Atlanta, Georgia, is well-known for many reasons. There have been some influential people born there, not the least of which was Martin Luther King. Spike Lee also calls it home.
It has given us its fair share of musicians and singers as well. Gladys Knight and Brenda Lee were both born in Atlanta, and Otis Redding was born a short drive away in Dawson.
These days it is probably best known for its hip-hop and rap music scene. But, there is also a flourishing jazz scene in Atlanta. So, I decided to take a look at some of the best jazz clubs in Atlanta, Georgia.
- A Music Town
- Venues And Influence
- Plenty Of Choices
- The 9 Best Jazz Clubs in Atlanta, Georgia
- Are You a Big Jazz Fan?
- Best Jazz Clubs in Atlanta, Georgia – Final Thoughts
A Music Town
It has long had a big musical influence that goes back to the days of the Blues. And it is that culture that held the origins for jazz and the jazz clubs in the city of Atlanta.
One of the best–known and most popular Atlanta jazz clubs through the 60s and 70s was Dee’s Birdcage. It opened at the beginning of the 50s and served the city for over thirty years.
Venues And Influence
An area of the city that came to be known as “Underground Atlanta” started in 1969. It had almost a bohemian culture and was known as a meeting place for jazz musicians as well as social activists. Many cities all over the world had areas like this, and this one was Atlanta’s.
In the early 1900s, Atlanta had what was known as the “Chitlin Circuit.” This circuit had multiple jazz bars that provided some work for black musicians. These might have been both local or black jazz musicians who were touring the cities looking for work.
Finally, to cement the city’s jazz roots, there is the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Held every year in September, it is possibly the largest free jazz festival in America.
Plenty Of Choices
You might expect to find some blues or ‘roots’ music clubs in Atlanta. But you will also find plenty of jazz bars that provide excellent music. Let’s take a look at some of the better-known jazz bars in Atlanta.
The 9 Best Jazz Clubs in Atlanta, Georgia
James Jazz Club
This is an upmarket jazz club that is well-known in the city for its style and panache. It is set away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Atlanta, with Hartsfield-Jackson Airport only five miles away. That will suit those who prefer a less busy and hurried environment.
A Love Of Music
It is clear from the way the club is run that the owners have a real and identifiable love of all music. On Thursdays, it is Jazz night, where local jazz musicians and those from further afield put on some spectacular shows.
In keeping with the club’s desire to provide an eclectic range of music, there are Gospel/Jazz music evenings on Sunday. It is one of those clubs when you walk in, it just feels good, and the music is always excellent.
There is a cover charge for admission, which can be paid in advance, online, or at the door.
The Red Light Cafe
This is a jazz club that offers something a little different. It is located in the heart of midtown Atlanta, so it is easy to find. And plenty is going on for those that want to taste the atmosphere of the city.
This is a club that has a very burlesque flavor and all that style of entertainment can bring. That will include comedy and musical and artistic parodies, as well as jazz.
Not Just Jazz On The Menu
The Red Light Cafe has a reputation for great music across different genres in a great environment serving good food. Specializing in contemporary jazz shows, it has hosted some great acts. Charlie Hunter has played here, as has The Myrna Clayton International Jazz series.
Besides the regular jazz nights, the Red Light Cafe also puts on live Folk, Blues, and Country shows every week.
A Relaxed Atmosphere
Those who like their jazz low-key and without standing on ceremony will enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the Red Light. The listening rooms have some of the best local musicians very, nearly seven days a week.
And, if you happen to be a musician, it is a great place to hang out and join in the Thursday jam sessions held every week. Here you will get to play alongside some of the best local talents. The Red Light Cafe is easily one of the best jazz clubs in Atlanta, Georgia.
Suite Food Lounge
As the name suggests, this is a club that concentrates on its food menu. It is located on Luckie Street in downtown Atlanta. This venue combines some great jazz with mouth-watering food.
It has several different bars and a very glitzy style. They have a specialty drinks menu that is worth a try. The restaurant serves a specially prepared menu combining typically Southern food with traditional American dining.
It has the look and the atmosphere of a rather select nightclub…
Neon lighting and leather couches add to the ambiance. There is a very strict dress code that applies at all times, so if you pay a visit, then you will need to be aware of that.
Such a special place is going to attract some of the best musicians around the area, and so it is. Jazz nights are exceptional, and the Suite Food Lounge is recognized as one of the top jazz venues in Atlanta.
This is another jazz club that has a very comfortable restaurant and bar that is located in the center of Midtown Atlanta. It has a reputation for its relaxed and comfortable atmosphere and is a smart stopover if you are looking for some live music. And that is what Kat’s cafe is all about.
It has attracted some top jazz musicians to play there, including Jorel Flynn, Sweet Lu, and Trey Daniels.
