Iridium Jazz Club's sapphire-hued stage plays host to a star-studded cast of classic jazz performers, traditional blues bands, and masterful rock musicians with nightly all-ages shows punctuated by a slate of gourmet steaks and pastas. Honoring the late Les Paul's regular Monday-night Iridium performance that continued for more than a decade, a slew of famed guitarists such as Ted Nugent and Jeff Beck sit in with the legend's original trio for eclectic weekly tribute shows. Patrons pair the savory syncopation with a menu of artfully crafted dishes ranging from Black Angus steaks and Kobe-style burgers to house-made organic pastas. Armed with a full bar, drinksmiths sling martinis, beers, and wine selections from a cellar stocked with nearly 200 vintages.
Just under the corner of 78th and Columbus sits 78 Below, a gathering place where patrons can have a drink, listen to tunes, or share small plates with friends. Primarily a live music venue, 78’s stage area entices musicians with a legendary back line that includes such house equipment as a Yamaha Motif synthesizer that belonged to jazz icon Henry Butler and a full Pearl drumset used by Chris Parker when he played for Bob Dylan. Performances occur nightly, and feature regulars such as former Blues Brothers band member Jonny Rosch as well as surprise singers that have included Amy Grant, Sheryl Crow, and gifted janitors after the staff has gone home.
Outside of the stage area sits a cocktail lounge furnished with mod couches where guests order from a succinct menu of American-style tapas. Alongside beer, wine, and cocktails from the bar, sliders made with crab cakes and Angus-beef patties mingle with grilled four-cheese sandwiches in dishes small enough to keep hands free for unsolicited keyboard solos.
Like most gems, Zinc Bar can be found underground. The basement jazz club immerses visitors in a vintage-inspired art-deco environment with deep wooden tones and gleaming wall sconces, recalling the venue’s golden era when, according to New York Magazine, icons such as Thelonious Monk and Billie Holliday graced the room’s stage. Now known as Zinc Bar, the newly envisioned space honors the building’s legacy as a historic jazz club while highlighting a modern assortment of musical subgenres and styles that draw inspiration from the jazz age’s innovations. Staying open as late as 3 a.m. on weekends, the club hosts live performances of everything from reggae and funk to bossa nova and Brazilian jazz. Occasionally, the venue also puts on comedy showcases and poetry readings, as well as improvised tournaments of musical chairs.
Though called Arthur’s Tavern, this jazz club has been informally known by another name: the Home of the Bird. That’s because it was a regular performance spot of Charlie “Bird” Parker. Not so surprising considering the club has been around for 75 years, a haven for jazz and blues musicians from around the country. With a set devoted to each of those genres every night, patrons might hear New Orleans-style jazz and Chicago-style blues in one sitting. Dixieland jazz is common as well—the Grove Street Stompers have played here on Monday nights for more than 35 years, mostly due to the stage’s magnetism properties.
On any given night, a guest at Blue Note might be pulled onstage to sit in on a jazz standard. This would merely qualify as another of the club’s charming eccentricities, were that guest not typically someone like Stevie Wonder, Liza Minnelli, or Quincy Jones. New York’s musical royalty frequents Blue Note to hear original, historical jazz, as well as the innovative genres that the club passionately supports. They look on approvingly as the rising stars of the soul, hip hop, funk, and pantomime scenes blaze sonic trails between the stage’s parted blue curtains. These performers fill the atmosphere with smooth sounds on most nights of the week, and their exquisite talents are matched by a menu of pan-roasted salmon, marinated skirt steak, and grilled baby-back ribs.
In December 1949, just as Manhattan was entering the height of its jazz craze, an alto saxophonist by the name of Charlie “Bird” Parker stepped onstage at Birdland for the venue’s inaugural headlining gig. The guests who packed the club that night paid $1.50 each to see the jazz legend perform, and few could have foreseen the heights his reputation would one day reach. More than six decades later, jazz enthusiasts continue to stream into Birdland, trusting the club’s pedigree as a hotspot for up-and-coming artists. Parker may have hung up his sax long ago, but performers such as Oscar Peterson, Hank Jones, and Dave Brubeck carry on his legacy. While the ghost of “Bird” flits through the air, guests order from a menu of American cuisine enlivened with Cajun spices.