These days, Greenwich Village is more upscale enclave than bohemian mecca, but many jazz clubs that opened in the 1960s and even in the ’20s are still going strong, largely thanks to dedicated owners who believe passionately in the cause.
The jazz club that many jazz fans call the greatest in the world is The Village Vanguard (178 Seventh Ave South, tel: 212-255-4037) where Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, and Thelonious Monk all played and recorded. The low ceilings and shape of the room make for great acoustics, and its high professional standards have been kept intact since 1935. The space is cramped and a little dingy, but the $30-or-so ticket price (including two drinks) is lower than other high-end jazz clubs like the Blue Note (131 W. 3rd St, tel: 212-475-8592) nearby, which also hosts top-of-the-line shows but with a feel that’s more nightclub than jazz joint.
Originally a speakeasy in the 1920s, the unpretentious 55 Bar (55 Christopher St, tel: 212-929-9883) is one of the best-kept music secrets in the city. The cover charge ranges from free to $12 for two sets, the drinks are cheap, and musicians love to play here. The up-and-coming jazz, R&B, and jazz-world-folk crossover bands rarely disappoint thanks to the high standards of the owner who runs the club more for creative satisfaction than for profits.
Other authentic places include Smalls (183 West 10th St, tel: 212-252-5091, map C4), known for its jams into the wee hours, or Cornelia Street Café (29 Cornelia St, tel: 212-989-9319). For top-end experimental jazz, check out Le Poisson Rouge (158 Bleecker St, tel: 212-505-3474). And for a great traditional jazz brunch go to North Square (103 Waverly Place, tel: 212-254-1200) at the Washington Square Hotel, to hear seasoned New York jazz vocalists such as Roz Corral.