Looking for a New York City jazz club to catch a world class jazz guitarist? Me too. Read on to discover your best options for an inspiring evening of top notch jazz.
Smalls Jazz CLub, NYC. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg
Why are these jazz clubs the best?
I’m a musician, so when it comes to catching a live performance, two things are of upmost importance to me; the quality of music and the quantity of money required. These 5 NYC jazz clubs will give you your best musical ‘bang for your buck’ for the following two key reasons.
1. Low cover charge.
Feel free to catch a show at the Lincon Center, Dizzy’s Jazz Club, The Jazz Standard or the Blue Note for upwards of $30 (plus drinks). The door charges for these 5 venues below are very reasonable and are significantly more intimate than the more expensive venues. (Seems backwards, right?)
Even the $20 cover at Smalls Jazz club buys you a whole evening of music and you will likely be sitting a foot away from your favorite guitar player. Less $$. More jazz: Awesome!
2. Musical Wow-ness
The guitarists who grace these venues aren’t your average musicians, these guys are MONSTERS. Seriously, you will walk away amazed, inspired and generally a much happier person.
For a look at who performs at these jazz clubs check out my blog post. ’15 Contemporary NYC jazz Guitarists.’
All right, let’s get to the venues!
1. The Bar Next Door
Welcome to your #1 BEST venue in NYC (and probably the world) to catch incredible jazz guitar on any night of the week. The Bar Next Door is tucked away below La Lanterna, an Italian cafe in Greenwhich Village. It is never crowded and always cozy and romantic. You will most often find jazz guitar trios performing at The Bar Next Door. Jonathan Kreisberg, one of my favorite guitarists, has held a regular Wednesday night slot for a few years here. There are often emerging artist gigs earlier in the evening with no cover, which are a great opportunity to check out rising stars.
Cover is around $12 per set plus a 1 drink minimum, though I have seen this change depending on the night of the week and who is playing. The Bar Next Door is your #1 best NYC jazz club for jazz guitar. It’s also a nice place to take a date!
2. Smalls Jazz Club
One of the most widely known and well loved venues for live jazz in NYC is Smalls. This bar is in many ways more than just a bricks and mortar venue to catch world class music. Smalls is the centre of jazz in NYC and has served as the defining listening room in the world for the young jazz elite.
Smalls is jazz with no apologies. Expect a wide range of styles – traditional, modern, solos, duos and even tap dancing. All the musicians are incredible but I recommend checking the Smalls schedule to get an entire evening of music for your $20. Jams run after hours too for the brave and you can even stream a gig from the comfort of your own home!
Cover is $20 for the whole night. 1 Drink minimum (ish).
3. Fat Cat
Right around the corner from Smalls is another basement jazz venue, Fat Cat. This is one of my favorite places to hang in NYC. Fat Cat has a bohemian vibe – ping pong tables, dim lights, cheap drinks, chess, board games, couches and of course… nightly JAZZ!
The musicians that play at Fat Cat aren’t usually as well known as at Smalls but are certainly not any less proficient. Fat Cat only has a $3 cover and there is no drink minimum. It tends to get pretty loud as the bar does have plenty of folks having a night out instead of intently listening to the music. This is also one of the nice things about Fat Cat; there is a mix of all sorts of people. Check it out!
4. 55 Bar
Another superb, small venue is 55 Bar in Greenwich Village. The gigs here tend to be more aggressive and rocky (if that is a term). Think Wayne Krantz, Mike Stern and Adam Rogers. I did see Linda Oh here a few weeks ago with her band so there is a wide range of genres to check out including the usual swing and bop.
I highly recommend this bar to check out some great jazz guitar in NYC.
Cover is $10/ set and a 2 drink minimum.
Notable mention: Mezzrow
Welcome to the newest addition to the NYC jazz scene from Spike Wilner (Smalls). Mezzrow is a small ‘listening room’ or jazz piano lounge. Recently opened, this intimate venue is creating a lot of buzz in the jazz community.
While it is obviously a piano-centric venue, there are a number of guitar/ piano duos performing at Mezzrow and hey, I wanted to show my support! Mezzrow is located right across from Smalls in Greenwich Village.
$10 cover for the bar and $20 for a table seat.
Disclaimer: cover and drinks minimum are subject to change.