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What kind of jazz fan are you?

Room 623 Sean Mason on piano at Minton's Village Vanguard



     With almost every important jazz musician from around the world spending at least some portion of their career here in New York City since the 1910’s, we are blessed with a jazz tradition that is deep and varied and has only grown in stature to this day – only slightly dinged by the pandemic.  I have noticed a craving for live music and am happy to report that the clubs are starting to thrive again.  

    As someone who has been actively seeking out live jazz nightly in Manhattan for over 25 years, (with my explorations having started sporadically in 1983 when I graduated from college and moved back to NY), I can say with authority that there is something here for every type of jazz fan.  You just have to know what type of jazz fan you are, or want to put a little effort into finding out.  Then you have to know where to go, who to hear, and when to go,  so you can stay within your budget and get the all-5-senses experience you’re looking for – even if you didn’t think those types of jazz experiences still existed.  They do!

I’ll ask a few investigative questions that will help me figure out how best to serve you in your quest for Jazz in New York City.


1 – Are you visiting or do you live here? Are you available certain dates and not others while in NYC?  What are those available dates?
2 – Do you look at jazz from the perspective of 100 years of a changing, evolving genre and you like it all; or would you be happier experiencing certain eras in jazz that really speak to you?  For example: female/male vocalists, big band, New Orleans/trad jazz, bebop, hard bop, latin jazz, fusion, avant-garde, piano trios, guitarists, blues, etc.  
(I just did a quick web-search to illustrate my question and found this recent article: to give you more to think about what you like and don’t like. — But if you’re infuriated by pop ups and ads skip it).

3- We have every type of environment to enjoy jazz in NYC (some boisterous, some hushed), and you may have a favorite; or you may picture one kind of ambiance as your sweet spot.  I can categorize them this way:  

  • Cheap local dives (a watering hole with live jazz and a mainly local crowd)
  • World-renowned clubs (famous players at long-established clubs that may or may not serve meals, where you stay for only one set – $35-$50)
  • Smaller, less well-known clubs with great musicians and higher ticket prices ($25-$35)
  • Theater seating as opposed to table/bar seating. (Think Carnegie Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Apollo) 
  • Restaurant/Speakeasy/Pool Hall with live jazz that may serve as great background music, if you’re not there to focus exclusively on the jazz.


4 – Do you have favorite musicians or cds that really nail what you’re hoping to find in your exploration of the jazz scene?  Feel free to name them.
5 – Is it important or would it be a bonus to be able to meet the musicians, or not really?  Or maybe you want to join a jam session?
6 – Were you thinking about taking a Private Tour ($500+) where you can help create the perfect night out, visiting several clubs and historic sites? (1-10 guests).  

    Some people are overwhelmed by the types of questions posed here because they never thought of the jazz scene as having this many variables; if that’s you – not to worry, I can do all the thinking and deciding for you.  


     Most people sign up for the Harlem Juke Joint Tour (Note solo travelers: it’s easiest for me to fit you onto Harlem Juke Joint Tours – they are most popular and run most often).  If you’re choosing to do multiple tours, we tend to visit different clubs and hear different artists most nights of the week with some overlap; before you choose your dates, keep in touch and we’ll help you select which nights will suit you best.



Gordon Polatnick
Top Cat, Big Apple Jazz Tours
Go To The Bottom of This Page to Contact Gordon With Your Questions and Answers.
  • Customizable

We’ll design your private jazz tour based on your tastes and our extensive knowledge of musicians, clubs and speakeasies throughout the city.  We know what is happening nightly on and off-the-beaten-path.