7. Sweet Basil’s – Past
Sweet Basil’s originally opened in 1974 at 88 Seventh Avenue South as a health food restaurant. The jazz came a bit later. By the 1980s, it was one of the most popular jazz clubs in NYC. It became a destination where artists like Gil Evans, David Murray, Cecil Taylor, Ron Carter, and more recorded live albums.
Sweet Basil’s closed in 2001 and was briefly revived as Sweet Rythm. Though Sweet Rhythm lasted until 2009, it never earned the same notoriety as Sweet Basil’s.
8. Smalls Nightclub – Present
Smalls Jazz Club is a relatively new jazz club, founded in 1994 by former Navy submariner and jazz violinist Mitchell Borden. In the early days of Smalls, visitors paid just $10 for admission. The basement-level club had no liquor license, so guests could bring their own drinks to sip on as they sat for as long as they chose, listening to musicians curated and booked by Borden himself.
In 2002, the club went bankrupt, and Borden focused his energy on a new venture, Fat Cat, a bar for college students. Small’s was purchased and temporarily turned into The Rio Bar. By 2004, jazz was back at Smalls. Soon jazz pianist Spike Wilner and his friend Lee Kostrinsky became partners with Borden in the renewed Small’s venture. Through the Pandemic. the club survived thanks to support from the SmallsLIVE Foundation, a not-for-profit arts organization. In 2014, Wilner opened a second club on the opposite corner of West 10th Street and 7th Ave – Mezzrow. It is “dedicated to “Really The Blues” Mezz Mezzrow and draws its inspiration from the great piano rooms of the New York past, particularly Bradley’s.” You can check out upcoming performances for Small’s and Mezzrow here!