New York - and all that Jazz

Words by Dorian Mode and photography by Lydia Thorpe

New York is famous for its jazz joints - we take a look at the best

Being jazz fanatics, our favourite thing in New York was to jump on the subway to the Village. A great little club is the aptly named Smalls. Here you sit so close to the stage you can play B flat on the house piano with your tongue! Most jazz clubs in NY kick you out (or charge you another cover) after one set (that’s just how it works) but not at some of the smaller hipper clubs.
Another club we found was Smoke Jazz Club, on the Upper West Side – indeed only a few blocks from the Beacon. For the price of a burger, I saw guitar legend, Peter Bernstein. Back in Sydney, you would pay $150 at the Opera House to see artists of his calibre.

To save you a lot of time and trouble, I’ll list here what I think are the best jazz clubs in New York City:

Blue Note
West Village
The Blue Note is ‘the jazz capital of the world’ but I’m kinda over it. It’s expensive – I still have a glass of wine on lay-by there – and you sit wall to wall with Japanese tourists for one set. But you will see the best of the best!

Smalls is an exciting club but for jazz fans only - as it’s not that comfortable

55 Bar
West Village
Probably the best venue in NYC. (My son’s favourite New York hang). Early sets at 6 or 7pm are free, with late sets typically setting you back $10 to $15US. Great value.

West Village
It’s always $20US to get in and sometimes your first drink is covered by that charge too (not the night we attended sadly). When you buy a ticket, you get an additional ticket for their sister club Mezzrow (right across 7th avenue). We liked this venue very much as it’s a little cosier. We saw a fabulous piano/sax duo here.

55 Bar is probably the best venue in NYC and early sets are free

Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
Upper West Side
Tuesday nights features the Mike LeDonne’s Groover Hammond Organ Quartet (a regular gig for 13 years). I adored this band as the night I attended, they featured Vincent Herring on sax and Peter Bernstein on guitar. All for $9! Amazing!

Village Vanguard
East Village
Kinda expensive like the Blue Note but a must-see venue. John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans have performed in this basement style gig. This iconic venue is still going after 75 years and sure smells like it (love it!) The 16-piece Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has been the Monday-night regular gig for more than 30 years. Doors open at 8pm.

New York is a veritable jazz lovers paradise

So, what are you waiting for? As the song goes – start spreadin’ the news – I’m leaving today….! Book your trip to New York now and start discovering some of the coolest jazz you’ll ever hear. I guarantee the memories will last a lifetime.

For more hints and tips on visiting New York – click on the link below: