Jazz may have originated in New Orleans, but New York City has a long tradition of housing some of the best musicians and venues in the genre.
From Harlem to the Village, and everywhere in between, here are our 10 favorite Manhattan spots — from Uptown to Downtown — for catching a set.
Paris Blues — 2021 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., Harlem (Photo via eyeem.com)
Founded in 1969, Paris Blues offers seven nights of live jazz in decidedly low-key dive bar environs reminiscent of a New Orleans hideaway. There's typically no cover charge at this chill spot, but expect pricier beverages and a two-drink minimum. The complimentary food still helps make it a reasonably priced outing featuring outstanding live jazz and blues.
Smoke Jazz & Supper Club — 2751 Broadway, Manhattan Valley (Photo via timeout.com)
Smoke has become well-known among jazz fans for a putting on a fantastic Sunday brunch, but the intimate Upper West Side spot is also a solid choice live performances seven nights a week. The 15-year old venue offers just 50 seats, meaning sightlines and acoustics are superb, but advanced ticket purchase is recommended.
Bill's Place — 148 W. 133rd St., Harlem (Photo via aontheroad.com)
While we call out several spots on this list for their "cozy" dimension, Bill's jazz club and speakeasy is the smallest of them all. Set in a Harlem brownstone basement, many describe arriving at Bill's like wandering into a delightfully unexpected jazz house party. Pack up your own beverages and snacks for this unique BYOB establishment where reservations are an absolute must.
Jazz at Lincoln Center — 10 Lincoln Center Plaza, Lincoln Square (Photo via lincolncenter.org)
Led by the esteemed Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center began as a summer concert series over 30 years ago. Since then, JALC has evolved into a full-fledged department of Lincoln Center, and in 2004, the organization broke ground on Frederick P. Rose Hall, the world’s first performance, education and broadcast facility devoted to jazz. See their calendar to find a full roster of live jazz to suit every taste.
The Iridium — 1650 Broadway at West 51st Street, Midtown (Photo via ticketweb.com)
Once the site of weekly Monday performances by late guitar legend Les Paul, The Iridium is a 180-seat destination for jazz that doubles as a sought-after live music recording facility. The venue recently underwent a complete update to its sound system, stage and lighting, and is well-known among public television fans as the site of the acclaimed "Front and Center" music series.
Birdland — 315 W. 44th St. near 8th Avenue, Hell's Kitchen (Photo via aht1985.com)
Named after Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, Birdland has an enviable New York City jazz pedigree with previous Midtown and Uptown locations having featured Parker himself along with Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Stan Getz. Today, modern-day jazz masters take the stage in a venue offering more elbow room than most and a Cajun menu sure to impress.
Jazz Standard — 116 East 27th Street near Park Avenue South, NoMad (Photo via wsdg.com)
If the combination of phenomenal jazz and superb barbecue sounds like a match made in heaven, Jazz Standard is the venue for you. Situated below Blue Smoke, the Standard has earned a reputation as one of the few spots where the food is actually as good as the entertainment. The ambiance is cozy and dark, and the nightly music lineup is fantastic.
Village Vanguard — 178 Seventh Ave. S at Waverly Place, West Village (Photo via villagevanguard.com)
Coltrane, Davis, Monk and Mingus — nearly every major name in jazz has played, and probably recorded, at the venerable Village Vanguard over its 83-year history. Known as one of the great jazz rooms in the city, interiors have remained practically untouched, adding to the palpable historic importance.
Arthur’s Tavern — 57 Grove St. near Seventh Avenue, West Village (Photo via trekearth.com)
Opened in 1937, Arthur’s Tavern offers the type of jazz pedigree we've come to expect in the city, including appearances by Charlie Parker and Ray Hargrove. Today, it's still a great spot to hear a wide variety of jazz stylings with a diverse crowd of music aficionados. This no-cover, cash-only spot has a two-drink minimum and a reputation for surly service. You've been warned.
Blue Note — 131 W. 3rd St. between Macdougal Street and Sixth Avenue, West Village
For more than 37 years, Blue Note has hosted some of the best names in the genre from Dizzy Gillespie to Dave Brubeck. The fantastic lineup hasn't slowed over the years and present-day jazz greats frequently grace the stage here. Like most old-school jazz joints in the city, the space is cramped, but intimate, and don't miss the gift shop for branded merchandise and collectibles.