Montreal Jazz Clubs: Best In Show
For a city host to the biggest, most important jazz festival in the world
, it seems only natural to want to know more about its local jazz scene. Enter the following Montreal jazz clubs, arguably the best in the city. These venues offer live music, dinner, drinks and the kind of atmosphere that makes you want to linger long past last call.
Visiting Montreal with only enough time for one jazz club? Go Upstairs. It's a local favorite. The food -- mostly Italian and Southern/Cajun style -- is lame to good, depending on who you ask, and it can get crowded fairly quickly. As for ambiance, there's a nice, casual feel to the place. Dress up or down, either way, you'll fit right in. Playing jazz seven nights a week, every day has a different theme, from jam nights to international artist showcases.
Upstairs Jazz Club
1254 MacKay (below Ste. Catherine)
Montreal, QC H3G 2H4
Phone: (514) 931-6808
Photo courtesy of Dièse Onze
Sleek, intimate, casual-cum-chic, Dièse Onze is polished, with a mild see-and-be-seen vibe to echo the sentiment. Food is along the lines of fusion/French bistro. Charming outdoor terrace in the back open during warmer months. Feedback on this Plateau neighborhood jazz club is predominantly positive. Good locale for dates.
4115-A St. Denis (between Duluth and Rachel)
Montreal, QC H2W 2M7
Phone: (514) 223-3543
Photo © Evelyn Reid
Open since Fall 2012, Résonance Café isn't so much a jazz club as it is a jazz café, one chock-full of vegetarian and vegan snacks -- cornbread, veggie spreads, chili, soup, even the café au lait can be served with vegan milk -- and the requisite coffees as well as really affordable beer. When I dropped by, a glass of McAuslan apricot wheat ale set me back a mere $3.50. A well-lit, clean, spacious interior, most evenings feature local jazz acts. As for the crowd, expect a range from early 20s to 60s, which was my experience. A down-to-earth breath of fresh air for the local scene and a great spot for people looking to check out affordable, admission-free live music in a relaxed, unpretentious environment.
5175A Avenue du Parc (between Laurier West and Fairmount West)
Montreal, Quebec H2V 4G3
Phone: (514) 894-7543
Photo by Flickr user spcbrass
One of Montreal's veteran jazz clubs, House of Jazz (formerly Biddle's) was the
place for jazz in Montreal but the venue has been getting mixed reviews ever since owner/bassist Charlie Biddle passed away in 2003. I've heard praises and I've heard disses. Big ones. Service is slow, even rude and offensive according to some. Others seem not to notice anything out of the ordinary. Food reviews are also inconsistent, though there's little debate about the music. Dress to impress.
House of Jazz
2060, rue Aylmer
Montréal, QC H3A 2E3
Phone: (514) 842-8656
Photo courtesy of Le Piano Rouge
One of Montreal's newer jazz clubs/piano bars, you'd never guess by menu prices that Le Piano Rouge -- that's French for "the red piano" -- is located in Old Montreal. Markups are reasonable, which is so very uncharacteristic of this stunning, tourist trap neighborhood. Gorgeous decor, lots of live music and Caribbean and Cajun-influenced dishes set up this small venue as a best bet. Happy hour every Thursday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Le Piano Rouge
22 St. Paul East
Montreal, QC H2Y 1G3
Phone: (514) 439-3842
Photo courtesy of Griffintown Café
Outside of Résonance Café, Griffintown Café is as down-to-earth as this Montreal jazz clubs list gets so don't be shy to bring the kids along. Mind you, Griffintown Café is not a jazz club per se and it's morphed over the years, swapping its neighborhood come-as-you-are-everyone's-welcome feel for a sleeker interior, a more homogeneous crowd and higher menu prices. Can't confirm if patrons still dance between tables but the live music hasn't changed. Tuesday is country and bluegrass, Thursday is jazz and Friday makes room for the café's popular blues night with Bharath and his Rhythm Four
. Sets usually start at 7:30 p.m. As for the food, count on Southern comfort and bistro fare.
1378 Notre-Dame West
Montreal, QC H3C 1K8
Phone: (514) 931-5299
Photo © Evelyn Reid
Bistro à Jojo is not a jazz club. It's a blues bar, since 1975. But I had to mention the Montreal institution because there's no doubt it's Montreal's #1 blues bar. Playing live music seven days a week, everyone I've ever spoken to who's spent time there raves about the place. It's also the closest joint on the list to the Montreal Jazz Festival's outdoor perimeter
, a great pit stop for visitors looking for a live, high energy experience. Stay inside for the show or take a breather outside on the sidewalk terrace for choice people-watching. And don't worry about dress codes, Bistro à Jojo is as casual as you can get. Just one note: the Bistro doesn't serve food.
Bistro à Jojo
Montreal, QC H2X 3K3
Phone: (514) 843-5015