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The Best Clubs for Live Jazz Music in Los Angeles

Catalina, Jazz Music, Live Jazz, Ventura Blvd

As a student of and lover of jazz music, it has become a regular hobby of mine to make the circuit of many of the spots to see live jazz here in the City of Angels. I tend to shy away from places like the Disney Center, as I feel live jazz music should be seen in an intimate setting.

Jazz music is not just the proper, suit-and-tie “Great American Art Form” public access television would have us believe. Living in Los Angeles as a student of jazz music, I am always on the lookout for neat new places to go hear live jazz.

The quality of musicianship you will find has a good variety, but in the small club setting, a jazz club or restaurant, or even a coffee bar with live music, is a great place to take a date or just sit and appreciate this wonderful, ever evolving art form.

Here are some of my favorites from my own travels.

The Downbeat Café
1202 N Alvarado St
Los Angeles, CA 90026

The Downbeat is a little-known coffee house and restaurant in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, located at Alvarado St. and Sunset Blvd. As far as I know they only have live music one night per week, Wednesdays, when the excellent house group “The Downbeats” does their thing.

However, it is always a great place to go and have a cup of coffee with the silly hipsters, listen to some good jazz over the sound system, and enjoy some of their legendary chocolate croissant bread pudding, or peanut butter sandwich cookies.

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The World Stage
4344 Degnan Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90008

The World Stage was the brainchild of legendary jazz drummer Billy Higgins. I was first turned on to this friendly spot, in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles, when I took musical improvisation courses with Higgins’ son, Dave Higgins, at Pasadena City College.

The World Stage is musician-focused, that is to say many of the audience members are players as well. You won’t find fancy cuisine or valet parking, but nearly every night of the week there is something great going on culturally, be it jazz music or African drumming.

Charlie O’s
13725 Victory Boulevard
Van Nuys, CA 91401

Charlie O’s is a Los Angeles legend among the jazz community. Located on Ventura Blvd. just at the edge of the most interesting street scene in the San Fernando Valley, Charlie O’s has serious jazz every night of the week. You won’t find amateur players in here.

The bar and supper club also has decent and reasonably priced food, and is a great place to enjoy an evening out. Don’t confuse this Van Nuys location with the downtown Charlie O’s. I don’t know if they are under the same ownership, but they are nothing alike.

The Catalina Club
6725 W Sunset Blvd
Hollywood, CA 90028

The Catalina Club moved just a few years ago to Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. The new Catalina is every bit as great as the old one as a spot to go listen to some of the best music in Los Angeles. However, I am sorry to say it lacks some of the charm of the old Catalina Club I used to go to when I was just starting out.

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Call it nostalgia, but it just doesn’t feel right for a serious jazz club to have the sterile exterior and the red-lit LED sign of the new Catalina. As far as the quality of musicianship, though, it can’t be beat.

339 N Brand Blvd
Glendale, CA 91203

Easy to miss along a busy commercial stretch of Brand Blvd. in Glendale, JAX Bar and Grill has really, really good (if a little pricey) food and live jazz music every night of the week. They have a fully-stocked and friendly bar, and the staff will make you feel like royalty.

I have been here several times expecting great jazz on tips from friends, and sometimes I have been disappointed with some drunk crooner singing poor renditions of jazz standards, or some such experience. However, the better part of my trips have been rewarded with great live music in a classy setting.

Colombo’s Italian Steakhouse
1833 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA 90041

My favorite Italian restaurant in Los Angeles is also my favorite place to go for live jazz music. Colombo’s has been family-owned for generations, and Vic, the personable owner and maitre’ de, says the same recipes have been in use since his grandmother’s time.

Groups like the Erik Ekstrand Ensemble play at Colombo’s often, and you will never go away without hearing some great music. Try the lasagna! On Monday nights Colombo’s hosts one of the best live jazz jam sessions in Los Angeles, where new and experienced players can share tips and have a good time playing together, to the delight of the audience.

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I hope you decide to give some of these places a shot. Adding live music to great food in classy and comfortable atmospheres is a sure mix for a great date. If going to have a drink and meet some new people is more your speed, these great places to hear live jazz won’t disappoint.