Best Jazz Venue

Best: Blues Alley
1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, (202)337-7946
2nd Best: Blues Alley
1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW, (202)337-7946
Let’s not mince words: Blues Alley has the best jazz bookings in the District. Piano genius Ahmad Jamal is there every New Year’s Eve, and the rest of the calendar is filled out with up-and-comers like Sean Jones, current stars like Stanley Jordan, and elder statesmen like Gato Barbieri (all of whom are on the club’s calendar for the first half of 2009). The styles on display are from all parts of the world, ranging from Dixieland and hard bop to avant-garde and fusion. But with such a selection comes an exorbitant pricing scheme. The cheap shows are in the ballpark of $20 for admission—plus a ticket surcharge and a $10 bar minimum. And every Blues Alley musician plays two sets a night, usually an 8 p.m. and a 10 p.m., but each show is a separate admission cost—plus the surcharge and bar minimum. Meanwhile, the biggest names are closer to $50 per set, and those pluses aren’t waived with the higher price tag. So the venue ranks first for bang, roughly third for buck (after U Street venues Bohemian Caverns and Twins Jazz), averaging out to second overall.