Whether you like it pure, fused, crossed over, funky or rocking, Jazz is alive and well and living in New York City. Despite the recent Jazz is Back! hype, aficionados have always been able to find good Jazz played by top musicians. However, Jazz is enjoying a renaissance with the general public and has even been “legitimized” in the halls of academies, as witnessed by the many colleges whose music departments now offer Jazz courses (often taught by well-known established musicians),
If you like your Jazz with poetry, drop on over to Pearl’s Place (2nd Ave. and 96th St.), where you can hear contemporary Jazz coupled with poetry readings as well as other types of music — Wednesdays up-and-coming artists are showcased. If you happen by on a Friday night, you’re in for a special treat: owner Pearl Murray night for singing Bessie Smith tunes. The club holds about 160 people. It’s open 5:30 p.m.- 4 a.m. and music is played seven nights a week, two sets per night — weekdays at 10 p.m. and midnight; weekends at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. There’s a $2 music charge and a two-drink minimum. Pearl’s serves light smacks and the specialty of the house is, of course, a pig foot and a bottle of beer.
On the other hand, if you’re a Jazz “purist”, then JazzMania and Pork Pie Hat are the places for you. Patrons get their Jazz straight, unfused, unfunked and not crossed over.
JazzMania (14 East 23rd St), a unique penthouse loft, is set up like a living room — complete with fireplace, sofa, easy chairs and balcony. During the summer months, owner-saxophonist Mike Morgenstern and the JazzMania All Stars hold house sessions with well known musicians sitting in. It’s possible to catch 10 or 12 of your favorite Jazz artists in one night. In addition to the living room, there are tables and a small bar — no liquor, just juice, coffer and tea. The loft accommodates 100 people — opened 9 p.m.- 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. There are three sets per night — 9:30 p.m., 11:15 p.m. and 1 a.m. Admission is $3.50 (half price after midnight); there’s a $1 minimum at the tables (no minimum in the balcony and living room). Light snacks such as quiche, vegetable plates and pastry are available, but the menu varies.
Marking its three-month anniversary this month, Pork Pie Hat (234 West 50th St.) is the only Jazz room in an area that, once upon a time, was famously known as the place for Jazz. The club’s name is owner Art Synes personal tribute to Lester “Prez” Young, whose pork pie hat was almost as well known as he was. Among the 30 x 40 inch photos of Jazz greats decorating the walls, is a photo of Prez, sporting his famous pork pie hat. Of special interest to Jazz buffs is the juke box. At least half the selections are vintage Jazz tunes — real collector’s items. Among them, Rahsaan Roland Kirk singing Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (a Charlie Mingus tune with lyrics by Rahsaan). The room holds about 120 people. It’s opened noon – 4 a.m. and has music Thursday – Saturday, three sets per night: 10 p.m., 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m. There’s a music charge at the tables (but none at the bar); one-drink minimum; and a one item snack menu that varies.
Prefer your Jazz with theatre, dancing or both? Be sure to check out Ladies Fort, Broady’s, Kenneth Black’s Club Constellation and the National Arts Consortium Cabaret Jazz. Ladies Fort (2 Bond St.), one of the few Jazz clubs in Noho (the area north of Houston St.). LF has been renovated and is under the management of Dino Reid since January. The club has a theatre loft as well as a Jazz loft; it offers a $5 theatre-club package. Opened 9 p.m. – 4 a.m. Friday through Monday with three sets per night: 10 p.m., 12:30 a.m. and 2 a.m., Ladies Fort can accommodate 150-175 people. There is a $3.50 cover charge with no minimum — no liquor is served, light snacks are available.
If you like Jazz and disco is also your thing, stop by Kenneth Black’s Club Constellation (105 West 43rd St). A full-time disco, Club Constellation becomes a showplace for diversified Jazz on Sundays. Owner Kenneth Black uses his disco sound system for Jazz artists with a unique result — sound in the round. The music can be heard in all parts of the room. Between sets the club offers a choice of activities: a neon light show while dancing to the disco beat; Backgammon; Chess or Dominoes; canopied swings (for two) line the walls in back of the tables; or you can just stay at your candle-lit table and watch it all. The club, seats 300 people. It’s opened 7 p.m. – 2 a.m. on Sundays and has two sets 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. There is a $6 cover charge ($4 if reservations are made in advance) and no minimum. Alcoholic beverages are available, but food isn’t — eat before you come.