131 West 3rd St
New York, NY 10012
Hours: Mon-Sun 8 & 10:30p, Fri-Sat 12:30a, Sun 12:30p & 2p
Subway: A,C,E,F,B,D to West 4th St
Written by: Emily Niewendorp & Monica U. Garcia
The Blue Note Jazz Club’s jazz persona sizzles like a long, high hat brush roll. The club seems to have always existed. Blue Note’s notoriety stems from the void it filled in New York City’s music scene when it opened in 1981. Most supper club-type venues, like Blue Note, had all but disappeared from NYC, leaving jazz venues that existed on two levels: smoky, basement clubs or large concert halls. Legendary musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Oscar Peterson, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter were retreating from public view. Blue Note was born fully formed, with no question about its identity. The club emanated a sense of home to jazz artists, immediately attracting luminaries back to the small stage.
In the club’s beginning years, cherished relationships created fond memories between the musicians and the Blue Note staff. Owner Steve Bensusan, says, “I remember hanging out with Dizzy as a young kid. It was amazing. All the musicians—this was kind of like a home for them, outside of just performing here. They would come here during the day and hang out—poker games in the dressing rooms, things like that.” A small jazz club with dressing rooms was a great perk, but a no-smoking policy such that Blue Note had was unheard of at the time, and very favorable to singers.
The popular restaurant and bar brought in sufficient revenue with its 185-seat space, which enabled Blue Note to be generous toward its musicians. Every seat in the house had an excellent sightline, making for an intimate atmosphere. Blue Note became a destination for folks, even those who were not already jazz sophisticates, yet wanted exposure to the genre. The Blue Note educated many people in this way, contributing to the rekindling of the jazz scene.
Although jazz music has naturally changed since its Golden Era, Blue Note artists continue to experiment musically and impassion the crowds. Over the years the big evolution at Blue Note has revolved around the range of jazz-influenced music it books. In the ’80s, the club showcased traditional jazz; in the ’90s, it experimented with smooth jazz, R&B and blues. Presently, Blue Note’s music programming is diversified—from Mos Def to Chick Corea—running the gamut of jazz and jazz-related music. Hip-hop, soul and funk artists take the stage in the wee hours of the night, drawing a younger demographic into the room. The end result is an infusion of younger audiences who come back to see the more established jazz artists on other nights.
The Blue Note staff creates a welcoming experience in Greenwich Village, a historically relevant birthing ground for jazz. Ticket prices and minimums are competitive with other jazz clubs. Detailed artist biographies appear in Blue Note programs, creating healthy anticipation over future visits. First-time patrons may come initially because they are curious about Blue Note, but on succeeding visits they will be curious about the musician and his or her music.
The Blue Note shares its name with Blue Note Records. When the club opened in 1981, Blue Note Records was defunct, which legally enabled Blue Note Jazz Club to use the name. Later the record label resumed business and the club and the label have since shared the same name. Blue Note records its albums under the Half Note Records label.
Blue Note Jazz Clubs are also in Nagoya and Tokyo, Japan, and Milan, Italy. The owners also own B.B. King and the Highline in NYC.