New York, 10020
Hours: Sun-Thu 7p-11p, Fri-Sat 7p-1a
Subway: B,D,E to 7th Ave or N,R to 49th St
1 to 50th St
Written by: Aidan Levy
Since 1994, the Iridium has served as an incubator for numerous world-renowned jazz artists, among them James Carter, Ravi Coltrane, and Cyrus Chestnut. The impromptu nightly jam sessions in the subterranean 52nd Street throwback have led to myriad irreproducible “you had to be there” moments across a broad spectrum of styles, ranging from the time Lionel Hampton sat in with jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, to unexpected appearances by legendary guitarists Slash, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck. In its relatively short history, the Iridium has become one of the top-flight jazz venues in the city, an intimate performance space that attracts some of the biggest names in contemporary music. “You can never see Jeff Beck in such a small room,” says Ron Sturm, Iridium general manager.
The Iridium is perhaps best known for its relationship with Les Paul, the father of the electric guitar, who made it his weekly home for more than 12 years, right up to August 2009, literally weeks before his passing.
To honor the memory of this unifying figure, the club continues to present upper-echelon guitarists in all genres with Les Paul Mondays, a weekly series featuring the Les Paul Trio—guitarist Lou Pallo, bassist Nicki Parrott, and pianist John Colianni—performing with different special guests, among them rock god Peter Frampton, journeyman guitarist Jeff Beck, and former Ozzy Osbourne lead guitarist Zakk Wylde.
“Like Les Paul said, ‘Music is music. What’s good is good,’” says Ron. “So people play here who can shred guitar like Zakk Wylde, or they can play beautiful solo guitar like Martin Taylor or Stanley Jordan.”
Continuing in this tradition, the Iridium stage has also featured a panoply of artists beyond category, including elder statesmen McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, and Max Roach, as well as young lions Kurt Rosenwinkel, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and John Medeski, a veritable who’s-who of jazz greats. Rounded out by a gourmet menu and consummate wine list, the Iridium is that rare combination of jazz-age grit and insouciant class, all in an informal, freewheeling environment.