Yes, Jazz is Cool: A Josh Jacobson Insider Guide to the NYC Scene

 

In Europe, jazz has never stopped being a thing. Hit some of the trendiest spots in Paris, Prague or Amsterdam, and you’re likely to come across cool, contemporary, multi-culti rejuvenations of the admittedly loosely defined genre.

But one of its most fervent young advocates is Brooklyn singer-pianist Josh Jacobson. He refers to his own music as “future soul” – but the influence of jazz on his work is immediately obvious. Indeed, his new EP, First Light, will be out September 29 via Joshua Tree Records – and tracks like “Tethered,” with its alluring grooves and lush atmospherics, as well as “Fence,” which showcases his soulful falsetto and penchant for sensual romanticism, prove him to be a songwriter who can easily cross complexity and raw emotion, tradition and modernity.

“Jazz is still actively evolving,” he insists, “with the essence of improvisation and instrumental musicianship continuing to fuel much of the modern music I love most. And in New York, more than any other city in the world, jazz is still very much alive – both in its traditional and contemporary incarnations.”

To fete the release, he’ll be appearing live at Schubas in Chicago October 5, NYC’s Mercury Lounge on the 7th, and LA’s Hotel Cafe on the 14th. In the meantime, we asked him to take us through some of his fave places for listening, loving and living jazz in New York.

 

 

 

Smalls

A true musician’s hang. Instead of the dinner tables that fill most jazz clubs, the main area of this basement spot is filled with rows of benches, making it clear that the music is the main attraction here (rather than just an elegant backdrop for a dinner date). There’s a jam session here every night after the late set, and tons of amazing players come through. It doesn’t get going until around 2am, so I’ve had quite a few late ones here. The cover price also gets you into sister venue Mezzrow around the corner.

Village Vanguard

Generally viewed as the best jazz club in the world. From Bill Evans to Brad Mehldau, there are too many amazing “Live at the Village Vanguard” albums to count – and this venue is about as historic as it gets. It’s pricey ($35 cover plus a drink minimum) and does get a fair amount of tourist traffic; but honestly it’s worth it.

 

 

Cornelia Street Cafe

I love the feel of this long, narrow basement venue. Not sure why, but for me it just seems to embody the overall atmosphere of the jazz scene in the Village.

Café Vivaldi

I was here my first night after moving to New York. There’s a lovely grand piano and one of my friends from way back was playing a trio set; so I came alone to check it out and instantly fell in love with the place. It’s not really a “jazz club” per se, but it’s one of many smaller spots in the city – The Wayland is another favorite – that host up-and-coming jazz musicians who are often surprisingly amazing.

 

 

The Owl

A beautiful and tiny venue, this room reminds me of Rockwood. They book a lot of great jazz and classical musicians here.

Rockwood Music Hall

My favorite music venue in New York. There is quite a bit of jazz here, but also every other kind of music imaginable; and what ties it all together is an insanely high level of musicianship. It’s common to spot band members from SNL playing with their side projects here. With three stages (each with its own grand piano) and two additional bars, you can just stumble upon something amazing. The rooms are small but all have great sound and the vibe is always on point. Make sure to check out The After Party, the third Monday of each month.

 

 

Silvana

Books jazz groups early in the evening and then the sound moves into more dance-oriented world and soul music as the night progresses. Upstairs is a cafe and the food is fantastic, as well.

Smoke

A great choice for live jazz uptown. Their bookings lean toward the vocal jazz side of things, but there’s always a diverse range of artists to check out here.

 

 

Barbés

Perhaps more of a bar than a true jazz club. But I like this spot quite a bit, and it’s a great place to see live jazz or join a jam session in Brooklyn – Park Slope, to be specific.

National Sawdust

A “new music” venue with diverse bookings in the realm of jazz, classical and modern experimental music. It’s located right next to Music Hall of Williamsburg, and the geometric design and sound of the performance space is incredibly beautiful.
 

 

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