Sunday Night Jazz in NY
January 28, 2014 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I have a date with my visiting from out of town stepsister this Sunday and she wants to go see some live jazz but nothing too avant guard. Please help me look cool by recommending somewhere we could go. She's a music teacher and plays a couple instruments so unlike me she probably knows good from bad. Nice cocktails would be a plus and ideally not to far out as she's staying at a hotel in Times Square.
posted by SpaceWarp13 to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure people will answer with more info than me - but the one time I went to a jazz club in NY it was the Blue Note and it was exactly what I would have hoped for in a jazz club.
posted by kdern at 1:28 PM on January 28, 2014

Devin Bing is at the Metropolitan Room
Mark Turner Quartet at the Village Vanguard
It might be a nice night to catch some music, since half the known universe will be obsessing over the Super Bowl. Since I hate sports, maybe I'll join you :-)
posted by elf27 at 1:36 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The most famous and historic, and in my view the best, jazz club in Manhattan is the Village Vanguard. When my brother, an occasional jazz fan but not in any sense a jazz insider/hipster/know-it-all, came to the city, that was the one jazz venue he wanted to go to, and he was thrilled. The sense of history is unbeatable, as are the soundlines. Right now, and through Sunday (here's the schedule), they've got the Mark Turner Quartet (Mark Turner-sax, Avishai Cohen-tpt, Joe Martin-b, Marcus Gilmore-d), who are excellent; you can read a review of an earlier Vanguard gig here and see a clip of them live in 2012 here. Go, enjoy, and when she tells people "I was at the Vanguard," I guarantee anyone who knows anything about jazz will be impressed!
posted by languagehat at 1:37 PM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

nthing the vanguard. it is nothing if not authentic, and the musicians playing there on sunday night are definitely keepig alive a tradition that grew in part because of that very club.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 1:43 PM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bring plenty of money, these joints have expensive drinks and drink minimums.
If she has very particular tastes, maybe she could pick up a copy of The New Yorker, which has detailed listings of who is playing where.
posted by thelonius at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2014

I'd suggest the Vanguard or Jazz Standard.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:54 PM on January 28, 2014

Another place to look into is Smalls on W 10th St. Quick cab ride away.
posted by EarnestSchemingway at 3:10 PM on January 28, 2014

Recommending venue without regard to who's performing is like recommending a movie theater without regard to which film's playing. Not to deny some venues are cooler and tend to have better talent....but the players are the thing! :)

Mark Turner at Vanguard will please pretty sure-thing, but you'll pay a lot and be crowded in...though the place is indeed as cool and as storied as is stated above. If you don't mind crowd and expense, that's probably you're surest bet.

Arturo O'Farrill is at Birdland that night, if you want (good) jazz with a latin tinge. Should be good players, too. Can't go wrong. Shinier and less cool than Vanguard, however.

John Abercrombie Quartet at Jazz Standard (good food, btw) is real good and a bit less expensive than other choices. If you don't know John's playing, look for some youtube vids to see if he's up your alley. Not hard swinging muscular jazz by any means, but he's quite good and I'm sure it'll be top-notch players.

Chris Botti at the Blue Note only if you're into highly commercial smooth jazz and all that b.s. (will be crowded too). I played with Chris back when he was just a really good section trumpet player, god bless him for making the big $$$, but the whole sensation thing is entirely image-based. Blue Note loves moneymaking acts like that (but I've also played there with really good groups, so they're variable).

Not what you asked for, but Harlem Gospel Choir at BB Kings should be pretty great (though they're charging a fortune).

Consider an after-show drink at Arturo's pizza (good brick oven pizza, too). Nice warm place where good-not-great players let their hair down a little. Nice piano. Very late.

Budget options, kind of fun: Run down the steps of Small's, any time from early to real late. Different people playing, nobody super famous (except sitting in), sometimes great, sometimes not. Worth a look, and it's VERY relaxed and easy-priced (and better drinks than other venues). Very nearby, Fat Cat is full of pool tables, ping pong, and foosball, and jazz guys playing till real late on the side of the room, with only a few paying attention. Very good beer selection. Groups change throughout the night, again, nobody you've heard of (except possible sitter inners), and minimal cover charge. Also, poke your head into nearby 55 Bar. Place is a notorious dive, but some good people sometimes play, and, again, cover charge is low. You can hear the music from the sidewalk and decide.

If you want to have a crazy night, do one of the big ticket clubs at 9, then circulate between Small's, Fat Cat, 55 Bar and Arturo's late into the night. That's how jazz musicians would do it. If that's a bit much, you can forego the big ticket and just do a sort of jazz tapas crawl. Or mix/match in any other way. Good luck and have fun!

Oh, great beer at Blind Tiger Ale House right near most of the budget options, above.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:36 PM on January 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

Didn't include cuz it's not my speed, but might be yours, and it's right in the thick of all the budget options (all of which are a short walk from each other):
7-10pm big band and later on an unknown quantity. Don't invest much hope, but worth a listen from the sidewalk.
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:46 PM on January 28, 2014

Jazz Standard is closed for a private function Sunday.
I agree that music comes before venue. I've seen not-to-my-liking performances, and the fact that they took place at first rate venues didn't make them more enjoyable.
Let's face it, music is very personal. Since your stepsister is music-savvy, I suggest sending her the names of some of the performers who are around on Sunday, so that she check them out on youtube and make her own selection.
posted by elf27 at 4:03 PM on January 28, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Since I'm not all that music savvy I've passed on the recommendations and I'm sure no matter what it is we'll have a good time.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:04 PM on January 28, 2014

Smalls (WV), Smoke (Harlem), Blue Note (NYU-landia), Jazz at Lincoln Center (Time Warner Center), Birdland (44th Street).
posted by NYC-BB at 2:08 PM on January 29, 2014

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