Kat’s Cafe is one of those venues that ensure there is always something going on. Apart from some great jazz, there are comedy performances as well as open mic nights, and plenty more.
Anyone who likes their Jazz in Atlanta, or even in many cases further afield, will know Velvet Note. It is a venue that has just 40 seats in the club situated in the heart of Atlanta, so it is intimate and ideal for the music.
It’s recognized not only in Atlanta but also in the whole state, as one of the best jazz clubs in Georgia. It has been a worthy winner of the prestigious Downbeat Best Jazz Club Award for four consecutive years.
That is an indication of the quality of the jazz you will hear when you go…
It attracts some great jazz artists, including The Robert Glasper Trio and Larry Carlton. Carlton, of course, has also worked with Stanley Clarke and Billy Cobham.
Besides the world-class jazz on offer, there is also some delicious Southern food with a menu to suit everyone. If there is a must-visit jazz venue in Atlanta, this could well be it.
Located in North East Atlanta, on North Highland Avenue, Blind Willies started life as a Blues bar. It opened in 1986 but didn’t take long to start to accommodate some great jazz as well. Its reputation as one of the best Blues bars in the city soon also became one of the best jazz clubs.
Serving some real Southern cuisine in a relaxed environment, these days, it is recognized as an essential part of the Atlanta Jazz scene.
There is a house band and special weekly music events. So, there is always plenty going on in this part of Atlanta.
The Apache Cafe
This jazz cafe is located on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta. Be aware it is not that easy to find, but it will be worth the effort. It opened in 2001 and since then has made quite a name for itself.
It’s a cafe and restaurant that serves excellent food. And, to go with the food, it serves up some great jazz. There’s a unique atmosphere that lends itself perfectly to the music. It gets packed with people at times, but it is still somewhere that feels very personal and welcoming.
Helping The Locals
This is a restaurant that goes out of its way to showcase Atlanta talent, musically and artistically. And they are supportive of local artists who have work on display.
That also applies to the local jazz musicians. They are provided with plenty of opportunities to perform side by side with recognized local jazz players on open mic nights. The Apache Cafe has seen some well-known artists perform, and in the case of Kebbi Williams, a live album was recorded there.
It is a place that is respected in the community…
Especially for the opportunities it presents to talented local people. Musicians, of course, as we have seen, and artists, but also poets, perform their work to an appreciative audience. If you are in the mood for something different with some great Southern food, this is a place to visit.
The HIGH Museum of Art
Situated in downtown Atlanta, The HIGH Museum of Art has achieved iconic status in the city. It isn’t a jazz club as such, but it is a place where you can hear some great local jazz performers.
They open their doors to jazz every month on the third Friday. You can take in the music and get a drink from the bar.
Jazz Fridays at the Museum bring you a different style of jazz each time. From traditional New Orleans Jazz to Swing and Bebop. Always with a good jazz lineup, it is worth a visit if you happen to be in town.
Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint
This is a small jazz club that is a throwback to a bygone age. Simple and basic, it has a simple food menu mixed with plenty of local jazz. There are two venues where you can catch up with the music.
First, there is the original club in what was the Macy’s building in downtown Atlanta. But, there is a second venue located at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Concourse C. A nice way to relax for a while after a day of traveling and jazz on hand as soon as you step off the plane.
And don’t forget, as I mentioned earlier, The Atlanta Jazz Festival is free and held every year in September. One of the biggest events in the National jazz calendar and an event not to be missed.
Are You a Big Jazz Fan?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Jazz Musicians of All Time, the Best Jazz Songs, the Best Jazz Albums of All Time, the Best Jazz Saxophone Players, and the Best Chicago Jazz Clubs for more information and musical selections.
Also, if you’re a jazz musician, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Jazz Guitars, the Best Guitar Amps For Jazz, the Best Saxophone Mouthpieces For Jazz, the Best Saxophone Reeds for Jazz, and the Best Jazz Drum Sets you can buy in 2023.
Best Jazz Clubs in Atlanta, Georgia – Final Thoughts
A musical world of wonder. Atlanta might not seem that way from a distance, but it has diverse tastes in Blues, Country, Folk, and Rap. But, it also has its Jazz, and there it is well represented. It is a city that has had songs written about it, like this from the Allman Brothers Band.
Likewise, Little Feat had the track “Oh, Atlanta” on their 1974 album, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. But, songwriters and singers were captivated by Atlanta before then, as this 1957 track from Eartha Kitt shows.
There are, of course, as in most cities, smaller what they call “dive” bars in downtown Atlanta. It is a city full of music and full of some great jazz. Don’t take my word for it; take a look.
Until next time, have fun and happy listening.