It would be easy to spend every night in New Orleans at The Ritz-Carlton’s elegant Davenport Lounge, but it would be a shame to miss out on the myriad other fine jazz clubs in the city. Beyond institutions such as Preservation Hall and The House of Blues, smaller clubs resound with everything from ragtime to experimental jazz.
Palm Court Jazz Cafe — In a quiet corner of the French Quarter near the Soniat House, this friendly club has well-spaced tables, a lovely old mahogany bar and a surprisingly good wine list. Mostly middle-aged patrons dine on Creole classics or just come for the jazz, which tends toward the traditional. 1204 Decatur Street. Tel. (504) 525-0200.
Snug Harbor — Nothing distracts from the music at this cozy venue on Frenchmen Street, a less touristy version of Bourbon Street. Surrounded by mostly local jazz connoisseurs, we enjoyed two memorable sets by an unorthodox guitar quartet. dinner is served in a separate room. Take a taxi. 626 Frenchmen Street. Tel. (504) 949-0696.
Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse — This plush, contemporary space in the Royal Sonesta Hotel lacks the history of the palm Court Cafe, but it showcases top-tier talent. Sitting at the color-changing bar, we tapped our toes to the drumming of Jason Marsalis, Wynton’s youngest brother, who played with a standard jazz quartet. Although it’s located in the heart of Bourbon Street madness, this club draws a fashionable crowd of mostly 30- and 40-somethings. 300 Bourbon Street. Tel. (504) 553-2299.
Fritzel’s — Those wishing to take just a sip of Bourbon Street nightlife might try this German-themed jazz club, reputedly the city’s oldest. (The crumbling stucco seems to confirm this assertion.) A mixed-age crowd finds space at tightly packed tables, drinking German beers or various kinds of schnapps. On a tiny stage, the house band performs ragtime and other traditional New Orleans music. Not fancy, but strangely irresistible. 733 Bourbon Street. Tel. (504) 586-4800.