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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.
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.
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.
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…
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.