Calling All Cool Cats at New York's Best Jazz and Blues Clubs

New Yorkers are a sentimental bunch. No matter how good a city restaurant/theater/neighborhood/bus route is now, people 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, but, in the 1980s and '90s, it was home to hip hop legends like the Notorious B.I.G., ODB and Jay-Z. (Jay now lives in TriBEca with the lovely Miss Beyonce.) 

This tireless self-examination naturally extends itself to the world of jazz. Granted, New York jazz history is solid: the Harlem Renaissance introduced the world to musical legends like Fats Waller and Duke Ellington, and Manhattan's bop and bebop revolution brought out-of-towners like John Coltrane and Miles Davis to the city's well-seasoned stages. As a result, contemporary fans worry that they missed the boat, and the golden age of New York City jazz is behind them.

So what's the modern bass and brass enthusiast to do? Ignore the hoopla, and hit the streets. These days, New York's jazz scene ranges from living legends playing sold-out sets in Greenwich Village landmarks like the Village Vanguard, to globetrotting grooves in tiny cafes like Brooklyn's Barbes. Know your history, but don't get lost in the past. Here are 10 spots to hear jazz and blues in New York City – today. 

You have to respect a bar that unapologetically calls itself a "dive." Although there often isn't a cover at Paris Blues and it embraces the dive bar label, it is dedicated to world class music at a fair price. The decor is reminiscent of New...  Read More

Let's start with the good news. The Iridium has hosted some of the world's greatest jazz talent, including the legendary late guitarist Les Paul. These days, emerging and established artists are a pinnacle of Keystone Korner Nights, hosted by...  Read More

Greenwich Village
Terra Blues

Terra Blues sits between LaGuardia and Thompson, right in the heart of the West Village. This small 20-year-old blues lounge attracts a more well-heeled crowd than most of its counterparts, which is due in part to its romantic, almost adult...  Read More

West Village

This tiny venue is a standout name in big-name jazz. Many of the greats have graced the stage of Blue Note at some point in their illustrious careers – from B.B. King and Roberta Flack to Manhattan Transfer and Spyro Gyra. Hazy blue light...  Read More

Park Slope is not the first place one thinks of for killer live music. This leafy Brooklyn neighborhood is better known for $2,000 baby strollers and a celebrity-studded food co-op than cutting edge jazz and funk outfits. But Barbes, an intimate...  Read More

What is it about jazz clubs and basement bars that fits so well together? This stylish spot, situated in a subterranean space on a side street in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, hosts classic jazz acts as well as blues, R&B and funk outfits....  Read More

Want to grab dinner in a buzzy basement boite? Take in incredible views of Central Park at night? Or hear live performances hand-picked by one of the greatest jazz trumpeters alive today? Look no further. Jazz at Lincoln Center is your one-stop...  Read More

Straight out of Central Casting, this intimate Upper West Side club has tiny tables, candlelit banquettes, and a moody atmosphere. Reservations are 100% necessary, as big-name performers belie the small space; the likes of pianist Bill Charlap...  Read More

B.B. King's Blues Club & Grille

Named after the celebrated "king of the blues" B.B. King Blues Club opened in 2000 (and yes, B.B. did perform here). Ideally situated in bustling Times Square, this space hosts musical talent from blues, jazz, and hip-hop to funk, blue grass and...  Read More

West Village
Village Vanguard

Locals love it. Travelers seek it out. Musicians of all ages long to play its illustrious stage. Referred to as the Carnegie Hall of Jazz, the Village Vanguard has served as an industry institution for nearly 80 years, hosting such luminaries as...  Read More


Meet Courtney Sunday

Courtney Sunday has lived in England, Switzerland, Canada and the US, finding her way into the professions of freelance writing and yoga teaching in between travel opportunities. She learned...  More About Courtney

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