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Jazz Club

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Jazz Club

A jazz club is a venue where the primary entertainment is the performance of live jazz music. Jazz clubs have been in large rooms in the eras of Orchestral jazz and big band jazz and when its popularity as a dance music was common. With the transition to styles like Bebop and later, played by smaller numbers of musicians such as quartets and trios smaller clubs became practical.

Contemporary such venues may be found in the basement of larger residential buildings, or as simple storefront locations. They can be rather small compared to other music venues, reflecting the intimate atmosphere of jazz concerts and long term decline in interest in jazz.[1] Despite being called "clubs", these venues are usually not exclusive.


Before the birth of jazz, and therefore jazz clubs, opera houses and formal balls defined popular live music for most white Americans descended from European immigrants. It was the culture of community that fostered the unique jazz sound, and eventually, the unique jazz club experience. In the so-called birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, these communal events included brass band funerals, music for picnics in parks or ball games, Saturday night fish fries, Sunday camping along the shores of Lake Ponchartrain at Milneburg and Bucktown, red beans and rice banquettes on Mondays, and nightly dances at neighborhood halls all over town.[2] This long and deep commitment to music and dance, along with the mixing of musical traditions like spiritual music from the church, the blues carried into town by rural guitar slingers, the minstrel shows inspired by plantation life, the beat and cadence of military marching bands and the syncopation of the ragtime piano, led to the creation of a new way to listen to live music: jazz clubs.

Emergence of Jazz Clubs

In the jazz history books, cultural capitals like New Orleans, Chicago, Harlem, Kansas City, U Street in Washington D.C., and the Central Avenue zone of Los Angeles are traditionally cited as the key nurturing places of jazz. [3]

Popularity in the Jazz Age

Despite its growing popularity, not all who lived in the Jazz Age were keen on the sound of jazz music, and especially of jazz clubs. By the advent of the 20th century, campaigns to censor the "devil's music" started to appear, prohibiting when and where jazz clubs could be built. For example, a Cincinnati home for expectant mothers won an injunction to prevent construction of a neighboring theater where jazz will be played, convincing a court that the music is dangerous to fetuses. By the end of the 1920s, at least 60 communities across the nation enacted laws prohibiting jazz in public dance halls.[4]

Prohibition in 1920 fostered the emergence of the underground, gangster-run jazz clubs. These venues served alcohol, hired black musicians, and allowed whites, blacks and audiences of all social classes to mingle socially for the first time. [5] Although the underground jazz clubs encouraged the intermingling of races in the Jazz Age, there were other jazz clubs, such as the Cotton Club in New York, that were white-only.

Decline of the modern jazz club

By the 1940s, jazz music was on the decline, and so was the popularity of jazz clubs, but modern jazz music and jazz clubs are by no means dead. Well into the 1980s, the underground clubs where it is performed in these countries provide meeting places for political dissidents, however, attendance of these clubs is minuscule compared to the popularity of jazz clubs during the Jazz Age.

Notable Jazz Clubs

New Orleans

Known as the "birthplace of jazz," New Orleans is home to some of the oldest and most famous jazz clubs in the United States, [6] including:

Harlem, New York

  • Savoy Ballroom [7]
  • Minton's Playhouse [8]
  • Cotton Club [9]

Washington D.C. and U Street

  • Howard Theater [10]
  • Crystal Caverns [11]
  • Lincoln Theater [12]


  • The Beehive Lounge [13]
  • Mandel Hall [14]
  • Cadillac Bob's [15]
  • Club DeLisa [16]
  • Gerri's Palm Tavern [17]

See also


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Hentoff, Nat. "The Shape of Jazz That Was". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 12 November 2014. 

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