There are a lot of places to listen to leading jazz musicians in New York; for me, Smoke is high on the list. It has very good acoustics, people pay attention and the sight lines are terrific. I think musicians appreciate this because Smoke attracts the best, and that is what makes a for a great jazz club: the idea that the great players want to play there.
The room is theatrical, well lit, and comfortable. The kitchen is open seven nights a week from 17:30-22:00. The food is good: short ribs served with smooth, creamy mashed potatoes are rich and soulful, like the music.
I appreciate that concept of quality control, from what you hear to what you eat. And, other club goers are respectful, the third component of a great club. Calm ambience, low level of clatter, quiet conversation prior to the show. I find ambient sound in many music joints, no matter what city, to be way out of control.
There’s a Sunday jazz brunch from 11:00 – 16:00; different ambience, different reason for being there.
For an experience straight out of an Edward Hopper painting, consider going late, when you can’t sleep, rainy night, walking the streets of New York early in the morning, checking out the act in Smoke’s room by squinting through the rain splashed windows—it’s open until 03:00.
It’s at 106th and Broadway, just a few blocks north of the 103rd Street station on the 1 Train (Red). Very easy to find.