Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New York Jazz, Sans Cover

Great jazz without a cover charge—what a concept. You will not find it in the major clubs, but many other venues in New York really do feature jazz artists with national reputations, on regular nights, without cover charges. Of course, they will still expect you to order a drink.

Let’s start with my good neighbor, guitarist Larry Corban. Every Tuesday night from 9:00-12:00, you can hear him as part of a great jazz guitar trio with Mike Heady on drums and Mike Noordzy on bass at Whiskey Town (29 E. 3rd St.). These guys obviously enjoy playing together. Their sets are relaxed and swinging, making this a great late evening hang. The people at Whiskey Town are friendly, the drinks are reasonable, and I have never had a problem finding a seat at the bar. Again, no cover.

When Eri Yamamoto is not literally touring the world, you can hear her every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 7:00-10:00 at Arthur’s Tavern (57 Grove Street). Arthur’s is not exactly a well kept secret. You might have to fight for a seat around the piano, but it is the effort, because Eri Yamamoto is a great musician and a prolific composer. You could hear a world premiere any given night. Most nights the crowd is split, with half listening raptly, and those in front yammering away (but remember—no music charge).

If you find yourself on the Upper Westside and want some steak with your music, check out Roth’s Steakhouse (680 Columbus Avenue). Every Thursday night starting at 8:30, a very funky jazz group including guitarist Bernard Grobman and drummer Cindy Blackman (who has played with just about everyone, including Jackie McLean and Lenny Kravitz) hold court. When I was there two weeks ago, there was a real Cannonball kind of thing going on. By New York standards, the hanger steak is pretty reasonable too.

You can still find venues in New York featuring world class jazz artists without a cover, but they often do not get the word out as well as they should. I have been to these three within the last few months, and have always enjoyed these regular featured performers. When in New York, consider patronizing them, but remember these are no cover gigs, so if a tip-jar comes around, do the right thing.