10 Best Jazz Bars in New Orleans (Slideshow)

Most early jazz performers played in New Orleans, and the city is still alive with jazz today

10. Apple Barrel

This cozy spot right outside the Quarter on Frenchmen Street is the perfect place to start a day of music and drinks in the city. The music rarely stops at the Apple Barrel, and the lineup features established acts as well as newcomers looking to break into the city’s jazz scene. The acoustics in this tiny bar are said to be so good that many artists chose to record live albums during their sets. 

9. The Spotted Cat

Located just outside the French Quarter in the district called the Faubourg Marigny, this ramshackle wooden nightclub is one of the city’s hidden gems. Don’t let the splintered exterior fool you; The Spotted Cat features some of the New Orleans’ music scene’s heavy hitters. On any given night, visitors might see local favorites the Shotgun Jazz Band or the Jazz Vipers, Big Easy award-winners for “Best Traditional Jazz Band.”

8. Sweet Lorraine’s

Also located in the Marigny, Sweet Lorraine’s has been named one of the top-10 jazz clubs in the country by USA Today. Drop by any Tuesday for jazz and poetry coupled with some delicious New Orleans delicacies like BBQ shrimp followed by decadent bread pudding. Just make sure you’re not too stuffed to dance. 

7. Maple Leaf Bar

The Maple Leaf has been a staple of the New Orleans jazz scene for 40 years. Located in the fashionable Uptown neighborhood, the bar was used as the setting for Beyoncé’s “Déjà Vu” video. While chances are slim that you’ll catch a glimpse of Bey and J on the dance floor, any night of the week you can find the place thrumming with some of the best local bands around. Check the schedule and catch a show by the Grammy Award-winning Rebirth Brass Band. You won’t be sorry. 

6. Tipitina’s

What began as a small neighborhood juke joint quickly became one of the hottest venues in the city. For nearly 40 years, Tipitina’s has been a musical staple in NOLA. While not entirely jazz-oriented (upcoming acts include folk musician Todd Snider and indie rockers Cowboy Mouth), Tipitina’s is still a spot that legends like The Dirty Dozen Brass Band call home.   

5. Mother-in-Law

Twenty years ago, R & B superstar K-Doe opened the Mother-in-Law Lounge. Named after his hit single, the bar was intended to be a place for the New Orleans musical elite to rub elbows and play a few sets. Years later, another legend, Kermit Ruffins, has the bar up and running again and returned to its former glory. Upcoming acts include Ruffins himself, as well as the iconic Tremé Brass Band. 

4. Vaughn’s

Speaking of Kermit Ruffins, fans were a bit disappointed when he recently ended his longstanding Tuesday night gig at Vaughn’s in the Bywater to focus on his own club. But not to worry, Corey Henry and the Treme Funktet, who blend classic jazz and modern funk to create a sound that’s uniquely their own, have stepped up to fill his legendary shoes. Vaughn’s remains one of the most authentic spots in the city to celebrate New Orleans’ musical legacy. 

3. Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

Located on music-heavy Frenchmen Street, Snug Harbor stands out from the rest of the spots on this list as a slightly more formal venue. But while the performances may be a bit more buttoned-down, they’re no less stunning. Upcoming events include shows featuring Allen Toussaint and the incomparable Ellis Marsalis

2. Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub

Situated smack in the center of bustling Bourbon Street, Fritzel’s has been a New Orleans jazz staple since 1969. The space itself, built in 1831, will have you feeling as if you’ve stepped into the French-speaking New Orleans of the past as you tap your feet in time to the swinging old-fashioned music of regulars Charlie Fardella and Tom Hook. 

1. Preservation Hall

Housed in a single wooden room with bare floors and limited seating, the Jaffe family and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band have been keeping jazz alive in the city since 1961. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, the venue offers three 45 minute shows each night featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has performed everywhere from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to Coachella. Tickets may be purchased online or at the box office.