Smalls: NYC’s Heavy-Hitting Jazz Underground

Take a walk to NYC’s Greenwich Village and you’re sure to see some jazz clubs you’ve heard of: Blue Note, the Village Vanguard, the Fat Cat etc. Though, the true gem of NYC may not be among the most extravagant venues, lacking a large flashing sign or wide raised stage. Instead, Smalls Jazz Club is a basement with a single small door and a crooked chalkboard for the featured performers. As you approach you’re likely to see a man with a modest cashbox and a violin sitting outside. If it sounds like something out of a novel, that’s because it’s pretty much how it feels when you approach.

I stepped inside with a group skeptical friends. Down a few short stairs and we peered into a dark but packed room as we barely were able to get our feet off of the last step. Eager college students strained to peer over others in the back while business casuals leaned on the bar. A young waitress pushed her way through the standing room in the back and took our drink orders. She smirked as Pabst filled the list. The front featured seating room, scrunched oddly shaped chairs that looked like they had been individually handpicked from various garage sales. Not surprisingly, the bar was impressive with the majority of the light coming from the backlit bottles behind the bartender. Though, this was all in a moments glance as the wholeness of my attention was yanked to the stage where EJ Strickland’s Quintet burned through their first number. We listened for two sets slowly nudging our way to the front until by the end of the second set I sat with my now gently swaying friend and our feet tapping next to the musicians. The others started to get up as the band left the stage and it hit midnight. The jam session started. After about a half hour the stage was full and at 45 min in, a short man in a tightly checkered button down and black suit and hat stepped on stage. The bassist stepped forward, “I’d like to introduce my friend Roy Hagrove to the stage.” Everyone looked up eagerly and from there, it got heavy real quick.

Needless to say, it’s a must see venue for any NYC trip. Whether you think you’re into Jazz or not, the bottom line is that it’s a music best served live and the more intimate, the better. With Small’s, you see, up close, the best musicians in New York, and you can partake in something truly special until the street lights die for the morning commute. Its not just a venue for a nice occasion but a spot to come after work any and all days of the week. Essentially, it’s the way music should be experienced.

If the space itself wasn’t good enough, their website certainly makes it a staple for the preservation and dissemination of modern music. Boasting a huge audio archive of all the artists that have passed through its doors in recent years along with an impressive live video feed of nightly performances, Smalls has the market cornered.

Their Mission Statement speaks for itself:

“The intention and purpose of this website is ultimately dedicated to the betterment of Mankind through the dissemination of this music. Our hope is that the music on this site is studied and enjoyed by people of open minds and clear thoughts. We ask that you research the artists and, if you enjoy their music, to support them by buying their cds or contacting them with positive feedback. We dedicate this site as a resource for musicians and fans to discover each others work and to share ideas. Through peaceful interchange we will be able to progress as Artists and as Human Beings.

Our intention is also to support Smalls Jazz Club and the Artists that perform there. By supporting this site, you are directly supporting the club and its Artists. We hope that if you are able to, that you come visit us in New York City and experience the club in person.

We ask that you not steal from this site and that you treat the material here respectfully. Much of the content on this site is here by the goodwill of the Artists who have performed at the club.”

You can check out the site here: www.smallsjazzclub.com