Jazz in the City

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I suspect that the phrase, “New York nightlife,” calls to many people’s minds images of dimly lit jazz clubs packed with people, clinking glasses and smoke. Indeed, the city that is our college town figures prominently in the history of jazz music. While some of the venues that shaped New York’s reputation as a hotbed for jazz have closed their doors, many others are keeping jazz alive to this day, preserving the city’s status as a mecca for jazz musicians and fans alike.

But how many Barnard and Columbia students actually get on the train to see live jazz now and then? Not a lot. As the jazz enthusiast of my friend group, people approach me often who are interested in seeing live jazz but worried about choosing a bad venue or paying too much for tickets. To set the record straight: there is no shortage of fantastic places to see live jazz in New York City and, if you do your research, you can even do so on a budget.

Below, I list eight venues that are definitely worth checking out. Whether you’re a hardcore jazz fan or you’re looking for a cool place to see live music in the city, these will not disappoint.

Do reserve tickets online or by calling in on the phone unless otherwise indicated! Also: you can enjoy a performance at any of these venues without consuming alcohol, but I’ve included information about drink options in the descriptions below, as some venues have a food or drink minimum.

The Jazz Gallery

This unassuming fifth-floor walkup in Chelsea, in the words of its website, “nurtures the youngest generation of professional jazz musicians.” Three to five nights a week, this cozy space puts on hip performances by musicians from all over the world.

Sets at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. Tickets for non-members range from roughly $15 to $25. Ask about student discounts. No drink minimum because there’s no bar.

1160 Broadway, 5th floor, New York, NY www.jazzgallery.nyc

Smalls

Though not as old as some other venues on this list, Smalls has gained an international rep. for hosting hundreds of performances a year by top-notch jazz performers. This Greenwich Village establishment is a wonderful place to lose yourself in music on a weekend afternoon or a weeknight.

Sets at 7:30pm, 10:30pm and 1am Monday-Friday and 4pm, 7:30pm, 10:30pm and 1am on Saturday and Sunday. Friday and Saturday sets are $20 each. On Sunday-Thursday, the $20 ticket is good for the whole night and can be used to enter Mezzrow if you fancy! Students: the Sunday-Thursday second set is usually $10 with your ID.  

183 W 10th Street, basement, New York, NY www.smallslive.com

Mezzrow

Just steps away from Smalls, Mezzrow is “listening room and lounge” that features nightly performances by some of the best jazz musicians in New York City. If you like listening to jazz piano or small jazz combos, this is the place for you.

Sets at 8pm, 9:30pm and 11pm. Tickets are $20 at the door or online. The 11pm sets have a one-drink minimum. Come at least 15 minutes before the set starts to get a good seat!

Hacks: Tickets are $10 with student ID for select performances (the website doesn’t specify but I think Sunday-Thursday second sets—call to confirm). Weekend tickets are only good for one set; weeknight tickets are good for the entire night. Sunday-Thursday tickets purchased at Mezzrow also get you a pass to Smalls and vice-versa!

163 W 10th St., New York, NY www.mezzrow.com

Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola

Right next to The Shops at Columbus Circle, Dizzy’s is a surprisingly affordable place to catch top-notch jazz performances by younger artists—if you come to the Late Night Sessions.

Late Night runs Tuesday-Saturday. Doors open at 11:15pm, but you can arrive later. as sets usually begin ‘round midnight. With a student ID, the cover charge is $5 Tuesday-Friday and $10 Saturday. One-drink minimum. You don’t need reservations for Late Night!

10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY www.jazz.org/dizzys

Fat Cat

For music lovers with a competitive streak, this funky Greenwich Village space opens its doors six days a week for live music, pool, ping pong, shuffleboard, foosball and other excellent games. If games aren’t your thing, you can also just lounge on the couches, people-watch and enjoy the band.

Open 2pm-5am Monday-Thursday, 12pm-5am Friday-Saturday. No reservations needed; just pay the extremely cheap cover charge ($3). There’s no minimum for games, food or drinks.

Heads up: Fat Cat cards at the door and is notoriously strict with fake IDs, but will let you enjoy its games and live music if you’re underage. (On Friday and Saturday nights after 10pm, entry is 21+, so be sure to get there early.)

75 Christopher St. (at 7th Ave), New York, NY www.fatcatmusic.org

The Stone

If you’re interested in experimental or avant-garde music, you’ll want to check out The Stone. Founded by composer and multi-instrumentalist John Zorn, this quirky space features performances from boundary-pushing artists six nights a week. There is neither food nor a bar but, as the website succinctly puts it, “only music.” It relocates to the New School Glass Box Theater in March 2018.

Open Tuesday-Sunday. Performances at 8:30pm. Admission is $20 dollars at the door—be sure to arrive early (with cash!) so you can secure a ticket.

55 W 13th Street, New York, NY www.thestonenyc.com   

Jazz Standard

Located in Manhattan’s Rose Hill neighborhood, the Jazz Standard is one of the best venues in the city to enjoy a performance from world-renowned musicians over drinks and a great meal. For a night that won’t break the bank, eat elsewhere and come to Jazz Standard just for the music. It is worth the cover charge.

Open most nights, sets at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. There’s no food or drink minimum. General admission is usually $30. ($25 with a student ID.)

Other discounts: students pay half-price on Monday nights, a.k.a. Mingus Mondays, which feature bands that play the music of bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Also, the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra has free performances most Sundays at 2pm.

116 E 27th Street, New York, NY www.jazzstandard.com

The Village Vanguard

The Vanguard is to Manhattan’s jazz scene what the Empire State Building is to Manhattan’s skyline: iconic. Subtract the cigarette smoke, add European tourists and you’ve got yourself something close to the sexy, dimly-lit, glass-clinking jazz club of some earlier New York era. With a one-drink minimum and tickets at $35 a pop, it is the priciest venue on this list. Yet it is, I promise, worth the splurge. Nestled in the basement of a cute building in—you guessed it, Greenwich Village—this venue was the site of numerous performances from jazz legends like Bill Evans and Sonny Rollins. It continues to book the biggest names in jazz today.

Open Tuesday-Sunday. Sets at 8:30pm and 10:30pm. Matinees some Sundays at 3pm. Students can usually get $5.00 off their tickets for the second sets on Sunday-Thursday.  

178 7th Ave. South, New York, NY www.villagevanguard.com

 

One of the most exhilarating feelings I’ve ever felt in college is being downtown late at night seeing a show instead of studying. Do it! While you could go to any of these places by yourself, seeing jazz is more fun when you bring other people, even people you don’t know that well. So, ask your roommate. Ask a friend. Ask whoever you daydream about in your boring 8:40. Heck, ask me when I’m back on campus in the fall. Enjoy!