The Coolest Jazz Bars In Washington, D.C.

© James Petts/Flickr
© James Petts/Flickr
Photo of Kate McMahon
23 September 2016

The best way to listen to jazz is live. But where do you go? Washington, D.C. was a jazz hot spot during the genre’s heyday, but many famed jazz bars have closed within the last decade. Here are the best ones that remain; give them your patronage to keep the music alive and the saxophones still singing.

Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club

Building, Theater
Map View
This lavish blues and jazz bar seats 500. Given its upscale location in downtown Bethesda, it’s no surprise that owners spared little expense with the elegant décor and state of the art sound system. Once an old movie theatre, which was a staple of the Bethesda arts community, the building was recently converted into an elegant jazz club that gives homage to its past cultural legacy. Club owner Rick Brown recalls going to see movies at the theater as a child, and he wanted to breathe new life into the building. And jazz brings vitality.

Blues Alley

Situated in a hidden alley of downtown Georgetown, Blues Alley delivers a little bit of edge and culture to an area dominated by tourists traps and preppy bars. The classic jazz club, operating since 1965, is modeled after the 1920s and 1930s jazz era, which is fitting as the iconic Ella Fitzgerald starred on stage here. The club boasts that they host live jazz acts 360 days a year here. The mouth-watering food menu includes baked brie, a seafood gumbo cup, and jambalaya.

Eighteenth Street Lounge

This is absolutely not your traditional jazz venue; it’s really more of a nightclub that often hosts awesome jazz shows. The club offers a stylish, designated jazz bar that emerged straight out of a speak-easy, but there might be an electronic DJ with rowdy drunk millennials on the floors above, so prepare accordingly. They’re known for their strict door policies, dress-codes, and bit of a pretentious vibe – but continue to host classic national acts. Just maybe go on a weekday.

1212 18th St NW, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 466-3922

Twins Jazz

The exterior may look more like a pizzeria than a jazz-club, but the musicians are always top-tier. It’s less decadent and luxurious than other DC jazz clubs; the laid back digs make Twins Jazz more authentically U street, as opposed to another upscale establishment taking root in the midst of gentrification. This Ethiopian jazz club/restaurant can get a little pricey with a $10 cover and minimum food/drink charge (keep in mind the drinks are renowned for their strength), but someone needs to pay the bills as rents keeps rising…

1344 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009, (202) 234-0072

Trumpet! New semester. Funky jazz

A photo posted by Brandon Sims (@brandonispeace) on

Pour One Out: Bohemian Caverns

Established in 1926, Bohemian Caverns lived through jazz’s hey-day, and it was the oldest jazz club in the District – until unexpectedly closing this past march. The joint was a staple on U Street’s ‘Black Broadway,’ and was frequented by Duke Ellington. The former owners faulted the neighborhood’s changing demographics to ‘majority whites’ who expressed little interest in jazz.

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