New Orleans, Louisiana

Rundown of the local jazz and music scene in the Crescent City

Donald Harrison, Big Chief
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Kermit Ruffins
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Irvin Mayfield at the Jazz Playhouse
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New Orleans is always talked about as the birthplace of jazz, but it’s occasionally dismissed as a city without a contemporary jazz scene. This is very much a myth. New Orleans does have a very diverse music scene with nearly every style of roots music represented by numerous bands and artists. However, jazz looms large on the scene, thanks in part to the brass bands which have nurtured several generations of great horn players, and also thanks to the multi-generational aspects of the scene. The Marsalis family may be the most famous New Orleans jazz family but there are many others including the Andrews, Batiste, Jordan, Payton and Harrison families.

The HBO television series Treme has done wonders to acquaint non-residents with the great polyglot of a music scene in New Orleans. That show demonstrated how a trombone player like the one played by actor Wendell Pierce might play trad jazz, brass band, funk, rock and modern jazz gigs, perhaps all in one day. Unlike many cities in the U.S., where accomplished jazz musicians inevitably leave town to go to New York City, New Orleans manages to keep its talents close to home, all to the benefit of the locals as well as tourists who come to town for Jazz Fest, Mardi Gras or any occasion whatsoever to catch jazz in all its diversity and glory.

As you can see from the list below, there are many clubs featuring live jazz on a regular or semi-regular basis. We did not include many clubs which feature non-jazz styles of music, though in New Orleans such distinctions can be hazy, since the music is often, if you will excuse the over-used metaphor, a spicy gumbo. Jazz is also seen on the streets, particularly in the form of brass bands. Indeed, jazz simply seems to be in the air in the Crescent City.

Clubs/Venues

Snug Harbor

626 Frenchmen Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 949-0696

The aptly-named Snug Harbor is a real gem as far as jazz nightclubs. The backroom which hosts the music is set up purely for listening only with seating for about 50 in front of the stage and another 30-40 above in the balcony that covers 3/4 of the room. The sound is excellent for acoustic jazz. There’s a noisy bar area in the front part of the club, but the din somehow doesn’t leak into the listening room. The best in local and national jazz artists perform here, including Ellis Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Germaine Bazzle, Donald Harrison and other luminaries of the New Orleans jazz scene. Snug, as it’s called by locals, is ably managed by Jason Patterson, one of the most respected club owners in the country.

Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse

300 Bourbon Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 553-2299

Jazz is back on Bourbon Street, thanks to trumpeter Irvin Mayfield’s venue nestled in the Sonesta Hotel. Mayfield often performs there with his group, but other fine local jazz players are featured as well. The atmosphere is decidedly more classy and sophisticated than the usual Bourbon Street dive.

Vaughan’s Lounge

4229 Dauphin Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 947-5562

This small club has become famous thanks to the powerful presence of trumpeter/bandleader/BBQ cook/bon vivant Kermit Ruffins, who holds forth with his Barbecue Swingers here most Thursday nights, at least when he’s not traveling around the country. The Treme series filmed some memorable scenes there including the one where Elvis Costello drops in to catch Ruffins’ set.

Preservation Hall

726 St. Peter Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 522-2841

This legendary venue has been hosting traditional New Orleans jazz for over 40 years. Originally an art gallery that hosted jam sessions, the building eventually passed into the hands of transplanted Philadelphians and dedicated jazz fans Allan and Sandra Jaffe, who not only created a performing home for many of the original players of New Orleans jazz, they also sent the musicians out into the world for concerts as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. In recent years, son Ben Jaffe has kept the flame alive and developed collaborations with artists as diverse as My Morning Jacket and Del McCoury. But the venue is largely the same as it was back in the 60s-a modest room with no real stage and lighting, but featuring many of the greatest players of the genre, including Don Vappie, Leroy Jones and Frank Demond. Preservation Hall is a living testament to the traditions of New Orleans music.

Palm Court Jazz Cafe

1204 Decautur St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 525-0200

Irvin Mayfield’s I Club in the JW Marriott

614 Canal Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 525-6500

Irvin Mayfield’s newest venture is host to a wide range of music.

