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New Book Schools on NYC Jazz Scene

Let’s face it: It’s not 1946 and 52nd Street ain’t exactly what it used to be. Nowadays, if you’re in New York City and you want to find good live jazz on a whim, it’s going to take a little work.

Sure, there’s the Blue Note, the Vanguard and Birdland, but this is New York City we’re talking about. Where are the hot spots? Where do the best jazz musicians in the world show up unexpectedly to rip through an after-hours set? Who has the best sound? Who has got the best liquor?

Respected journalist and pop culture critic Steve Dollar has the answers in spades: his Jazz Guide New York City is a comprehensive guide to all the jazz clubs in New York City, from Chelsea to Harlem, the Upper West Side to the Lower East, from Midtown to Tribeca. Dollar has you covered and he puts Time Out New York to shame.

The guidebook breaks the city down into its distinct sections and offers detailed and comprehensive descriptions for each and every jazz club in the Big Apple.

For example, his description of the Jazz Standard, located at 116 E. 27th St.:

“Oh the conundrum of the jazz supper club! When the music alone won’t make a venue successful, the owner often decides to impose a menu and a drink minimum on patrons. Intrusive waitrons, ill-mannered diners smacking and slurping, the piercing jangle of cutlery-everything exists to distract you from the performers. That’s the worst case scenario, of course … but never at the Jazz Standard, where the concept of pairing live jazz with what used to be called ‘fine dining’ actually works.”

Oh, the wry wit! Dollar even travels into jazz past to offer anecdotes on Sonny Rollins’ fabled tenure atop the Williamsburg Bridge and the fabled 52nd Street and Harlem jazz scenes. Some of the book’s highlights are the bittersweet reviews of venues that have gone to that great 52nd Street in the sky, like the intimate Smalls, which was located on 10th Street in the West Village.

If you’re heading to New York to check out some jazz we suggest you check out Jazz Guide New York City first. You can order it online at or by phone, call (212) 293-1643.

Originally Published