Off-Beat: Valentine’s Day Edition

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Welcome to Off-Beat, Bwog’s column for jazz both on and off campus.  Our jazz correspondent Justin Vlasits will be focusing primarily on events that are โ€œoff the beaten path,โ€ trying to give a picture of the New York jazz scene without talking about the big names playing at expensive clubs like the Blue Note, Iridium and the Village Vanguard. 

Since my first column has fallen so close to Valentine’s Day, here are three great little clubs for your special evening. All are on the 1 line, have no cover, but at the same time have great music and food. 

Arthur’s Tavern โ€“ 57 Grove Street (1 to Christopher St.)

Arthur’s has been a continuously running club since 1937 and is one of the few places in the West Village that has maintained its integrity despite the waves of gentrification in the area (read: gay pride and Texas flags hang side-by-side above the bar). Like most of the smaller clubs in the city, you will be hearing primarily small combos – seasoned New York musicians playing standards. The space is small, but you will always find a seat next to the regulars. This is a great spot for an intimate, yet unpretentious evening.

Garage โ€“ 99 Seventh Avenue South (1 to Christopher St.)

Right across from Arthur’s Tavern, but the polar opposite in terms of ambiance, Garage is a big, trendy restaurant/bar that features live music every night. The musicians here tend to be younger, with many recent Julliard and MSM graduates, and there is a little bit more of a sense of humor about the place. You will be sharing the bar with suits and ties, and their seafood is fantastic (although not cheap). Come here if you like chrome, ultra-modern decorating as opposed to Arthur’s wood paneling. Both play great music and make for a delightful night. 

Cleopatra’s Needle โ€“ 2485 Broadway/92nd Street (1 to 96th St.)

If you are looking for a place that’s a little bit closer to home, you might want to try this Upper West Side restaurant. They try to do it all: with a pretty solid variety of Mediterranean food (although the baba ghanoush is a little suspect), a tiny sports bar in the corner (with requisite big-screen TV), and a hot jazz band filling up the space. Don’t be fooled by the candles; this Cleopatra’s Needle puts on none of the guises of a fancy restaurant – they just don’t have any overhead lighting. Come here for a more family restaurant feel and you will be impressed with the post-bop and modern jazz that fills your evening. 

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  1. anyonymous  

    cleopatra's needle is awful. awful food. bad service. no overhead lights (as mentioned) and bad bad bad bad bad jazz. don't go here - you WILL regret it.

  2. i liked  

    Cleopatra's needle when I went. It's pretty cheap, it's quick to get there, and you don't have to wait for a table. Yeah, there are probably better places, but I thought it was fine.

  3. Big Name  

    What's wrong with well-known jazz clubs? They're not even always all that expensive. Given how much it costs to go see a movie, it's hardly out of most students' reach to drop $20 at Blue Note. The reason venues like Village Vanguard and JALC are successful is that they have good jazz. No need to be so reductive about it.

  4. Aw,  

    you guys didn't put down Minton's, just minutes away in Harlem. Granted, not the *best* jazz in NY but it's still pretty damn good and Gillespie and Miles were basically discovered there.

  5. Gilad  

    Go to Cleo's to hear Columbia's own Kevin Hsieh on bass some Tuesdays and Saturdays. Otherwise, this is a lame post -- not one of these places is a real jazz club. (Arthur's used to be.) If you're going down to the Village, do yourself a favor and go to Smalls. (W 10th off 7th ave.) A little pricier but you'll hear some great music, with a great vibe.

    • Kevin  

      As someone who is constantly going to clubs to hear great music, I can say that only one of these 3 clubs has consistently good music and a good vibe, Cleo's. I'm not saying this because I play there, but because it's one of the few places I enjoy hanging out. Garage is too loud with people at the bar and doesn't have enough big names rolling through. Arthur's hasn't come up on the radar for a while.

      Cleo's on the other hand is the stomping grounds of the great Dan Nimmer (pianist for the LCJO) and the great Eric Lewis (wynton's pianist for a while). If you're lucky you can hear James Carter, Frank Wess, Marcus Strickland, and many other greats come in to test their chops with younger players.

      I agree with Gilad's recommendation of Small's. Though the cover charge is 20 dollars, you do get a drink and it's a great place to take a date and cuddle while listening to some of the best jazz in the world. After 12:30, the jam session begins and admission is free, but the good music gets considerably less consistent.

      Some other cheaper options that are overlooked (that still are on the 1 train) are 55 Bar, Sweet Rhythm, and Dizzy's (After Hours).

  6. ummm...

    Beating off: Valentine's Day Edition.

    am I the only one who noticed this?

  7. Kevin  

    can't believe i forgot the

    Fat Cat - more of a party atmosphere. 5 dollar cover. Great bar, and pingpong, billiards, shuffleboard, chess, checkers. as well as some great music

  8. Smalls  

    is cozy and wonderful and a great place to get a date

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