5 of the best jazz bars in the world

For years, jazz was a niche form of music that only die-hard fans would travel the world to seek out. Fast forward to today though, and it’s going through a purple patch. From old favourites that have been around since its 1950s heyday, to new spots that are dedicating themselves to putting on shows featuring the scene’s freshest faces, the bars and clubs specialising in jazz are thriving. But which are the best of the bunch? To mark International Jazz Day (April 30), we’ve taken a look at some of the best jazz bars and clubs in the world right now that you can experience using your Forward.Reward points...

1. Ronnie Scott’s, London

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This Soho institution has been hosting the rising stars and established names of the jazz world since it opened its doors in 1959. Founded by the saxophonist Ronnie Scott, the club has been in its current location since 1965, and puts on numerous jazz sessions every night of the week – but it’s best to book if you don’t want to be turned away at the door. Secure a spot for the main show and hang around for the ‘Late Late Show’ (which runs until 3am on all days apart from a Sunday), or head upstairs to the speakeasy-style cocktail bar and enjoy an eclectic blend of jazz from across the world.

Ronnie Scott’s, 47 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4HT, UK

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2. Village Vanguard, New York

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The neighbourhood of Greenwich Village is the spot in New York City to head to if you want to see some of the best names in jazz up close and personal. And the Village Vanguard is one of the area’s stalwarts. A jazz-focused venue since 1957, all of the genre’s greats have graced its basement stage – Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Mingus – while a 19-year-old Barbra Streisand even performed there in 1961. Today, it hosts short residencies with some of America’s best outfits, with each band performing twice a night. Alternatively, you can swing by on a Monday night and witness a show by the venue’s house band, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, which has been performing in one guise or another for 50 years.

Village Vanguard, 178 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014, USA

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3. Cotton Club, Tokyo

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A legendary spot in New York’s Harlem neighbourhood during the prohibition era, the Cotton Club helped launch the careers of numerous jazz icons including Duke Ellington. Although the original space shut its doors in 1940, it is part of the genre’s folklore and has even inspired a venue thousands of miles away. Opened in 2005, the club is located in the Tokyo district of Marunouchi and prides itself on bringing back a taste of jazz’s golden age, from the quality of the performers and elegant interiors down to the food and drinks on offer, with there an extensive cocktail list featuring some favourites that were served at the original Cotton Club. When it comes to the music, international faces rub shoulders with up-and-coming local talent in a packed schedule that features two shows a night. Reserve yourself a spot and enjoy a performance and setting from yesteryear.

Cotton Club, 2 Chome-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan

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4. Hot Clube de Portugal, Lisbon

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Nestled between a hamburger joint and Italian restaurant on an unsuspecting road in the northern area of the Portuguese capital lies one of Europe’s oldest jazz clubs. From the outside there are no glitzy neon lights to mark out the historic basement bar that lies behind the venue’s front door, with the only tell-tale sign the cartoon image of a hand playing some piano keys on a white background. Set-up in 1948 on the same street and in its current location since 2009 (a fire gutted the original spot), the Hot Club of Portugal (or Hot Clube de Portugal to locals) was established to champion music that was ‘hot’ in comparison to classical music. The intimate venue hosts two shows nightly, with Tuesday nights the weekly jam session where locals can bring their own style to proceedings.

Hot Clube de Portugal, Praça da Alegria 48, 1250-004 Lisboa, Portugal

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5. Thelonious, Buenos Aires

The soulful sounds of jazz aren’t limited to the northern hemisphere, and in South America the genre has taken on a distinctly Latin flavour. Although there are bars dedicated to jazz from Colombia to Chile, it’s in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires where the scene is truly bouncing. The city has a handful of notable spots, but it’s Thelonious that steals the show. Named after the American pianist Thelonious Monk, it’s a New York-style venue that has an edgy, exposed interior common with other spots in the trendy Palermo district. The vibe changes depending on the night of the week you go – head there on a weekday evening for some musical appreciation, or on a Friday or Saturday if looking to move your feet – but one thing remains the same every night, and that’s the appreciation of jazz.

Thelonious Club, Nicaragua 5549, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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