All That Jazz in Midtown East
For those whose perfect evening entails listening to jazz while sipping a beverage or grabbing a bite, Midtown East promises plenty of idyllic nights. The venues range from sophisticated clubs to a subterranean Japanese joint and a Bavarian-style beer hall.
712 Third Avenue (at 45th Street)
A bier flight at Bierhause. Image: Bierhaus NYC/Yelp
With its rows of communal wood tables, Hofbräu beers on tap, and menu offering a variety of wursts and schnitzels, Bierhaus seems more like a place to hear polka music than jazz. While the Polka Brothers do play on Tuesday evenings, live jazz can be heard other nights. The Monday evening Jazz Haus features a different jazz or swing band each week, accompanied by swing dancers and burlesque performances, in keeping with the spirit of 1930s German cabarets. Double Down, which plays both classics and modern tunes with a swing sensibility, takes the stage every third Thursday. And to end your weekend on the right note, the Jeff DiMaio Jazz Trio plays on Sundays beginning at 5 p.m.
212 East 52nd Street (between Second and Third Avenues)
Club Bonafide takes its name not only from Grammy-winning jazz bassist Richard Bona, who opened the venue with restaurateur Laurent Dantonio, but also from the idea of creating a genuine jazz club that harks back to the mid-20th century, when 52nd Street had so many music venues it inspired “52nd Street Theme” by Thelonious Monk. Upcoming shows include Emilie Surtees singing the music of Etta James, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone (September 12, 19, and 26), Cameroonian vocalist Kaïssa (September 27), jazz-funk-Latin fusion band Moth to Flame (October 4), and the global-infused beats of Jim Funnell’s Word Out (October 10). In addition to a full bar, the club offers small plates including bruschetta, paninis, and a cheese board.
Nine East 37th Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues)
Like Club Bonafide, Fine & Rare recalls an earlier, arguably more sophisticated New York. You can sup on raw oysters and porterhouse steak while ensconced in curved, tufted leather banquettes or sip martinis and Scotch at a gleaming wood bar beneath glittering Deco-inspired lighting. And there is live jazz every night of the week and at weekend brunch as well. The Kate Curran Trio, Miss Maybell & the Jazz Age Artistes, and the Adam Lomeo Trio are among those who have recently taken the stage.
66 Park Avenue (at East 38th Street)
Sunday jazz brunch, featuring the Tony Middleton Trio and a buffet replete with fresh-baked artisanal breads, smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, muffins, pastries, Bloody Marys, mimosas, and much more, is only one specialty of Jazz at Kitano. Located in the Kitano Hotel, the restaurant also hosts Monday night jam sessions, the Emerging Artists Series on Tuesday evenings, and established acts Wednesday through Saturday nights. Upcoming performers include the Ayako Shirasaki Trio on September 18, the Judy Wexler Quartet on September 20, and the Mike DiRubbo Quintet on September 27 and 28. The eclectic dinner menu ecompasses sushi, skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, Angus burgers, and seafood fettuccine—something for just about every jazz aficionado.
116 East 27th Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues)
One of the city’s larger jazz clubs, Jazz Standard hosts at the front of the dining room’s rows of candlelit tables every night. Upcoming shows include the Houston Person Quartet (September 19-22), the Joey DeFrancesco Trio (September 26-29), and Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy (October 8 and 9). Monday evenings, aka Mingus Mondays, are dedicated to bands that pay homage to jazz legend Charles Mingus. While the music is the prime reason to attend, the Southern cuisine is reason enough to come with an appetite: Smoked chicken wings, baby back ribs, buttermilk drop biscuits, and sweet-potato biscuit bread pudding, washed down with a whiskey cocktail or a craft beer, are the perfect accompaniment to the music.
293 East 53rd Street (between Second and Third Avenues)
Something of a well-kept secret, Tomi Jazz is a bolthole beneath a barbershop. Live ensembles perform every night in the cozy, candlelit spot: the Shu Odamura Trio, the Yatsumi Murakami Quartet, and the Paul Lee Trio were among those who recently played here. Just as many of the musicians are Japanese, so is the menu, but you will not find the expected sushi. Instead you can feast on the likes of vinegar-marinated jellyfish, fried oysters, fried rice with mustard-leaf pickles and shrimp, and sautéed udon noodles, complemented with sake or a lychee martini.