Smoke Jazz is a cozy little spot on the Upper West Side where you will enjoy your dinner as much as the jazz in New York.
If there is any one thing that I like about New York it is the unending list of things to do. New York has the best shows from musicals to opera to rock concerts or any other genre, for that matter. But if we are talking about jazz, it’s clear that the Big Apple is one of the best places in the world to experience the passion for this genre. And if New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz; New York is where the artists all come to earn their stripes. Some of them, like Louis Armstrong, fall in love with the magic of the New York City nights and never leave.
But where can you find good jazz in New York? I’m definitely not an expert and every New Yorker will tell you a different place that is hopping, be it in the Village, Brooklyn, the Upper West Side or Harlem. But what I can tell you, is that if you want a good dinner and quality jazz; Smoke Jazz on the Upper West Side is one of the best spots. I had the good fortune to eat dinner during a jazz set at this musical icon and it definitely lived up to the fame.
Smoke Jazz offers concerts every night of the week and you can choose to pay for the show and watch from the bar with a drink or choose the dinner option and sit at one of the tables, which is what we did. The lights are dim and the acoustics are great making the perfect backdrop for the artists. It was the perfect ambiance and it made for an unforgettable evening. I have to admit that I enjoy listening to jazz, but I’m not an expert by any means. The night we chose Reuben Wilson was playing, and we were lucky because now I can’t stop listening to his music.
Smoke Jazz only has room for about 50 people, so the space is quite intimate. They gave us a table at the far end of the room near a Picasso print, so I felt a little bit of Málaga pride. At the other end of the room was the stage where the trio lead by one of the best soul and acid jazz organists, Reuben Wilson. Joining him were two other fantastic musicians, Carmen Intorre on percussion and Johnny DeFrancesco on the guitar. From the beginning we could tell what a fantastic concert it would be and we realized how lucky we were to hear Reuben playing live.
The group didn’t disappoint with a magnificent hour and a half long concert where jazz flowed through the room as we enjoyed our dinner. Abby ordered the blackened catfish with cajun sauce and it was delicious. I ordered the grilled salmon with vegetables which was perfectly cooked and very tasty. When you go to places that are known for their jazz, you might not expect the food to be up to par; but in this case we were pleasantly surprised. In Smoke Jazz the combination of flavors and quality dishes are well worth the price of admission.
For all these reasons, Smoke Jazz, along with the Village Vanguard, have become two of our favorite places for jazz in New York. But if you are also looking for a special date where you can combine dinner and jazz, then Smoke Jazz is a perfect choice and we highly recommend booking a table. At the end of the concert, I was even able to chat with Reuben Wilson for a few minutes, an honor that will stick in my memory for years to come.