, tiled floors and a decadently attractive mahogany bar. This is the place banjo talent Danny Barker praised in his song "Palm Court Strut." You can find this nostalgic joint on Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans (504-525-0200)
9 The Krazy Korner
Brimming with local talent, this Bourbon Street club's the place to go for a good time. Lively guests hit the dance floor, jamming to live blues and jazz. You could say the music at Krazy Korner is more upbeat and dance friendly compared to others on this list. This Bourbon Street club may not be fancy, but it's the place to go for a good time. Keep your eye out for celeb musicians who frequent the haunt when visiting N'awlins. Drinks are cheap and flow until the customer stops buying. The Krazy Korner has a great balcony for people watching and bead throwing with plenty of space to fit your whole posse. (504-524-3157)
Everyone -- old and young, from far and near -- feels welcome at this cozy German-style beer hall. Patrons, seated near the fireplace or on the patio, puff cigars, down their favorite imported beers or sip cocktails, made with European schnapps. The club's nightly live Dixieland jazz doesn't disappoint and constantly interacts with the crowd. It's often referred to as the city's oldest operating jazz club, and whether or not that's true, you get the feel upon stepping inside that jazz could very well have been born inside. You can find Fritzel's on good old Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. (504-586-4800)
7 The Spotted Cat
The Spotted Cat may appear to be little more than a hole in the wall, but among New Orleans jazz clubs, it's a giant. The music, the service, the drinks and, above all, the character of this venue synthesize to create one of the best and most intimate live music experiences in NOLA. Settle in at the bar to sip on vodka and enjoy some of the best jazz tunes around. The Spotted Cat is in the Marigny neighborhood on Frenchmen street. Its small size allows the smooth sounds to hover over you while you drink, mingle and toe tap the night away. (206-337-3273)
6 Vaughan's Lounge
Don't let the seedy environs deter you from this casual, comfortable Bywater hangout. Vaughan's is often called a "dive" or a "shanty", but what great lounges arent't? Vaughan's biggest drawing card is renowned trumpeter Kermit Ruffins' weekly Thursday night performance. You can't help but feel comfortable surrounded by his crisp horn sounds. Free red beans and rice satiate the crowds hunger and further provide the New Orleans newcomer with an authentic experience. Vaughan's is off the beaten path, in the Bywater neighborhood by St. Claude. Grab a taxi or pedi-cab to get here from the French Quarter. Cover charge Thursdays only. (504-947-5562)
5 Sweet Lorraine's
Named one of America's best jazz clubs by "USA Today," Lorraine's offers outstanding blues and jazz shows six nights a week. The luxurious music hall seats 200, and an onsite restaurant and bar serve upscale regional cuisine and specialty martinis. Popcorn crawfish, corn and crabmeat bisque, red beans and rice with fried pork or chicken, and a variety of steak, chicken and seafood main courses are among the kitchen's offerings. Located in the 7th Ward, this hidden dynamo is off the general tourist's radar. Do yourself a service and punch Sweet Lorraine's into your GPS. Your senses will be happy you did. (504-945-9654)
Experience some of the most authentic New Orleans jazz available at d.b.a. Located in the Marigny district, around the corner from the French Quarter, this music hub allows beer connoisseurs to choose an import or craft beer from 20 taps. If you lean more towards the higher ABV drinks, they've got those too. Patrons who like their venues brimming with dark and warm ambiance will be equally as satisfied. Jazz music is featured nightly, and it's a rare occasion when one of the local "greats" isn't on stage. Heck, Stevie Wonder and Jimmy Buffet have played here (ya, we know Jimmy Buffet isn't more than a jazz neophyte). (504-942-3731)
3 Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse
Irvin Mayfield's is located inside the Royal Sonesta in the French Quarter. Primarily a jazz club, Irvin thought up the idea of having a "Burlesque Ballroom" event. Every Friday night around midnight, a few of New Orleans' best burlesque performers from the city's top troupes will come out to Mayfield's and perform for the crowd. With the jazz music in the background, the lights dimmed and stars such as Trixie Minx using the room as her stage, it will really take you back to a 1950's nightclub/lounge. The dancers make sure to attain a certain level of intimacy with each performance, and you will never see exactly the same show twice. ((504) 553-2299)
2 Preservation Hall
The lines are long but the music is great! Preservation Hall is a historic New Orleans tradition. The jazz musicians who take the stage nightly are well into their 70s, but when they "jazz" -- you'll see why this landmark is a must see. The decor is basic and consists of benches and cushions. There is no food or drink allowed in the hall and crowds are usually standing room only. Set times are 35 minutes with 10 minute breaks in between. Preservation Hall is on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter. Be sure to check out this internationally acclaimed jazz hall staple. (504-522-2841, 800-785-5772)
1 Maison Bourbon Jazz Club
The Maison-Bourbon is one of two remaining jazz clubs left on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. While the rest of the strip turns to cover bands and hip-hop, Maison-Bourbon offers patrons a non-stop authentic jazz experience. You will be nudged to buy one drink per music session, and will gladly buy three or four once you get to grooving. Unlike other jazz clubs where you may only get instrumentals, Maison-Bourbon books acts that usually include vocals. Your date/traveling party will be so impressed you didn't take them to a Bourbon "bump and grind" that they'll gladly be indentured to you. So put on your dancing shoes, stretch out your vocal chords and prepare for a real Bourbon Street experience. (504-522-8818)
About Kristopher Neild
Kris is a South Florida resident, living close to the coast in West Palm Beach. The area provides him with plenty of golf courses to hack up, restaurants to sample and beaches to surf and sun. Plus, he can get his baseball fix with all the spring training and minor league action. Kris is also a CFA candidate, meddling in financial matters to pay the bills.
Read more about Kristopher Neild here.