Guide to New Orleans, Louisiana

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

Donald Harrison, Big Chief
Kermit Ruffins
Irvin Mayfield at the Jazz Playhouse

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 that have nurtured several generations of great horn players, and in part 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 polyglot 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 overused 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 St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 949-0696

The aptly named Snug Harbor is a real gem. 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.

Vaughan’s Lounge
4229 Dauphin St.
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 St.
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 but 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 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 525-0200

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 St.
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 p.m.

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.

Apple Barrel
609 Frenchmen St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 949-9399

Blue Nile
532 Frenchmen St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 948-2583

D.B.A.
618 Frenchmen St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 942-3731

Old Point Bar
545 Patterson St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 364-0950

One-Eyed Jacks
615 Toulouse St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 569-8361

House of Blues
225 Decatur St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 310-4999

Spotted Cat Music Club
623 Frenchmen St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 943-3887

Tipitina’s Uptown
501 Napoleon Ave.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 895-8477

Maison
508 Frenchmen St.
New Orleans, LA

Howlin’ Wolf
907 S. Peters St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 522-WOLF

The Rusty Nail
1100 Constance St.
New Orleans, LA

Contemporary Arts Center
900 Camp St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 528-3805

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art
University of New Orleans
925 Camp St.
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

Radio Stations/Shows

WWOZ FM
1008 N. Peters St.
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 St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 586-1094

Mushroom Records
1037 Broadway St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 866-6065

Peaches Records
408 N. Peters St.
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.

Ellis Marsalis Center in Musicians’ Village

New Orleans Center for Creative Arts

Creative Arts High School program

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