Whatever your musical tastes, you will likely find a venue in Kips Bay, Murray Hill, or Midtown East offering live music to satisfy them. You could probably head out to a different show every night of the week and never hear the same type of music twice. Below is just a sampling of the rhythmic pleasures that await.
712 Third Avenue (between 44th and 45th Streets)
“It’s Oktoberfest all year long” is the motto of this German-themed bar and restaurant, and apparently that means live polka music—including polka versions of classic rock and pop songs—every Tuesday night. Monday evenings are devoted to Jazz Haus, with jazz and swing bands accompanied by burlesque performances and swing dancers; an 11-piece contemporary big band, Joe Benjamin & a Mighty Handful, is in residence on Wednesday nights.
212 East 52nd Street (between Second and Third Avenues)
In the heyday of the jazz era, Manhattan’s 52nd Street was known as Swing Street; Thelonious Monk even wrote an ode to it, “52nd Street Theme,” in 1944. Club Bonafide is another tribute to those days, a nightclub featuring shows by contemporary jazz talents from around the world, ranging from intimate trios to 18-piece ensembles such as Joe Gallant & the Illuminati Orchestra.
44 East 32nd Street (between Park and Madison Avenues)
With seating for 240 and standing room for 450, the Cutting Room is just the right size for shows by the likes of former Kiss drummer Peter Criss, guitar virtuoso Albert Lee, and ‘60s troubadour Donovan, who are among the more recent artists to play here. Tributes to artists as varied as the Grateful Dead, Frank Sinatra, Prince, Amy Winehouse, and Gene Clark have also been popular draws. It’s not all rock and pop, however; standup comedian Rajiv Satyal, Hawaiian vocalist and ukulele player Paula Fuga, and big band Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses are among the acts booked for this summer.
66 Park Avenue (between 37th and 38th Streets)
If a Sunday jazz brunch is a weekend must, head over to this bijou club located in the Kitano Hotel, where every Sunday from noon to 2 p.m. you can indulge in a lavish buffet while listening to vocalist Tony Middleton and his band. The club also features live music most evenings, with a variety of bands playing Wednesday through Saturday nights, open jam sessions on Monday evenings, and the Young Pianist Showcase on Tuesday nights. There’s no stage; the musicians set up at one end of the dining area, so that the nearest tables are mere feet away.
The intimate Jazz at Kitano. [Image: Jeff Dunn/Flickr]
116 East 27th Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues)
Legendary pianist Tommy Flanagan opened the Jazz Standard in 1999, and the caliber of musicians that have played this supper club has remained exceptional. In June alone the Jazz Standard hosted, among others, the Mingus Big Band, living legend and organist supreme Dr. Lonnie Smith, and guitarist David Gilmore, who recorded a live album at the club in 2012. If the music is not enticement enough, the Southern-influenced food will be: think dry-rubbed smoked chicken with mac-and-cheese, baby back ribs, collard greens, and buttermilk biscuits.
Saxophone master Houston Person at the Jazz Standard. [Image: Ethan Prater/Flickr]
519 Second Avenue (at 29th Street)
In some ways Paddy Reilly’s is a quintessential Irish pub: Guinness on tap, Magners cider, Jameson and Paddy among the whiskeys available. But the eclecticism of its nightly live music offerings sets it apart. Bluegrass bands take the stage Sunday and Monday evenings; Tuesday and Thursday evenings are dedicated to traditional Irish music; the Prodigals, an Irish-American band that dubs its music “jig punk,” plays Friday nights. Another New York Celtic band, the Raging Hornpipes, plays on Saturday nights after the singer-songwriter open-mic session, and Wednesdays is another open-mic night, for all genres of music.
619 Lexington Ave (at 54th Street)
A Lutheran church may seem an unlikely venue for enjoying a jazz concert, but Saint Peter’s is known as “the jazz church” for good reason. In the 1960s, to accommodate jazz musicians who found it tough to make Sunday morning services after gigging late on Saturday nights, Pastor John Garcia Gensel instituted Jazz Vespers, adding music to the 5 p.m. services to appeal to this particular audience. John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk were among the attendants who played at as well as attended the services, and the estate of Billy Strayhorn donated his Steinway piano to the church, where it is still used. Beyond vespers, Saint Peter’s co-hosts, with the Midtown Arts Common, jazz concerts every Wednesday at 1 p.m. in its sanctuary. And throughout the summer it co-hosts Thursday lunchtime concerts at the outdoor plaza alongside the church.