- New York
With its impromptu style, jazz music has always lent itself to a live platform, and there’s no shortage of places in the USA to watch a show.
Here are 10 venues to get you started. For aficionados of the genre, put a pilgrimage to these concert halls, clubs and historic jazz landmarks on your musical must-do list.
Preservation Hall – New Orleans, Louisiana
A New Orleans icon, Preservation Hall is home to the world-famous Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a seven-piece ensemble that has played and toured for more than 50 years. If you want to get close to the music, you can wait in line for general admission seating or reserve a table in advance. But there’s nothing wrong with standing on St. Peter Street and tapping your toes to the tunes wafting out of the windows.
Green Mill Jazz Club – Chicago, Illinois
In Chicago’s Uptown, Green Mill Jazz Club is steeped in Chicago history. The former speakeasy, a preferred hangout of Al Capone in the 1920s, also was frequented by Frank Sinatra and graced by legendary performers including Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman. For nightly music, look no further than the legendary Chicago club. The venue’s calendar is all jazz and nothing but jazz in every iteration you can imagine: jazz guitarists, swing jazz, a Sunday night poetry slam and regular appearances by the Chicago Jazz Orchestra.
The Green Mill Jazz Club, a Chicago staple for jazz music since the 1920s
Historic Colored Musicians Club – Buffalo, New York
The Historic Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo was formed in 1935 at a time when music unions were segregated. When the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, clubs integrated – frequently to the detriment of African-American musicians, who were often put out of business. The Historic Colored Musicians Club, however, owned its property and was autonomous from the local union. It’s now the only remaining such club in the USA, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a designated historical preservation site. Explore the club’s museum exhibits and listen to live music most nights of the week.
Museum exhibits inside the Historic Colored Musicians Club in Buffalo, New York
SFJAZZ Center – San Francisco, California
SFJAZZ Center is part events and community outreach, part music venue and part music collective. The center organizes the San Francisco Jazz Festival in June, a summer concert series and a variety of educational programs. In the heart of the cultural district, the center hosts concerts in sundry jazz subgenres. Comprised of eight stellar musicians, the SFJAZZ Collective tours the world with original musical arrangements as well as shows honoring legendary jazz musicians.
The SFJAZZ Collective, which performs throughout the world
Blues Alley – Washington, D.C.
It’s called Blues Alley, but it’s actually the oldest continuously operating jazz supper club in the USA. Over its half-century of history in Washington, D.C., this stage has showcased the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan and continues to draw top talent. The venue’s 18th-century brick building in an old alley makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into a well-kept secret. Catch a live show seven nights a week.
Jazz at Lincoln Center – New York, New York
Directed by jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center is one of the most-respected jazz music venues in the USA. This New York City center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall is comprised of three venues – Rose Theater, The Appel Room and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola – all dedicated to hosting world-class jazz concerts. The JALC Orchestra performs in The Appel Room and Rose Theater, and Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola hums with nightly tunes.
Nighttime view of Lincoln Center during the holiday season
Le Chat Noir and Historic Lyric Theatre – Miami, Florida
Le Chat Noir in Miami was founded by a descendent of the original Le Chat Noir in Paris. Indeed, stepping into this intimate setting feels like a trip back to 19th-century Paris. The downstairs listening room is not so much a music venue as it is a serious listening experience for jazz aficionados. Check the calendar as well for the Historic Lyric Theatre just a few minutes away as well; the venue offers events such as spoken word and amateur variety shows.
bluewhale – Los Angeles, California
This sophisticated spot in the Los Angeles' Little Tokyo neighborhood features a bar, stage area and free-form seating on ottomans. Throughout the week, you can sip a cocktail while watching a live jazz show. The location of bluewhale makes it easy to explore the district’s authentic Asian cuisine and culture.
El Chapultepec and Dazzle – Denver, Colorado
Denver’s oldest such venue dating to 1933, El Chapultepec is a jazz club in a way that perhaps only Denver could do: a cash-only bar with savory Mexican food and lively music. Performers from Ella Fitzgerald to Bill Clinton have played here. Recognized by DownBeat Magazine as one of the Top 100 Jazz Clubs in the World, Dazzle offers daily concerts, including a Saturday breakfast revival and Sunday jazz brunch.
Nighttown – Cleveland, Ohio
A labyrinth of six dining rooms and three bars, Cleveland's Nighttown offers white-tablecloth dining and a great lineup of jazz musicians. Previous performers include Count Basie Orchestra, John Legend and Stevie Wonder. Arrive early to get a good seat and order from the menu featuring inventive appetizers, juicy steaks and fresh seafood.