It might have started out as humble, blue-collar music, but somewhere along the way, jazz became sophisticated — something you appreciate like a fine wine or Monet painting.
While live jazz is still mostly a refined experience, there’s a new generation of jazz musicians coming along with a different approach, making music that is more upbeat and approachable. Jazz is increasingly becoming something you can enjoy as part of a night on the town, and we are so here for it.
Fortunately for us, Buffalo has a proud and diverse jazz tradition that continues to thrive. You can’t swing a tenor saxophone in this town without hitting at least one great jazz musician. Below is a short list of great local jazz venues with many different vibes.
These places are great jumping off points: They have been doing live jazz for a long time. They are steeped in tradition and are highly respected in the local jazz community and beyond.
145 Broadway, Buffalo, NY 14203
Boasting appearance over the years from icons like Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, the Colored Musicians Club is a must-see, even for non-jazz fans. If you want to feel the roots of jazz in Western New York, this is where you go.
2. Anchor Bar
1047 Main St, Buffalo, NY 14209
With people from around the world regularly streaming in, the Anchor Bar can be a bit of a tourist trap. What many locals may not know is that this chicken wing icon is actually a great spot for jazz, with live performances in the back room on Friday and Saturday nights from 9 to 11 p.m. It gets packed in there a the vibe can get pretty lively. Catch a Friday night set from The Jazz Example and you just might start thinking of the Anchor Bar a jazz club that happens to serve chicken wings.
19 Wadsworth St, Buffalo, NY 14201
Although it’s relatively new, PAUSA has quickly gained a reputation as a go-to jazz spot. Sure, there are more high-profile places listed below, but PAUSA reliably books more jazz than those other places. It’s an intimate spot with the vibe changing based on who’s performing.
1285 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo, NY 14222
For a more refined jazz experience, you can’t do much better than the Albright-Knox. The art gallery hosts a monthly jazz happy hour series on the first Friday of each month and regularly bring in world-class jazz artists as part of its Art of Jazz series.
2095 Delaware Ave, Buffalo, NY 14216
We’ve already told you about the amazing things going on in the kitchen at Oliver’s and the wine list is one of the best in WNY. Oliver’s is also the performance home of local jazz icon George Jones, who plays a solo piano set on Friday nights and with his trio on Saturday nights.
40 S Grove St, East Aurora, NY 14052
The Roycroft combines the history of a place like the Colored Musicians Club with the refined atmosphere of Oliver’s. Its Artisans of Jazz series features the biggest names in local jazz every Sunday night and regularly hosts jazz bands on weekends.
326 Amherst St, Buffalo, NY 14207
Regularly booking national touring artists and the occasional Grammy winner, respect for Sportsmens Tavern goes far beyond Western New York. However, Sportsmens does tend to focus more on bluegrass and Americana than jazz. This would be the place for a more blue collar jazz experience.
8. Hotel Henry
444 Forest Ave, Buffalo, NY 14213
Any excuse you get to go to the Hotel Henry, you take it. The self-described urban oasis now features a jazz concert series on the second Wednesday of the month.
9. The Quarter
26 Virginia Pl, Buffalo, NY 14202
Dedicated to bringing New Orleans to Buffalo, you won’t get a less pretentious jazz vibe in Buffalo than you will at The Quarter. The bar-restaurant features live jazz every Friday night.
199 Lincoln Pkwy, Buffalo, NY 14222
It doesn’t get more idyllic than lave jazz overlooking Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park. The Terrace features live “jazz and cocktails” every Friday and Saturday night.
860 Seneca St, Buffalo, NY 14210
In addition to cracking out your favorite locally-made krupnik, Buffalo Distilling Company is also a big supporter of local music, including jazz. The distillery-bar features live jazz on the third Friday of every month.