Are you ready to experience world-class jazz in Philadelphia?
Jazz is a uniquely American art form, as fearlessly innovative as the nation itself, and Philadelphia has been fertile soil for jazz for over 100 years. The city has served as a launching pad the careers of luminaries such as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Lee Morgan, Melody Gardot, Christian McBride, Grover Washington, Jr., and Sun Ra.
A Hotbed of Talent
Philadelphia continues to be a hotbed of established talent (Orrin Evans, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Terell Stafford) and a proving ground for exciting emerging artists (Laurin Talese, Ode to Omni, Luke Carlos O’Reilly, Lee Mo).
These talented musicians are part of a larger, citywide cultural renaissance in Philadelphia. If you’re looking for a world-class jazz destination, look no further than the city of Philadelphia.
Where to See Jazz in Philadelphia
Locals and visitors alike celebrate the sounds of jazz all across the city—in parks and on street corners, in clubs and churches, at museums and house concerts. Jazz Philadelphia believes that jazz is everywhere, and jazz is for everyone.
These invitation-only house salons are offered once or twice a month to audiences who are all about the music. Cameras, cell phones—even talking—are prohibited once the music starts. Concerts are in a modernist warehouse conversion that comfortably seats 85. A recent vintage 7-foot Steinway is a centerpiece of the high-quality offerings.
Chris’ Jazz Cafe
Chris’s Jazz Cafe has been one of Philadelphia’s must-see jazz venues for decades now. They provide a variety of music and present local and national artists year round in a full-service dining atmosphere with an upscale menu. There is a cover charge each night that goes directly to the band, and a $10 per person/per table minimum; student discounts are available with a valid I.D. They program music every night of the week except Sunday.
Better known as LaRose Jazz Club, this Germantown institution features live jazz performances, open stages, and a dining room and bar where guests can enjoy a night of food and beverages alongside great music. Call for schedules, or check their Facebook; they don’t maintain a website. Tony Williams and the Giants of Jazz take the stage every Wednesday.
South Jazz Club
Avenue of the Arts North
South Jazz Kitchen is one of the few spots in Philadelphia where you can show up nearly any night of the week to see live jazz—but they do take a break on Mondays. Most shows are two performances a night, and many of them feature top local, national, and international talent. They have an impressive food and beverage program that focuses on southern cuisine, and a carefully crafted, lush-but-comfortable space that includes a bar, dining room, and outside patio seating. They host a weekly jazz jam, and booking information is available directly on their site.
Philadelphia Clef Club of the Performing Arts
Avenue of the Arts South
The Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts is a cultural organization located on the Avenue of the Arts South. The center offers eight fully equipped music studios and, a 200 seat performance space. During performances, guest can go up to the bar and enjoy a beverage without having to leave the room, and the performance venue is also home to both renowned and emerging musicians, a youth jazz ensemble, and education and outreach programs that benefit the entire jazz community.
Venues that program jazz alongside other genres of music
Ardmore Music Hall
The Ardmore Music Hall has a state-of-the-art sound system, a generous dance space, multiple seating options and a low and intimate stage. Notable jazz artists who have performed there include Mike Stern, Stanley Clarke, and Marcus Miller; they book a fair amount of funk and R&B as well. The food program is limited, but they offer 20+ craft beers on draught and a balcony viewing area for larger events. The booking agent for the venue is Point Entertainment.
Boot & Saddle
Boot & Saddle offers a wide variety of local and national acts alongside area-sourced eats, all housed in a historic site on Broad Street in South Philadelphia. They offer a full-service bar and restaurant in the front and a black box performance space in the back. Booking contact information is available on their website site.
Bourbon & Branch
Bourbon & Branch is a boutique live music venue located in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood. Built for musicians, by musicians, Bourbon & Branch embodies a commitment to the arts—and that includes a great sound system and an actual green room for musicians stocked with beer and water. Booking information is available on their site. Performers such as Pete Hill, Ross Bellenoit, and Christopher Davis Shannon are examples of jazzy acts that have played there. Like many venues, they are open to proposed evenings of any kind of music as long as you can bring people in.
