New Orleans is known, probably first and foremost, as a city of music and as the birthplace of jazz. Wandering around the French Quarter and beyond, you’ll find plenty of places to duck in and grab a bite or a drink while you take in a live jazz performance. Whether you want to jam in the cozy and historic quarters of Preservation Hall, or hit the renowned dance floor at Tipitina's, you can’t go wrong with this collection of venues.Read More
The Best Places to Listen to Jazz in New Orleans
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro
Snug Harbor has been playing New Orleans jazz for more than 30 years, but the building itself is a renovated 1800s storefront. Order some shrimp remoulade or the Southern fried chicken and make yourself comfortable in the cabaret-style space. With two nightly shows, you’re sure to catch a good performance any night of the week.
The Spotted Cat Music Club
For the quintessential jazz club experience on Frenchmen Street, the Spotted Cat is it. Escape the chaos of Bourbon Street into this small and intimate club, where musicians are no strangers and are happy to chat after the show. Shows begin at 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m. seven days a week, with an additional 4 p.m. show on Mondays. If you’re in the mood for more of a dinner and a show, the Spotted Cat just opened a second, “family-friendly” location at the corner of St. Claude and St. Roch Avenues, serving all day breakfast (!) and small plates in the afternoon and night.
New Yorkers might recognize D.B.A. from its East Village sibling, but we like knowing that live music is also on tap at this New Orleans joint. Head to Faubourg Marigny, grab a draught from the rotating tap list (no better excuse to sip on an Abita when in NOLA), and settle in for a night of all varieties of musical acts. (Take note: There’s no advanced or reserved seating for shows, so it’s best to grab cash and line up early.)
Blue Nile is credited as the birthplace for the culture of live music on Frenchmen Street, so there’s little doubt that you’ll find a stellar night of entertainment when you visit. The two-story club books perhaps the most eclectic lineup you’ll find in the city — that includes reggae jam bands, late-night DJs, and brass bands. Expect a bohemian atmosphere in that grunge-meets-funk downstairs stage and upstairs dance room.
Jazz, funk, and brass bands are all on center stage at this three-story venue. Located in the Faubourg Marigny neighborhood in a 19th-century historic building, Maison hosts a number of up-and-coming and established musical acts on its three stages. It’s also one of the few live music venues that almost never charges a cover. Grab a table, order up a po’ boy or alligator bites — it’s also a full-service restaurant — and settle in for a night of entertainment.
For traditional New Orleans jazz, head to Preservation Jazz Hall — preservation for the city’s iconic musical style is literally in the name. The jazz club was founded in 1961 on the premise to protect New Orleans jazz (keep in mind, this was at the height of rock n’ roll and bebop music’s popularity), and became a home for its own touring band, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. While the band is out on the road, you can still stop by the jazz club for nightly performances for general admission (plan to be there early, as seats fill up quickly) or reserve a seat beforehand to hear the house band. If Louis Armstrong believed it to be among the best jazz clubs in New Orleans, it’s worth it to make Preservation Jazz Hall a stop on your itinerary.
House of Blues Restaurant & Bar
Don’t be put off by the idea of a chain restaurant for jazz — there’s a reason why the House of Blues has become a mainstay for live music in New Orleans. Thanks to its central location in the French Quarter and its full-service menu, the House of Blues is a one-stop shop for dinner and a show. Crawfish boil and a show? Sunday brunch set to a live gospel act? The possibilities for entertainment are endless.
The Polo Club Lounge
The Polo Club Lounge offers a taste of historic New Orleans with its dark wood paneling, overstuffed chairs, and its decor — it’s just a whiff of the type of old-school aristocracy that can only be found in New Orleans. Stop by the club for a night of jazz and upscale cocktails and bites: You can’t not have a Sazerac when in town, anyway.
Maple Leaf Bar
Embrace the local charm of Maple Leaf, an institution for live music in New Orleans. Since the venue opened in 1974, Maple Leaf is one of the oldest, continuously operating bars with live music seven nights a week. You’ll find performers of nearly every jazz-related genre — jam bands, blues, funk, zydeco, and R&B among others — on any night of the week. If you’re looking to steer clear of the generic cover bands that line Bourbon Street’s venues and head somewhere off the beaten path, this is your kind of venue. Fun fact: Maple Bar’s weekly poetry reading is the longest running poetry reading in America.
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The name might ring familiar if you’re a blues fan: Tipitina’s is named after the song made famous by Professor Longhair, a famed New Orleans blues singer and pianist. The juke joint was Professor Longhair’s main stage until his death in 1980 (and today, the venue donates some of its proceeds to the Tipinitas Foundation to support childhood music education). Decades later, the well-loved bar and stage continues the tradition of live music by bringing in both mainstay local acts (Rebirth Brass Band, Galactic, Dr. John, and the Neville Brothers), as well as big national names like Pearl Jam and Lenny Kravitz. Stop for a photo with the iconic sign — the banana signals the founding days when it was a juice bar — and claim a spot on the dance floor.