82 West 3rd St
New York, NY 10012
Hours: Sun-Thu 6p-2:30a, Fri-Sat 6p-3a
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St
Written by: Nick D’Amore
Down a few steps and through the red velvet curtain and you’re transported to a time when jazz ruled the cultural landscape. Zinc Bar contains all the elements of a great jazz club: cozy atmosphere, stunning acoustics, subtle accoutrements and stiff cocktails. The only things missing are rings of cigarette smoke.
A night at Zinc is not a sentimental trip down memory lane. Instead, you will hear brilliant musicians taking the vast vocabulary of jazz to exciting and different places. Though the music genre’s roots are distinctly American, jazz is truly global music. Performers at Zinc come from varying backgrounds and nationalities, flavoring the language of jazz with their native tongues, resulting in fresh and eye-opening performances. Throughout the week, there are Brazilian, African, Caribbean and Latin performers exploring the music of jazz. Besides its inclusion of world musicians, the club also welcomes free jazz artists, stand-up comedians, poets, cabaret acts and vocal performers.
For the full music experience, walk past the bar to the audience area; though only a few steps away, the music suddenly swells all around you. It is obvious the principals behind Zinc paid particular attention to the club’s sound, which creates a rich, full and crisp sonic atmosphere. You can hear the nuances and dynamics of each instrument from any table near the stage: the melodious fingering of a twelve-string guitar; the hushed brushstrokes on a snare; the subtle plucking of a bass; the brassy punches of a trumpet; the expert tickling of piano keys. “The Zinc family of staff, musicians and music fans all truly share a love for the music,” says the club’s owner, Alex K.
Located a few short blocks away from the hubbub of the university bars and tourist attractions of the West Village, Zinc is an underground oasis of cool. But, there are no pretentions, no airs, no put-ons.
Like jazz music itself, Zinc Bar is influenced by the music’s history, but is still creating an experience that is attractive and seductive. Zinc’s origins are on Houston Street, where the club was located for nearly 20 years.
Zinc began in 1993, when Alex saw that the jazz talent in New York needed a home, but also one that a younger audience could afford. Constructing the venue has continually been a family affair. The club’s name is a reference to the “jazz caves” of Paris, where Hemmingway would meet friends. He wrote, “Let’s meet at the zinc” because the bars were zinc-topped. Alex’s sister and co-owner, Kristina K, was reading Hemmingway in Paris and brought the idea home with her.
The owners recently moved the venue to the heart of Greenwich Village. During the Golden Age of jazz, Zinc’s current site was known as The Cinderella Club, a cabaret and jazz club that was active from the 1930s to the 1950s. The venue was home to such jazz luminaries as Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday. “Every major jazz cat played there,” says Alex. One fixture at The Cinderella Club, legendary jazz guitarist George Benson still visits Zinc when he is in town. One night, he took the stage for an impromptu, hour-long performance. The late, great jazz drummer and composer, Max Roach, also used to drop by the club, encouraging the owners to “keep on keepin’ on.” The impressive list of visitors to Zinc includes: Gil Goldstein; Flora Purim and Airto Moreira; Astrud and Bebel Gilberto; Jeff “Tain” Watts; Ravi Coltrane; and Branford Marsalis.