Get Funky at New York's Best Jazz & Blues Joints

Emily Saladino

By , Local Expert, New York
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New Yorkers are a sentimental lot. No matter how good a city restaurant/theater/neighborhood/bus route is now, we love to lament that it used to be better. Manhattan's West Village currently lays claim to some of the best restaurants in the country, but, in the 1960s, it had Bob Dylan, thank you very much. And Brooklyn's influential aesthetic now imports Edison lightbulbs and Mason jar chic to Paris and Hong Kong, but, in the 1980s and '90s, it was home to hip hop legends like the Notorious B.I.G., ODB and Jay-Z. (And Jay now lives in TriBeCa, by the by.) 

This tireless self-examination naturally extends itself to the world...  Read more »

  • 1

    Village Vanguard

    Once a poetry hall frequented by Miles Davis, the Vanguard remains one of the most influential venues in the city.

    Local Expert Tip: "Although its lofty reputation attracts a fair number of tourists, the Village Vanguard is also a serious spot for industry aficionados. Arriving mid-set, noisy chatter and general displays of irreverence are strongly discouraged. Come early, listen closely, leave happy."

  • 2

    Jazz at Lincoln Center

    Breathtaking interiors and Wynton Marsalis-approved acts make Jazz at Lincoln Center a bona fide showstopper.

    Local Expert Tip: "The house that Wynton built continues to make headlines. In January 2014, financier Robert J. Appel donated a whopping $20 million towards the organization, one of the largest single private contributions to jazz music in history."

  • 3


    A fixture on the downtown jazz scene, Smalls is a beloved basement dive with talent to spare.

    Local Expert Tip: "Smalls is situated near a massively confusing cross-section of 7th Avenue South in the West Village. Look for the brightly lit sign of Bobo, the townhouse restaurant on the corner. Smalls is a few doors down."

  • 4

    Iridium Jazz Club

    For 20 years, this Hell's Kitchen jazz joint has hosted some of the world's top acts.

    Local Expert Tip: "On Sundays through Thursdays, students with a valid ID can receive half-price admission. "

  • 5

    Ginny's Supper Club

    Take the A train to this retro Harlem spot, located below celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson's Red Rooster restaurant.

    Local Expert Tip: "Harlem landmark the Lenox Lounge, located a short walk from Ginny's shuttered on December 31, 2012. It plans to reopen in a renovated space just two blocks north of the original location later this year."

  • 6

    Jazz Standard

    Mingus-style big band and urban barbecue from a celebrity chef make this basement bar a one-stop shop.

    Local Expert Tip: "The club is located right below Danny Meyer's excellent Blue Smoke restaurant, so come hungry, and grab some urban barbecue before your set."

  • 7


    This Brooklyn boite packs a lot of international punch into its small, South Slope digs.

    Local Expert Tip: "For an evening with some of Brooklyn's finest, come out for the weekly sets by Chicha Libre and the Guinean Mandingo Ambassadors."

  • 8

    55 Bar

    Since 1919, this tiny neighborhood spot has been bringing top global guitarists to Christopher Street.

    Local Expert Tip: "For a truly local experience, hit the Sunday night late show. Sets start at 9:30 p.m., covers are low, and the crowd is always friendly."

  • 9


    A stellar kitchen makes this home for the moody jazz and blues all the more inviting.

    Local Expert Tip: "Lights may be low, but don't miss the funky wall art, a remnant of the venue's previous identity, Augie's Jazz Bar."

  • 10

    Blue Note

    This Greenwich Village landmark has hosted generations of greats.

    Local Expert Tip: "For top-tier tunes on a low-key budget, the Late Night Groove series and Sunday brunches are the best value."



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