New York

NYC Like a Local: Manhattan’s Best Jazz Clubs

by CHRISTOPHER KOMPANEK  |  Published January 29, 2016

From Harlem to Greenwich Village, the legacies of jazz legends past and present reverberate through the walls of the city’s most storied venues. On any given night, you can sidle up mere inches from a wailing saxophone riff or ground shaking drum solo.

Village Vanguard

Village Vanguard Sign Exterior

Village Vanguard Sign Exterior (Photo: Village Vanguard)

This cone-shaped basement space is one of the coziest in the city and regularly features top-notch internationally touring acts. Everyone from Miles Davis and John Coltrane to Harry Belafonte and Dinah Washington have graced the postage-sized stage over the past eighty years and many of those performances have turned into iconic live albums. Admission is quite reasonable for a club of this stature and shows sell out frequently, so reservations are advised.    

178 7th Ave

Dizzy’s Club

Part of the massive Jazz at Lincoln Center complex, Dizzy’s Club is one of the most breathtaking jazz clubs in the city with floor-to-ceiling windows that peer out onto Central Park. Tables are spaciously placed, a rarity in the cramped club scene, and make for an ideal pre-show dinner. Late night sessions feature up-and-comers at reduced prices while more established acts dominate the primetime slots.

Broadway at 60th Street, 5th Floor


A former stomping ground of Charlie Parker and the place where Miles Davis cut his teeth playing late night jam sessions, bebop history abounds at Minton’s. Founded in 1938 by saxophonist Henry Minton, the space shuttered in 1974. This new iteration, opened in 2013, benefits from a snazzy renovation and an upscale southern menu that features a grilled pork porterhouse and some of the best biscuits in the city. The music leans towards bebop with heavy grooves.

206 West 118th Street

Café Carlyle

Cafe Carlyle Performance Set-up

Cafe Carlyle Performance Set-up (Photo: Cafe Carlyle)

Woody Allen has been playing a regular gig here with his Dixieland jazz band for decades. The late Broadway legend Elaine Stritch was also a frequent performer and resident of the hotel upstairs. Jackets are required at this elegant spot that was the setting for Bill Murray’s Netflix Christmas show and a second home for some of the most well-heeled New Yorkers.

35 East 76th street


Founded in 1994 by Mitchell Borden who can often be seen playing his violin outside of the club’s tiny entrance, this basement space echoes a time in New York when jazz was cheap and lasted all night. Gone are the BYOB days but a single cover charge still gets you a full night of music and reciprocal admission at neighboring Mezzrow which features top notch headliners like Bill Charlap.

183 West 10th Street

Jazz Standard

Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard (Photo: Fran Kaufman)

Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard (Photo: Fran Kaufman)

Located in the basement of the excellent barbeque joint Blue Smoke, there is no minimum at this high-end club because the smell of ribs and pulled pork is irresistible. The music lineup is equally impressive and includes a Monday night residency by the superb Mingus Big Band, playing the most syncopated and delightfully brassy songs of the late Charles Mingus.

116 East 27th Street


Tucked beneath a tacky tourist trap in Times Square, the Iridium is a refuge amidst chaos. Once home to weekly residency by the late legendary guitarist Les Paul, the lineup these days consists of a mix of veterans like Buster Williams and John Patitucci.

1650 Broadway