Get In The Groove At Dallas' 10 Best Jazz Joints

Photo courtesy of The Mansion Bar
Photo courtesy of Two Corks and a Bottle Facebook
Photo courtesy of Joey Stewart Photography
Photo courtesy of Library Bar
Photo courtesy of The Free Man Cajun Cafe & Lounge Facebook
Photo courtesy of Chocolate Secrets
Photo courtesy of SoHo Food and Jazz
Photo courtesy of The Balcony Club Facebook
Photo courtesy of Sandaga 813
By Ilene Jacobs, Dallas Local Expert

The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is no stranger to jazz music. After all it's where you'll find the University of North Texas, one of the top institutions for jazz studies in the nation. The area is also home to Deep Ellum, a neighborhood once considered a hotbed for jazz and blues musicians. It's where legendary artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter all got their start.

For those looking for an authentic jazz club experience, there's probably not a better place in the city to go than the Balcony Club, a venerable hole-in-the-wall joint that offers an incredible lineup of music seven nights a week. Esquire Magazine even named it one of “America's Top 100 Bars."

Then there's Sandaga 813, a bar and live music venue that's considered by discerning jazz fans and musicians alike to be the best spot for jazz jams in town. Even Wynton Marsailis and Erykah Badu have played gigs here.  

With live jazz, R&B, funk and pop on offer seven nights a week, you don't even need to worry about checking the schedule at Soho Food and Jazz, as there’s always something going on.

And though, Deep Ellum might not be the jazz mecca it was during the early 20th century, you can still find places like the Free Man Cajun Cafe and the Twilite Lounge keeping the music very much alive almost every night of the week.

If that's not enough to get you in the groove, check out 10 best's full list of Dallas jazz joints below, where there's sure to be a place to suit jazz lovers of every stripe.

10. The Mansion Bar
Photo courtesy of The Mansion Bar

Nestled inside the iconic four-star Rosewood Mansion Hotel on Turtle Creek, the Mansion Bar is the ultimate debonair drinking den-- blending a wow-factor interior with snazzy bar bites and top-quality (albeit pricey) tipples. In fact, the building is actually the former residence of an ultimate debonair cotton magnate, Sheppard W. King–and the bar was originally King's dining room. It's definitely a see-and-be-seen type of place, but it's also one of the more elegant spots in the city to find free live jazz (R&B and pop too) on offer Thursday through Saturday night. If you're looking for the perfect place to hole up in with a date, this is where you want to go.

9. Two Corks and a Bottle
Photo courtesy of Two Corks and a Bottle Facebook

With its handsome looks and pooch-friendly patio, this compact winery-cum-wine bar has plenty going for it. Here, grape aficionados can not only sample a variety of wine that has been hand-crafted on the premises–they can also custom blend their own bottles using grapes sourced from around the world. Red, white, sparkling, dry – whatever you fancy, it can be found here– as can a terrific line-up of live music (Wednesday through Saturday nights) that spans from country to classic rock, pop, show tunes and jazz. The entertainment options don't stop with music, keep an eye out for cabaret nights, pizza nights, psychic nights, paint parties–and of course– daily happy hours.

8. Stoney's Wine Lounge
Photo courtesy of Joey Stewart Photography

This neighborhood wine bar–bottle shop is as well known for its dedication to jazz as it is for its carefully-curated (and surprisingly affordable)– wine selection. Which should come as no surprise since the place is owned by a couple of passionate oenophiles who also happen to be professional jazz musicians. So, you'll want to plan a visit here on the weekend when you can catch the owners, Stoney and Diana Savage, as well as other local A-listers such as the Michael Palma Quartet and the Eric Willis Trio, in action. Alternatively, you can swing by on Thursdays and usually find an open mic or blues jam going on. And on the food side, the lounge offers sharing platters of things like cheese, antipasto and charcuterie. If you want to take your wine experience to another level, be sure check the schedule for regular wine tastings and wine education classes.

7. Twilite Lounge
Photo courtesy of Mike Brooks

Welcoming like your local dive bar, but impressive enough to bring a date-- is exactly what the musician/owners of this Big Easy themed drinking den set out to create when they opened it in 2012. But this isn't your typical dive bar, it's much more. From its classy decor, replete with red leather booths and chandeliers to its cozy French Quarter-style courtyard and stellar list of libations– Twilite is just the kind of locale you can easily pass the night in. And with a steady stream of free entertainment, ranging from local jazz acts to DJ sets, karaoke and stand-up comedy, you probably will.

