The 10 Best Jazz Clubs in New Orleans

Jazz was born in New Orleans, with roots that reach back to Congo Square, where enslaved Africans in the colonial era were allowed to congregate on Sundays to dance and share songs. It began to take form as we know it in the parlors of Storyville, on the streets where brass bands marched and second lines formed, and in legendary dance halls like the Funky Butt, where Buddy Bolden enraptured dancers with his swinging blues.

Jazz in the city of New Orleans really reached its heyday in the hot jazz era, before the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance created new hubs of jazz in Chicago, New York, and elsewhere, with many of the city's finest musicians (Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton, for two) leaving for greener pastures. New Orleans, always at the musical vanguard, eventually became an R&B/early rock town, and then a funk town, and later a hip-hop town, with jazz existing largely on the fringes as the years went on.

But the old traditions certainly never died out. There...MORE are brilliant artists keeping the musical spirit of Sidney Bechet and King Oliver alive, and plenty of others who push the boundaries of jazz in the most contemporary ways. Want to see for yourself? Make the rounds of some of these incredible venues and have a listen.

  • 01 of 10

    Preservation Hall

    Preservation Hall
    ••• Preservation Hall is a funky old building where funky old music reigns supreme. © Phil Roeder / Creative Commons via Flickr

    If traditional New Orleans jazz is what you seek, you can’t do any better than Preservation Hall. This legendary French Quarter establishment has been hosting the city’s finest traditional musicians nightly for decades. Reserve tickets in advance for one of the three intimate and highly interactive nightly shows (45 minutes each, starting at 8, 9, and 10 pm) or take your chances waiting in line the night of the show. As Pres Hall is an alcohol-free establishment, it’s a particularly good entertainment choice for visitors with kids in tow.

    726 St. Peters St. (French Quarter) / (504) 522-2841 / preservationhall.com

  • 02 of 10

    Fritzel’s European Jazz Club

    Musicians Performing at Fritzel's
    ••• A clarinetist and pianist perform traditional jazz at Fritzel's. © Ishwar / Creative Commons via Flickr

    There aren’t a lot of reasons for culture vultures to head to the trad jazz lowbrow Bourbon Street, but Fritzel’s is certainly worth the stop. Traditional jazz, played mostly by the house band (Fritzel’s New Orleans Jazz Band) with various special guests, is what you’ll find. The barroom is friendly and boisterous but without the ​frat bro-ish vibe of many of its Bourbon Street neighbors. 

    733 Bourbon St. (French Quarter) / (504) 586-4800 / fritzelsjazz.net 

  • 03 of 10

    Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse

    Sasha Masakowski Performs at the Irvin Mayfield Jazz Playhouse
    ••• Second-generation New Orleans jazz star Sasha Masakowski performs at the Irvin Mayfield Jazz Playhouse. © Derek Bridges / Creative Commons via Flickr

    This upscale cocktail and lounge bar is nestled in the swanky Royal Sonesta Hotel. Its namesake performer, Grammy-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, plays here regularly, and when he’s not in town, everyone from the trad jazz pioneers the Tuxedo Hall Jazz Band to contemporary crooners and even burlesque troupes takes the stage. Most shows are free, though there’s an occasional cover for a well-known act.

    300 Bourbon St. (French Quarter) / (504) 553-2299 / sonesta.com

  • 04 of 10

    Davenport Lounge

    Jeremy Davenport, New Orleans Jazz Musician
    ••• Trumpeter Jeremy Davenport headlines the lounge bearing his name four nights a week. Image Courtesy The Royal Sonesta

    Jeremy Davenport himself headlines Wednesday through Saturday nights at this Ritz-Carlton lounge, satisfying listeners with a combination of his own compositions and favorite old jazz standards. It’s a luxurious place to sip cocktails and nosh on small plates (Wednesday night has a particularly nice and low-priced happy hour bites menu from 5-9 pm) while listening to one of the greatest trumpeters in town.

     921 Canal St. (French Quarter) / (504) 524-1331 / ritzcarlton.com

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  • 05 of 10

    Palm Court Jazz Café

    Palm Court Jazz Café offers both food and a pleasant listening experience.
    ••• The Palm Court Jazz Café offers Creole fare and a quiet, elegant listening experience. Courtesy The Palm Court Jazz Café

    Palm Court has tucked away on the less-trafficked downriver end of Decatur Street, and as such, serves a more low-key in-the-know crowd than many overrun tourist spots. It’s a mellow sort of space where traditional jazz (especially piano jazz) is generally the focal point and patrons quietly enjoy Creole food and classic cocktails while the band plays. 

