If you live in Rockaway and love jazz, you have some great options in Manhattan. A ferry ride will get you to several potential destinations in the city. Let’s take a look at a few.
The Jazz Standard club is on East 27th Street, and is downstairs from the barbeque restaurant, Blue Smoke. The venue is cozy, and tickets are relatively inexpensive. The mermaid and I saw the Mingus Big Band there one night and it was only $30 per ticket. Dinner is available, and is pretty good and the cocktail drink menu is extensive, but honestly, that’s where they make their money. The Big Mingus Band is a 14-person jazz ensemble playing Charlie Mingus compositions. Mingus was a bassist in the 50s and 60s. He played with all the jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Louis Armstrong. This is a cool venue and if you are going, I would recommend the Mingus Big Band.
The Blue Note on West 3rd Street is also a cozy place, the tables are close together, and the tickets can be more expensive. But they get big name acts that you can see and hear very close up. The food is good, drinks more modestly priced, and the club is in the Village and great to walk around both before and after a show. If you like more modern twists on jazz, this is the place for you, because they book mainstream acts from today, and many times will include fusion type jazz. A solid choice.
If you are ok with heading up to Midtown, then I would recommend Birdland on 44th Street. This venue has both an upstairs and downstairs stage. They book a wider variety of acts here including big bands, jazz singers and pianists, and themed acts, like the Django Reinhardt Festival. The tickets are affordable here, the food good, and drinks reasonable. My preference is the upstairs stage because the seating is arranged in a tiered way that ensures a great line of sight wherever you sit. Of course, Birdland is named after Charlie Parker, whose nickname was Bird.
On West 60th Street in the Time Warner Center is the Rose Theater where Wynton Marsalis' Jazz at Lincoln Center venue is. This is a larger venue then any of the above, more expensive in every way, but if you are able to catch Wynton Marsalis, you are in for a special treat. This type of jazz is more sophisticated, less gritty than the downtown jazz of the 1940s and 50s.
If you take the ferry in for one of these shows, it makes sense to take an Uber or Lyft back to Rockaway. It might cost about $60, but if you consider that it cost only $2.75 to get in, then the average cost is about $30 to get in and out, without worrying about having more than one or two drinks and driving home.
If you would rather stay in Rockaway, there are choices here too. Thai Rock, although mostly a rock venue, books jazz bands too, sometimes on Sundays. And in the back of Whit’s, there is a venue known as Rustwoods, where you can get Whit’s food, bring your own drinks, and catch one of the several Mike Severino jazz ensembles that play there all summer.
Jazz, like the blues, is an American art form invented and perfected here in our home country. It grew out of the Big Band era when several artists decided to go to smaller groups and experiment with the art form. The big names are Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Ask Alexa to play some for you, you just might like it.