Where to Hear Live Jazz in Boston

Boston and nearby Cambridge have a long tradition of jazz music

Jazz at Wally's in Boston
Jazz at Wally's in Boston.

 Lou Jones / Getty Images

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, including 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 the 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
    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 tasty craft cocktails certainly add to the magic of this hot spot. 

  • 02 of 09
    Beat Brasserie
    Courtesy of Beat Brasserie

    Set in the heart of Harvard Square, the Beat Brasserie is technically not in Boston (it's in nearby Cambridge), but it deserves to be included on a list of the areas best jazz clubs. With a restaurant, bar and lounge, Beat Brasserie has a changing roster of jazz and blues musicians on the calendar, plus jazz brunches on the weekends.

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

    Darryl's Corner Bar and Kitchen 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. After all, 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 Jazz Club

    Ryles
    Courtesy of Ryles

    Local and national jazz musicians alike get top billing at Ryles Jazz Club 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 a 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 Cafe, 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 a hip, smart and swinging spot not to be missed. 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. Choose from an extensive draft beer selection often featuring beer from local breweries from Cambridge and Maine. Or, opt for rare beer 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.