    1204 Decatur St. (French Quarter) / (504) 525-0200 / palmcourtjazzcafe.com

     

  • 06 of 10

    Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

    Snug Harbor is located on the famous music strip of Frenchmen Street
    ••• Frenchmen Street is well-known as a hotbed of live music in New Orleans, and Snug Harbor is one of its finest venues. © Infrogmation / Creative Commons via Flickr

    Snug Harbor is a Frenchmen Street stalwart whose musical calendar is overflowing with the very finest local jazz (and jazz-esque) talent: Ellis Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, Charmaine Neville, Delfeayo Marsalis, Tom McDermott, and many other well-known names appear on the schedule regularly. A nice drinks menu and good food round out the excellent experience.

    626 Frenchmen St. (Marigny) / (504) 949-0696 / snugjazz.com

  • 07 of 10

    The Maison

    Jazz and swing chanteuse Jayna Morgan performs on stage with her band at the Maison.
    ••• Jazz and swing performers like Jayna Morgan are regulars during dinner hour at the Maison. © Infrogmation / Creative Commons via Flickr

    Just a block down Frenchmen from Snug Harbor, The Maison serves up traditional jazz alongside its dinner menu from 4-10 pm every day (it starts at 1 pm on Saturdays). After 10, the music shifts to brass bands, funk, rock, and occasionally national touring acts. The food is good but the music is great, so be prepared to eat slowly and enjoy.

    508 Frenchmen St. (Marigny) / (504) 371-5543 / maisonfrenchmen.com

  • 08 of 10

    Sweet Lorraine's

    A jazz saxophone player.
    ••• Sweet Lorraine's is one of the only venues in the city that regularly hosts cool jazz and smooth jazz artists. © Beverley Goodwin / Creative Commons via Flickr

    Stevie Wonder chose this cozy, down-home restaurant and jazz club for a secret show after JazzFest 2015, a choice which didn’t particularly surprise in-the-know locals. On regular nights, the jazz here is on the contemporary side with an edge of cool, for the most part, and the clientele is largely local. Hungry? Good. The menu of old-school New Orleans Creole fare is excellent and far more affordable here than anywhere more tourist-trodden, and the staff is friendly as all get-out.

    1931 St. Claude Ave. (Marigny) / (504) 945-9654 / facebook.com/sweetlorrainesjazzclub 

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Bacchanal

    A nighttime scene in the courtyard at Bacchanal
    ••• Bacchanal is both a wine shop and a restaurant/bar/music venue, and it's wildly popular among locals. Courtesy Bacchanal

    Sitting in the back courtyard at Bacchanal feels quite a lot like being invited to a friend’s private party, if, y'know, your friends had live jazz bands in their backyards and an extensive wine list and delightful small plates. The atmosphere is convivial and neighborhood-y, and the location on the far downriver end of the Bywater neighborhood means that tourists are few and far between. The jazz on hand is mostly hot jazz, string jazz, and bebop or hard bop, so heads up, hard-core jazz aficionados. 

    600 Poland Ave. (Bywater) / (504) 948-9111 / bacchanalwine.com

  • 10 of 10

    Dos Jefes Cigar Bar

    Dos Jefes Cigar Bar
    ••• Dos Jefes has jazz music many nights of the week, and also shows the Saints games during football season. Courtesy Dos Jefes

    There’s never a cover at this friendly, pleasantly divey Uptown cigar bar, which offers perhaps the most diverse jazz calendar of any venue on this list: hot jazz, Dixieland, bebop, modern jazz, Gypsy jazz, brass bands… they’ve got it all. True to the name, Dos Jefes really is a cigar bar, earning it an exemption to New Orleans’ new smoke-free rules, so if smoke yucks you out, this might not be the choice for you (there’s a nice outdoor patio with swings, but if you’re here for the music, you’ll want to be inside). The bar has a wide selection of liquors and beers, and when a band’s playing, one of the city’s finer food trucks is almost always parked outside for notables.

    5535 Tchoupitoulas St. (Uptown) / (504) 891-8500 / dosjefes.com