Jazz Music. Two small words that can mean a whole lot, depending on whose ears are listening. New Orleans has been known as the “home of jazz.” “cradle of jazz” and even “the birthplace of jazz.” Wherever you believe jazz originated make no mistake, New Orleans still continues to have a huge influence in the world of jazz music. In the Crescent City, we celebrate multiple styles of jazz; Dixieland, Traditional New Orleans Jazz and Modern Jazz. The city hosts many clubs and festivals that celebrate these styles of music,( Check out Preservation Hall for an iconic listen to some Traditional New Orleans Jazz.) Some styles of jazz music are what folks might call, unclassifiable or fringe jazz but what we like to call it is improvised jazz. Music that may have no specific form or structure, rather musicians going on a journey of exploration. If this style of jazz music is something you would like to experience in a deeper way, then you need to check out Sidebar NOLA.
Located around the corner from the New Orleans courthouse at 611 South White Street, Sidebar NOLA is a home for musicians who like to explore and improvise within the jazz idiom. Sidebar has been around for several years and was under most people’s radar, except for the musicians. Many musicians in the city play as sidemen in other bands, meaning they play other people’s music, but at Sidebar these musicians are encouraged and expected to perform their own music in an improvised setting. The club has two jazz formats, both very similar; Scatterjazz and Instant Opus. Scatterjazz is the name Sidebar gives to the nightly performances. There are usually two shows one at 7 pm and one at 9 pm. Both performances involve two to four musicians. The listening room is very intimate, with about 15-20 seats as well as standing room in the bar/cocktail area and listening outside when the back door is open. The goal of the performances is exploration through music. Many times these musicians have never played together so the show is a once in a lifetime for the musicians and audience. That is also the case with the Instant Opus series which happens every Monday at Sidebar. Three musicians get come together who have NEVER played before and perform. The journeys are always unique and great experience hearing some of the best New Orleans musicians in their settings. The amazing thing about Sidebar is the support by the musicians, because this is a place for them and their music. The club is becoming popular as an improvised jazz destination, national performers will set up a gig at Sidebar to play when they are in town because of the breadth of freedom given by the club. (Jeff Coffin from Dave Matthews Band recently performed at Sidebar.)
The bar is well stocked with local beers and cocktail selection that will rival any cocktail bar. If the bar gets crowded you may have to wait a few minutes for drinks, but the music is always interesting. Most of the performances are by donation ($10 suggested) but some of the shows with bigger names will have a cover. If you need to hear jazz that can’t be found on Bourbon or Frenchmen Street chances are the place you need to check out is Sidebar NOLA, a place where free-form improv is encouraged and celebrated.