Where to Hear Live Jazz in Boston

Boston and nearby Cambridge have a long tradition of jazz music

Whether you're itching to see a marquee jazz musician or tomorrow's next big thing, chances are you can find a live jazz show to your liking in Boston.

Jazz and Boston go way back: Starting in the 1940s, the city got a reputation as a welcoming home for jazz musicians, with nationally lauded live venues and receptive crowds. All the legends made a point to perform in Boston—Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker, to name just a few.

Since then, the relationship between Boston and jazz has only strengthened, and especially so with programs at both Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory.

Today, there are so many places to see good live jazz that you could visit a different Boston venue every night of the week.

  • 01 of 09
    Beat Brasserie
    ••• Courtesy of Beat Brasserie

    Set in the heart of Harvard Square, the Beat Brasserie is technically not in Boston but deserves to be included on a list of great jazz clubs. A restaurant, bar and lounge, Beat has a changing roster of jazz, blues and world musicians on the calendar, plus jazz brunches on the weekends.

  • 02 of 09
    The Beehive Boston
    ••• Courtesy of The Beehive Boston

    The Beehive, part of the Boston Center for the Arts, is a South End institution. Stop by to hear live jazz every night of the week, with a core lineup of blues players showcased each Sunday.  The comfort food-focused menu and craft cocktails are worth the trip, too.

  • 03 of 09
    Darryl's Corner Bar and Kitchen
    ••• Courtesy of Darryl's Corner Bar and Kitchen

    Darryl's in the South End has outstanding soul food that makes it worth the trip. The live music with a diverse lineup of musicians makes it the perfect hangout. Who wouldn't want to chow down on gumbo, hush puppies, fried catfish, shrimp and grits, and other Southern specialties, all while being serenaded by a piano, bass and drum? 

  • 04 of 09

    Ryles

    Ryles
    ••• Courtesy of Ryles

    Local and national jazz musicians alike get top billing at Ryles in Cambridge's Inman Square. From dinner shows to Sunday jazz brunch, the first floor is the place to be for great live music. If you then want to dance, make a night of it and hear the show downstairs, then head up to the second floor for salsa dancing.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Scullers Jazz Club

    Scullers Jazz Club
    ••• Courtesy of Scullers Jazz Club

    If you've been to a jazz club in Boston already, most likely it's been at Scullers. The popular jazz venue celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2014, and the accolades continue to roll in. Over the years, it has continuously been praised as Boston's best jazz club, best live music venue, and best date spot from local critics (and the performing musicians themselves).

  • 06 of 09
    Wally's Cafe Boston
    ••• John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Live music every day of the year is the motto of Wally's Café, the South End's legendary jazz club. Open since 1947, Wally's is the place to visit to get a sense of Boston's rich jazz history, and a sense of where these up-and-coming student musicians will take the scene in the future. There are jam sessions every night of the week, ranging from blues to funk to Latin jazz salsa. 

  • 07 of 09
    Les Zygomates
    ••• Scott Dexter / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    The French love jazz, and if a trip to Paris isn't in the budget this year, get the next best thing in Boston with a night out at Les Zygomates near South Station. Offering a "strictly jazz" live music lineup Tuesday through Saturday nights, the wine bar/bistro/gallery creates a perfectly elegant night out, whether you happen to catch a solo jazz pianist or a full ensemble.

  • 08 of 09
    Lizard Lounge
    ••• Courtesy of Lizard Lounge

    ​Just outside Harvard Square, the Lizard Lounge is hip, smart and swinging. Soul, funk, blues, and jazz musicians regularly take the stage; there's also a weekly open mic night on Mondays if you want to see aspiring performers try out their new material. The extensive drafts often feature local breweries from Cambridge and Maine, plus tap lines for "rare finds" and ciders.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09
    Regattabar
    ••• Courtesy of Charles Hotel

    The Regattabar at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge is always a treat. In addition to regularly featuring traveling musicians, the Regattabar hosts a courtyard series in summer spotlighting Berklee College of Music jazz musicians, as well as a kids' series to introduce little ones to jazz.