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New York’s Jazz Standard Will Not Reopen

After more than 20 years, the popular club falls victim to the COVID-19 lockdown but will retain its online presence

The Jazz Standard
The Jazz Standard

The Jazz Standard, the popular jazz club in Manhattan’s Flatiron District, will close permanently, according to a message sent by club management to its email list on December 2.

Open since 1997, the Jazz Standard has since 2002 partnered with the barbecue restaurant Blue Smoke—popular as a standalone eatery, as well as serving the club’s clientele—at a two-story space on East 27th Street. Blue Smoke has occupied the ground floor, with the club in the basement. Both businesses have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic; neither will reopen.

“We have explored every avenue to arrive at a different outcome, but due to the pandemic and months without revenue—as well as a lengthy rent negotiation that has come to a standstill—we’ve reached the disappointing conclusion that there is no alternative,” the club’s staff wrote in its Dec. 2 email. “The current situation surrounding the pandemic, including the regulations for restaurants and live music[,] make it impossible to maintain our quality and continue to ‘set the standard.’” 

The Jazz Standard has long been as acclaimed as it was popular; the New York City Jazz Record named it the city’s “venue of the year” in 2017. Its house bands were the tripartite Charles Mingus repertory project of the Mingus Big Band, Mingus Dynasty, and Mingus Orchestra (which alternated Monday nights there). Other frequent performers at the club included pianist Fred Hersch and the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, both of whom recorded live albums there; however, nearly every major New York jazz artist at one time or another performed at the Jazz Standard.

The staff stresses, however, that this closure does not completely wipe the Standard off the jazz map. It will continue hosting its current series of artist interviews and livestreaming performances, including a Facebook Live series it has been producing in partnership with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. “Although we are devastated by the closure,” said the club’s email message, “we are optimistic about the future and look forward to writing the next chapter of Jazz Standard.”