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12 Places to Hear Incredible New Orleans Jazz

SmarterTravel

New Orleans is called the Birthplace of Jazz and renowned for cultivating an atmosphere where history-making artists like Jelly Roll Morton, Sweet Emma Barrett, and Louis Armstrong, and modern masters like Trombone Shorty and Kermit Ruffins thrive. The living art form of New Orleans jazz is constantly evolving, keeping the scene fresh and music-lovers engaged. Frenchmen Street is the hot spot for live music clubs, but jazz performers light up stages in every neighborhood.

The Top Places to Hear New Orleans Jazz

To help, here’s a list of twelve hot places locals love to hear live New Orleans jazz.

Preservation Hall

Preservation hall
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Louis Armstrong once said, “Preservation Hall. Now that’s where you’ll find all the greats.” For over 50 years, the beloved New Orleans music hall, in the heart of the French Quarter, has spotlighted the city’s brightest talents.

A collective of musicians come together nightly to perform traditional, acoustic jazz in the historic listening room. Sets run 45-minutes, with up to five shows per night. With a 100-person maximum, limited seating is available on wooden benches or floor cushions; the rest is standing room only. Purchase “Big Shot” seats in advance for guaranteed, premium seating and no waiting in line.

This isn’t a bar—no beverages are served, although you can bring your own in a plastic cup—so all ages are welcome.

Maple Leaf

Maple leaf
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This revered club, located Uptown in the Carrollton neighborhood, is all about great live music, every night, and jazz mingles on the roster with blues, funk, zydeco, and beyond. With no pretense and no frills, this dark, tin-tile-lined room has a stage on one end and a pulsing dance floor at its core. Don’t be shy when a local asks you to dance—getting in on the groove is the classic Maple Leaf experience. Cool your sweat on the sweet back patio, then get back in the mix.

Don’t miss an opportunity to catch Tuesday night sessions with local favorite Rebirth Jazz Band.

The Spotted Cat Music Club

The spotted cat music club
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Peek in the window of this Frenchmen Street favorite and you’ll immediately understand why locals and musicians love this spot. Intimate and unassuming, the barrier between artist and audience is non-existent. Even when the floor gets crowded, there’s always room to groove. There’s no reservations or cover charge, just show up and be prepared to buy drinks—cash only—and dance your jazz-loving heart out late into the night.

The Three Muses

The three muses
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Another Frenchmen Street favorite, here the guiding force – a.k.a. muses – is music, food, and spirits. This is a great spot for sharing small plates of cheeses or bruschetta and sipping craft cocktails (like the superlative Champagne Supernova), while listening to a chill New Orleans jazz club set. Reserve a table and relax into the friendly, low-key vibe.

d.b.a.

d.b.a.
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The roster at this Frenchmen Street haunt is heavy on brass bands and the atmosphere is sheer fun. The place gets crowded and there are no advance tickets, so arrive early. The first set usually begins around 7 p.m., followed by another at 10 p.m., and sometimes a late-night show. A large selection of beers on tap and an impressive roster of booze add to the draw of a night out enjoying New Orleans jazz.

Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

Snug harbor jazz bistro
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Plenty of history and tradition are nestled within this Frenchmen Street institution. For 30 years, greats including Marsalis, Neville, and Toussaint have shared their talents from this stage. Shows are general admission, so arrive early to snag balcony seats overlooking the players for one of two nightly sets.

No photography is allowed, encouraging you to live in the moment and focus solely on the music.

Tipitina’s

Tipitina’s
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The iconic Uptown venue, affectionately known as Tips, gained its name from a song by jazz great Professor Longhair, who frequently performed in the pre-Tips space. Other luminaries like Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, and Trombone Shorty have graced the stage, but the city’s rising stars of New Orleans jazz are also showcased.

The famous club is beloved for creating a non-profit foundation geared toward music education and developing young talent. That spirit translates into a feel-good energy for every show. Get your tickets in advance—this is an experience you don’t want to miss.

The Howlin’ Wolf Music Club

The howlin’ wolf music club
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This funky go-to spot in the Warehouse District has lured droves of music-lovers to the industrial zone since 1988. That pioneering spirit shines on the eclectic roster, where jazz mixes with groove, blues, and rock. Expect blistering long sets and hot, sweaty fun … and don’t miss catching a late-night show, where every grooving body, musicians included, is ready to jam.

There’s a staggering collection of local brews and killer bar food (with a NOLA-twist, of course). Order a crawfish pie and gator balls and get ready to howl at the moon.

Chickie Wah Wah

Chickie wah wah
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The atmospheric club with the playful name—named for a song by beloved NOLA-artist Bobby Marchan—is physically and spiritually located just off the beaten path, on upper Canal in Mid-City. This favorite pick among New Orleans jazz lovers is renowned for fostering local musicians, often featuring long-time artist residencies, and guaranteeing 100 percent of the evening’s cover charge (usually around $10) goes directly to performers.

The schedule varies but runs heavy on funk and brass. Check for afternoon and happy hour sets, which are always fun, and plan to hop a streetcar and arrive early to snag a table. Sets typically feature multiple artists, and the small room swells as the headliner’s set approaches.

Ellis Marsalis Center and Musician’s Village

Ellis marsalis center and musician’s village
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Take a break from the club scene and experience true New Orleans jazz performances with an educational focus in this state-of-the-art venue in the Ninth Ward. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, native sons Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr. developed the center to foster the city’s immense musical talent. Named for influential educator and pianist Ellis Marsalis, the space houses a 170-seat performance space, recording studios, and practice rooms.

Check the calendar for monthly performances in the Educators’ Series, where musicians who have shaped the city’s music scene are honored.

Le Bon Temp Roule

Le bon temp roule
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French for “let the good times roll,” this beloved neighborhood bar became a New Orleans jazz standard when Kermit Ruffins’ longtime residency drew music lovers from all over to this Uptown dive.

In a playful nod to its reputation as a talent incubator, there’s a small stage dubbed “House of Dues.” Plan your trip around catching a Thursday night set by The Soul Rebels, then come back Friday for the free oysters and neighborhood camaraderie.

Bacchanal Wine

Bacchanal wine
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This Bywater favorite is often called NOLA’s backyard party. And, what a backyard it is. Tables and chairs scattered in a classic New Orleans courtyard, trees draped with twinkly lights, sweet tunes drifting from the stage—it’s sheer New Orleans perfection.

This isn’t a reservations kind of place. Saunter in for a mid-afternoon set or plan your night around a show. Order a bottle of wine or bring your own (there’s a $20 corkage fee), and share small plates. Leave the kids with a sitter; this chill party is 21 and up.

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  • -Original reporting by Jess Simpson

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