6. Library Bar
Photo courtesy of Library Bar

If you are looking for a mind-blowing delicious cocktail in surroundings perfect for a romantic rendezvous or catch-up with friends, you've come to the right place. Tucked inside the lobby of the Warwick Melrose Hotel (a historic Dallas landmark dating back to 1924)-- this suave, shelf-lined drinking den is quite possibly the coziest place to sip a drink in the city. Not to mention, it's also where you can listen to a host of spectacular jazz musicians tickling the ivories six nights a week. And though you probably won't be reading any of the books in the shelves, you will want to be sure to read the drinks menu–which covers everything from crafted tipples to over 27 selections of wine by the glass. Bonus: The Library Bar serves terrific snacks too.

5. The Free Man Cajun Cafe & Lounge
Photo courtesy of The Free Man Cajun Cafe & Lounge Facebook

Considering that Deep Ellum's historic roots lie in jazz and blues, it's only fitting that one of the premier jazz venues in town would be located here. Every night, beginning at 7 p.m., you'll find New Orleans-style jazz, swing and Dixieland musicians performing onstage. And then at the strike of 10:00, the music switches over to everything from alternative rock to country, folk, punk and hip hop. Expect to see gigs from the likes of the the Gypsy Playboys, La Pompe and The Freeloaders, whose lead singer happens to be the club's owner, John Jay Myers. But the Big Easy influence doesn't stop with music, the place also churns out New-Orleans inspired cocktails as well as a repertoire of Cajun grub that covers everything from jambalaya to fried alligator. Oh, and did we mention that all the shows are free?

4. Chocolate Secrets
Photo courtesy of Chocolate Secrets

Artisanal truffles, bonbons and chocolate confections– what could be better? How about wine, craft beer, champagne floats, chocolate and jazz? That's right, every Wednesday through Saturday, from 7:30 to 11 p.m., this shop-cum-café comes alive with the sounds of live jazz and blues from the likes of Joe McBride; Luqman Rashada, and Tatiana "Ladymay "Mayfield to name a few. Beyond the sweets, you'll find a compact list of more substantial offerings, think: cheese platters, paninis, salads and savory crepes. If you're looking for a cozy, low-key date-night spot, Chocolate Secrets definitely takes the cake. Just make sure you come early, especially on weekends when seating is limited.

3. SoHo Food and Jazz
Photo courtesy of SoHo Food and Jazz

If you like good food, artisanal cocktails and live music in an intimate setting–then you'll want to add this Addison gem to your bucket list. Expect to find a hive of activity every night of the week–starting with happy hour and continuing on through the evening– when an eclectic roster of musicians crank out everything from jazz to funk to pop. Equally diverse is the menu– which runs the gamut from Spanish tapas to Jamaican jerk and grilled lobster. Soho's signature martinis are a must and go down even better when you can score them for a deal during happy hour. Shows are technically free, though the club enforces a $15 minimum purchase per person policy.

2. The Balcony Club
Photo courtesy of The Balcony Club Facebook

As the saying goes, sometimes the best things come in small packages– which is undoubtedly the case with this pint-sized, 1,400 square foot– jewel of a jazz joint. And what this laid-back watering hole lacks in square footage, it more than makes up for in ambiance– and most importantly– live music– which is served up seven nights a week. The club's repertoire features both local and national jazz artists, including the likes of Lucky Peterson, Dave Zoller, Linny Nance and even the phenomenal Filter Kings. And it's not only jazz on tap here, the musical genres cover everything from R&B and soul to funk, classic rock and occasionally country. Not-to-be-missed are special events like the open blues jam and jazz master series.

1. Sandaga 813
Photo courtesy of Sandaga 813

Lovers of smooth jazz 'n blues can't do much better than at this Exposition Park live music venue, which has a reputation for bringing in top-shelf talent from around the globe. Even musical heavy weights like Wynton Marsailis and Erykah Badu have played gigs here in the past. And Sandaga's regular roster of performers reads like a list of who's who on the local music scene as well, where regulars include Grammy Award nominated artists– Shelly Carroll and Brad Leali. If jazz isn't your thing, no worries– the club also brings in DJs that spin everything from hip-hop and house to R&B and reggae. Plus, in addition to putting on one of the best jazz jams in the city every Tuesday night, Sandaga offers up a variety of live soul and R&B on Saturday nights and hosts the eclectic hip hop band, RC and The Gritz (also known as Erykah Badu's band)– every Sunday. Did we mention that they have barbecue, hookahs and private cabanas too?