55 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014
Hours: 3p-2a Daily
Subway: 1 to Christopher St
Written by: Rachel Antonio
55 Bar embraces new musicians as well as world-wide veterans of the jazz sphere. The venue schedules two acts daily, often offering the early 7 p.m. show free of charge. Drinks are cheap, making 55 Bar affordable to everyone.
It is a half-basement, true bar (no actual stage for the bands exists), lit with Christmas lights. The manager, Mark Kirby, attributes the high sound quality to the low ceilings and wood floors and paneling.
55 Bar’s cutting-edge jazz reputation is so renowned that the club is referenced in music textbooks in the Netherlands. Famous for its nurturing environment of experimental jazz, performers often try out new material written earlier the same day. In this way audiences experience new jazz in the making. “There’s all types of jazz trying to get out there,” Mark says, “not just sweet and mellow.” Up-and-coming jazz musicians who mix elements of jazz with trip hop, electronica, etc. are also welcomed. It’s not much of a ‘talking bar,’ but rather a bar for soaking up the sounds.
55 Bar has come a long way since its ‘neighborhood bar’ days. The scene back then was wild; alive until the wee hours of the morning, and the type of place where undercover cops roamed.
Its reputation today can be attributed to the late Queva Lutz, who took over the venue more than a decade ago. Back then, the bar featured a popcorn machine and an aged jukebox, filled with 45s of Duke Ellington and old-school jazz. Queva cleaned up the place, mandating that all laws would have to be obeyed. In the words of 55 Bar’s ‘go-to’ man, Mark Kirby: “More importantly, she made it into a serious jazz venue with shows every day—early shows and late shows. She really built it up to be what it is now. I call it ‘an internationally-famous, jazz dive’.” Queva’s son, Scott Ellard owns and books the club now, continuing her vision.