When Melbourne jazz institution Bennetts Lane closed its doors just short of quarter of a century in the business, it was a dark day for the city’s live music scene. As sorely missed as the granddaddy of jazz is, thankfully music fans still have plenty of excellent venues to choose from with some cool new cats around town too.
The 20th Melbourne International Jazz Festival is bookmarked for June (clear your diaries?!), but until then, here are a few of our favourite spots for a soulful swing.
Whoever said dinner and a show was daggy, clearly hasn’t been to Bird’s Basement. Eat to the beat in the lush surroundings of this columned Singers Lane city spot, just across the road from Flagstaff Gardens. The sister club to Birdland New York (the phoenix-like reincarnation of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker’s 50s hangout) the dinner show kicks off at 8pm, with a supper show following at 10.30pm—meaning you get double the jazz trouble most nights. Run by jazz aficionado Albert Dadon, who has previously run the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, you can taste his hunger for music.
Paris Cat Jazz Club
Tucked down Goldie Lane, this 1895-built warehouse that houses an inimitable Paris Cat sprawls across three levels, with each intimate space a picture-perfect image of old smoky jazz bars, minus the actual smoke. The greats gaze down from sepia-hued portraits stuck to the ceiling of the velvet-draped basement. The gallery space above is perfect for private bookings and the Parisian Loft is nestled in the rafters up top. With live jazz four nights a week and three shows each Friday and Saturday, get your claws out for a good time with this cat.
Uptown Jazz Café
The neon-lit upstairs haunt in the Uptown Jazz Café is a real labour of love by owner Sonny Rehe, a man who knows his stuff. The name itself is a nod to Australia’s first dedicated jazz club—North Melbourne’s long-gone Uptown Club which first opened its doors in the 40s. Gorgeous gold and red-flocked walls sport a stunning Charlie Parker portrait.There’s a big street view window perfect for longing gazes out at the madding crowd below, all while the crooners soothe you into a blissful melancholy or shake you up with some sublime improv.
Dizzy’s Jazz Club
Approaching 20 years in the game, much-loved Dizzy’s is the heart and soul of Richmond’s live jazz scene. Switching to a larger venue on Bridge Street, the team have teamed up with their downstairs neighbours—a Mediterranean-influenced Italian joint to pair up a plate with your big band brilliance dished out five nights a week. Even if you aren’t feeling peckish, pull up pew and lose yourself in the sweet soul sounds abounding in this big, welcoming space under the glow of spotlights.
Lido Jazz Room
It’s not every day you get both a new picture palace and a dedicated jazz room opening up in your hood, but that’s exactly what happened in Hawthorn. Eddie Tamir, owner of Elsternwick’s Classic and Belgrave’s Cameo cinemas, breathed new life back into the old Lido which had lain empty since the 1960s. As well as multiple lovingly renovated screens and a rooftop cinema for the summer months, there’s a 40-seater jazz space ensconced within the Lido, emulating an 80s New York vibe. At only $25/$20 a pop, it’s a fun and affordable way to catch great acts curated by Sonny Rehe of the Uptown Jazz Café. A treat for movie and blues lovers alike.
The king is dead, long live the king. Named after the largest space in that hallowed, departed space, Bennetts Lane impresario Michael Tortoni’s latest endeavour, The Jazzlab, will be the newest kid in town when it opens in early April. You’ll spot it a mile away with a sculptural double bass crafted in rust-coloured metal jutting out from the red brick façade above One Way and No Entry signs, but go right ahead and drive on in. We cannot wait to park ourselves in here.
Feel like a side of middle-eastern cuisine with your jazz? Here are 18 middle-eastern cafes and restaurants you should hit up.
Image credit: Bird's Basement | Griffin Simm