Connie’s Ric Rac
Connie’s Ric Rac plays host to a variety of entertainment, from burlesque circus shows or punk rock karaoke to a night of acoustic singer-songwriters. The no-frills bar doesn’t offer food, but there are plenty of options—it sits in the middle of the Italian Market. They offer comprehensive booking information on their site, and they are one of the only venues in town that still accepts physical press kits. They are a DIY space open to all genres, and in the past, they’ve hosted the Community College of Philadelphia’s jazz band as well as acts such as drummer Charlie Heim.
This modern-yet-rustic restaurant boasts a seasonal, locally-sourced menu, an extensive bar program, an urban garden, and great live music. Jazz is most of what they book, and they offer a jazz jam on Tuesdays from 7 to 11. It’s an expansive space on a block bustling with shops and restaurants in Northern Liberties, and booking information is available on their site.
Johnny Brenda’s is a bar, restaurant, and music venue located in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia that features local food, and an impressive beer list, and a tap wine system. Marco Benevento, the Big Horn Jazz Band, the Julian Lage Trio and many other jazz acts perform there on a regular basis. Up the steep stairs from their first-floor restaurant, you’ll find a sizable stage with both an open floor and a second-story balcony for viewing shows, as well as two bars to serve patrons. Local bands are definitely welcome as the main event or as support for touring musicians.
The Keswick has become one of the Central Atlantic states’ most active and diversified venues, presenting internationally-acclaimed performers geared to virtually every taste and interest. If you’re a local musician, look for national jazz acts coming through town and be in touch with their booker about being support. While it’s not an easy gig to get, they are open to emerging acts who might help bring in extra people.
After a renovation several years ago, Ortlieb’s installed a separate black box theater in the back where mostly local funk, jazz, folk, and rock acts perform. Patrons can expect to find no-frills burgers and burritos with a local beer program offered at the bar and at other limited seating. Like most venues, if approached with a bill, they are open to just about anything that will bring people through the doors.
La Peg/Fringe Arts
FringeArts offers hundreds of innovative programs throughout the year, including an experimental jazz series. Their still relatively new performance center on Delaware Avenue also houses La Peg, a full-service bar, and restaurant with a killer happy hour. If you’re putting together a jazz-related Fringe show, remember they offer opportunities to show work in development leading up to the festival, as well as free help in the form of marketing and promotion workshops.
The Painted Bride Art Center
As a multi-disciplinary arts presenter, the Bride collaborates with independent artists, supporting their creative process from inception to presentation. This support manifests in myriad ways, including identifying funding opportunities, cultivating strategic partnerships for audience development, and championing artists and their work to an international network of partners. They are home to the longest-running jazz series in the city and have partnered regularly with jazz presenter Ars Nova. Though they are selling their performance space they are fully committed to continuing to support innovative partnerships and artists.
Paris Bistro and Jazz Café
Paris Bistro and Jazz Café in Germantown features music by some of Pennsylvania and the surrounding states’ most talented musicians. The style of music is often, but not exclusively, jazz. They describe what they book as “‘straight-ahead’ jazz, the music of the Great American Songbook, and the music of the Jazz Era 1910’s -1930’s and Gypsy Jazz.” Most often they feature a trio or quartet with a vocalist, and their full schedule is listed on their website, which runs Wednesday to Sunday. Their full bistro menu is served in the Jazz Café, along with a robust wine list and fully stocked bar.
Center City Midtown Village
Time is located in the heart of the city and hosts music of all styles, with a heavy emphasis on jazz. Most happy hours, you’ll find a trio in the dining room corner, and a lively jam session takes place once a week. The large bar in the middle of the dining room also offers a great place to eat and see shows.
World Café Live
World Cafe Live music venue is located in University City, and it offers a smaller upstairs venue and a large downstairs venue, so it can accommodate a large range of shows. The sound quality is excellent and they book a combination of local and national artists. It’s also the home to AAA radio station WXPN.
Woodmere Art Museum
Chestnut Hill East
Celebrate music at Woodmere with Friday Night Jazz and Classical Saturdays. They offer audiences exceptional performers, an acoustically astounding space, and amazing works of art. Guests receive drinks and light refreshments with the purchase of a ticket.