Davenport Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton

New Orleans, LA

(504) 524-1331

Jeremy Davenport can be found in the Davenport Lounge in the Ritz-Carlton hotel on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays

Maple Leaf Bar

8316 Oak Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 866-9359

Funk, Blues, Jazz with Papa Grows Funk on Mondays, Rebirth Brass Band on Tuesdays, The Trio feat. Johnny Vidacovich on Thursdays

Bullet’s Sports Bar

2441 A.P. Tureaud St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 948-4003

Featuring Kermit Ruffins every Tuesday at 6:30 pm.

Balcony Music Club

1331 Decatur St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 599-7770

Sweet Lorraine’s

1931 St. Claude St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 945-9564

Vaso

500 Frenchmen St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 272-0929

This Frenchmen Street club has been hosting the Rebirth Brass Band on Wednesday nights.

More Venues:

Apple Barrel

609 Frenchmen St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 949-9399

Blue Nile

532 Frenchmen Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 948-2583

D.B.A.

618 Frenchmen Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 942-3731

Old Point Bar

545 Patterson Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 364-0950

One-Eyed Jacks

615 Toulouse Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 569-8361

House of Blues

225 Decatur Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 310-4999

Spotted Cat Music Club

623 Frenchmen St.

New Orleans, LA

(504) 943-3887

Tipitina’s Uptown

501 Napoleon Avenue

New Orleans, LA

(504) 895-8477

Maison

508 Frenchmen Street

New Orleans, LA

Howlin’ Wolf

907 S. Peters

New Orleans, LA

(504) 522-WOLF

The Rusty Nail

1100 Constance Street

New Orleans, LA

Contemporary Arts Center

900 Camp Street

New Orleans, LA

(504)528-3805

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art

University of New Orleans

925 Camp Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 539-9600

Regular concert series at the museum

Festivals/Special Events

French Quarter Festival

Held in mid-April

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Fairgrounds Race Course in New Orleans, LA

Held in late April and early May

Satchmo Summerfest

Historic French Quarter in New Orleans, LA

Held in early August

(504) 522-5730

Crescent City BBQ & Blues Fest

Lafayette Square Park in New Orleans

Held in mid-October

The Voodoo Experience

City Park in New Orleans

Held in late October

Treme Creole Gumbo Fest

Treme neighborhood of New Orleans

Held in early December

Wednesdays at the Square

Radio Stations/Shows

WWOZ FM

1008 N. Peters Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 568-1239

Legendary public radio station known for its affinity for the New Orleans music community.

WWNO 89.9 FM

University of New Orleans

New Orleans, LA

(504) 280-7000

NPR station programs a variety of classical, talk, news, and some jazz.

Record Stores, etc.

Louisiana Music Factory

210 Decatur Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 586-1094

Euclid Records

3401 Chartres St

New Orleans, LA

(504) 947-4348

Mushroom Records

1037 Broadway Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 866-6065

Odyssey Records

1012 Canal Street

New Orleans, LA

(504) 523-3506

Peaches Records

408 N. Peters Street New Orleans, LA 70130

(504) 282-3322

Education Programs

New Orleans Traditional Jazz Camp

Held in early August

Bourbon Orleans Hotel in New Orleans, LA

(504) 895-0037

University of New Orleans

Department of Music

New Orleans, LA

Loyola University, New Orleans

6363 St. Charles Avenue

New Orleans, LA

The Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp

Entering its 18th year, this program provides a 3-week intensive music program each summer to about 100 students ranging from ages 10 to 21.

NOJI (New Orleans Jazz Institute) Saturday Music School

The University of New Orleans and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra provide this Saturday music school.

Ellis Marsalis Center in Musicians’ Village

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts

Creative Arts High School program

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Let us know by a Comment below if we have omitted any important venues, programs or outlets for jazz in this region.

Information initially compiled by Lee Mergner in November 2011, with assistance from Mark Samuels of Basin Street Records.