NYCMecca for Live Jazz, Yesterday and Today!
If you’re a enthusiast, aficionado, or whatever you want to call yourself, you know that there’s nothing like live jazz in New York City. From the 1900s to the present, the city is rich in history and venues. From swing to bebop, the city was and still is covered up with the live jazz sound that has earned it notoriety worldwide.
Mention 52nd street to a live jazz lover and he’ll say, “I’ve been there and I’m going back” or “I’ve never been, but I’m gonna see it before I die.”
This area, from prohibition through the end of World World II, was a hotbed of live jazz club activity. Between Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue on 52nd street, there was an abundance of live jazz clubs that kept a lively beat going, often, until 5:00 in the morning.
Being close to Broadway, the nightclub scene, and a CBS studio, musicians who played for pay earlier in the evening, played for themselves on 52nd street.
From 1930 and into the early 1950s, the “Swing Street”, as it became known, hosted many jazz greatsMiles Davis, Dizzy, Gillespie, Charlie Parker Louis Prima, Billie Holiday, Fats Waller and many more. It’s from this street that the bebop tune called “52nd Street Theme” by Thelonious Monk became a live jazz standard.
In 1968 the last of the legendary live jazz clubs on the “Swing Street” closed its doors. The street today has banks and shops, and bears little of its live jazz history.
But live jazz in New York merely moved away from 52nd street and took up residence elsewhere, one club in particular being a major extension of the yesteryears.
From its beginnings in 1981, Blue Note soon claimed title to being one of the top live jazz clubs in the world and a vibrant part of Greenwich Village. To owner Danny Bensusan, somebody had to create a live jazz club that would pay homage to the past and respect present-day artists. It wasn’t long before musicians that played 52nd street earlier started calling Blue Note home. Names like Oscar Peterson, Sarah Vaughn, and Lionel Hampton were frequent players at this new venue.
Besides preserving the history of live jazz clubs, Blue Note has become a place where progression and innovationthe underpinings of jazzhave flourished and are practiced and encouraged on a nightly basis.
The main acts are always a hot drawChick Corea, Joe Lovano, Chris Botti, John Scofieldbut Blue Note promotes a Monday Night Series and a bi-weekly Late Night Groove Series to introduce New York’s up-and-coming live jazz, hip-hop, and R&B artists. Being able to perform in this type of venue has the potential to jump-start any live jazz career.
As the years have passed, Blue Note has developed into an economic racehorse, attracting jazz fans worldwide. There’s not a week goes by that the media doesn’t heap gushing reviews on this live jazz club.
The surprise happening has become commonplace at Blue Note. It’s not unusual at all to see the likes of Tony Bennett, Liza Minelli, Stevie Wonder, and Quincy Jones in the audience. Suddenly, the audience is demanding that these icons go onstage to sit in for a set. Musical freedom and an array of diverse stars night after night…what a treat for the fans.
Blue Note is one of many post-52nd Street era live jazz clubs. Along with other venues like The Village Vanguard and Birdland, these clubs continue to perform live jazz at its finest and faithfully carry the torch for jazz into the 21st century.