The New York Jazz Scene: Venues, Festivals, and More

New York Jazz Scene Nothing goes together better than New York and jazz. New York was and is the home to many masters of America’s contribution to the world of music. From the earliest days of jazz, musicians like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and John Coltrane made their mark on New York jazz.

Even today, New York jazz is alive and well. It’s possible to see incredible musicians, both masters and the up-and-coming stars, playing amazing music 7 nights a week. Here are a few of the best places to experience jazz in New York.

On the Radio

To start, there’s always the radio! Many colleges in NY feature jazz shows. Public radio station WBGO broadcasts 24/7 jazz from Newark, NJ and can be heard throughout the city.

Jazz Concerts in New York

From Lincoln Center to Radio City Music Hall, New York is home to some of the finest concert venues in the world. On any night, you can find world-class jazz performed in the many concert halls and clubs throughout the city. Here are some of the best concert venues in the city.

  • Jazz at Lincoln Center – Artistic director Wynton Marsalis has been programming this venue for years. Lincoln Center is acoustically perfect and Marsalis’s knowledge and taste are impeccable.  The 1233-capacity Rose Theatre hosts major national acts. The Allen Room seats 427 to 467 guests and features floor to ceiling windows overlooking Columbus Circle. The smallest and most intimate spot is Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, which seats 80- 140 people.
  • The Iridium – Jazz legend Les Paul had his last weekly residency in this jewel of a concert club. The Iridium features concerts by some of the greatest jazz masters in the world.
  • Birdland – Named for famed saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker, Birdland has been in several locations in the 60 years since its opening. This is an amazing space to see jazz legends up close and personal. Diana Krall, Pat Metheny, and Dave Brubeck have all graced the stage at Birdland.

Jazz Festivals

Along with ongoing jazz concerts throughout the city, New York plays host to a variety of jazz festivals all year long. Whatever your favorite flavor of jazz, there’s a festival for you!

  • Jazz in July – The 92nd Street Y hosts this exciting festival. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the festival.  This 10-day extravaganza features some of New York’s favorite players like Jimmy Greene, Jeremy Pelt, Ken Poplowski, and founder Dick Hyman.
  • Blue Note Jazz Festival – June is festival month at New York’s famed Blue Note. This festival brings the top jazz artists from around the world to New York for a month-long celebration of America’s music.
  • Vision Festival – If your taste runs to the more experimental side of jazz, the Vision Festival is for you. This festival has taken place in various venues throughout the city, and past performers have included Steve Lacy, William Parker, Joe McPhee, Peter Brotzman. David S. Ware, and Sam Rivers.

Jazz Clubs of New York

New York jazz is best heard in the intimate confines of the smaller venues around town. These clubs feature national and international acts, but also play host to some of today’s brightest rising stars on the jazz scene!

  • Jazz Standard – This club features great food, amazing sight lines, and impressive line-ups seven nights a week. It’s also home of the amazing Mingus Big Band on alternating Monday nights.
  • Smoke Jazz & Supper Club – In Morningside Heights near Columbia University, this club offers an ultra-intimate jazz listening experience. With just 50 seats, you can feel practically every note.
  • Smalls – This club is a throwback to the comfy, communal jazz clubs of yesteryear. Smalls is the place to see the best up-and-coming artists New York has to offer in a venue that feels like an intimate jazz jam session in your friend’s basement!

In New York, jazz is alive and thriving. No matter what style of jazz you love, you can find it nightly all around the city. And of course, this is only a small taste of what’s available in the Big Apple! Happy listening!

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Photo by A. Strakey

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