If you love to think of yourself as young and cool, but also enjoy subtly telling all of your friends that you are far more cultured and intelligent than they are, then I’m sure you’re no stranger to live jazz. My mother is a big fan, and as a teenager (I am still a teenager, #SorryAboutIt) she would take me to venues all across Buenos Aires in an attempt to turn me from a freestyle rapping, drug-obsessed boy into a saxophone improvising, alcoholic gentleman (call it a half-success?).
Whether you are looking for something to do on a Friday night, a different place to take someone on a date, or just enjoy complex melodies and believe that nothing matches the energy and constant innovation of live jazz (as if any of us are that classy), in the spirit of our wine, running, and Palermo guides, here is The Bubble’s guide to seeing live jazz in Buenos Aires.
Founded in 2000, Thelonious is the first jazz club that comes to mind when I think of Buenos Aires. Picked by DownBeat magazine for its worldwide jazz guide (supposedly an important thing in the jazz world?), Thelonious attracts high quality, international artists, as well as Argentina’s best local acts. It recently moved location to a new venue right in the middle of Palermo Hollywood, and its low-lighting and black and white color scheme give it a very classic, jazzy feel. The venue is a decent size for a jazz club, and while reservations aren’t always necessary, it’s not a bad idea to book ahead on the website. Tickets are usually around AR $300 (warning: written on July 17th 2019, number will have no relevance if you are not reading it the same week), which is pretty standard. The lights, tables, and room all make Thelonious a classic Buenos Aires jazz experience, and the music rarely disappoints.
If Thelonious is the classic, retro jazz experience, then Bebop is its younger, richer brother. Located in the basement of Aldo’s restaurant in San Telmo, just a few blocks away from the Casa Rosada, it has a distinctively swankier feel. Founded in 2014, Bebop feels new, bright and shiny, and while it has the characteristic lowlights of a jazz club, they don’t seem to get quite as dim as they do in Thelonious. The personal favorite of my parents, the club feels like New York in the roaring ‘20s. The quality of the music is also some of the best in Argentina, and the drinks and food are actually really good (uncommon for a jazz club) as during the day the space upstairs functions as a hip restaurant. There are shows every day except Monday, so if you get a jazz hankering on a Tuesday, or like good drinks and food with your jazz, Bebop is the place to go.
Only a few blocks away from Thelonious, Virasoro stands out because of how small it is. There are probably only 7 or 8 tables in the whole venue, so no matter what table you get you feel as if you’re on the stage. The low ceilings and relative proximity to everyone else creates a unique atmosphere, and you can feel the energy of the musicians and those around you. While it is a little cramped, tables can feel almost on top of each other, it makes up for with its intimate atmosphere. However, this also means reservations are a must, there is little to no chance that you will walk in and find a table. The club is generally full of people who have been to Thelonious, but prefer something a little more intimate (dare I say less mainstream or more niche?). Like the two previous places, Virasoro also has its share of virtuoso performers which you can enjoy in a cosy, close atmospher, making it one of the most fun places to experience jazz in the city.
By day, a vintage-camera-themed cafe in Chacarita (yes, you read that correctly). At night, Museo Simik hosts live jazz. It has fewer normal jazz vibes than the other venues on this list, notably, they do not dim the lights for performances (gasp! blasphemy), but the space is nonetheless very charming. The cafe feels like a classic Argentine restaurant, and while the musicians don’t tend to be as well known as those at some of the other clubs, they are no less talented. Consider it your chance to see up-and-coming artists before they explode onto the mainstream. Perhaps the best part is that you don’t have to reserve a table, and entrance is free (although you are expected to at least order something from the cafe, and the musicians pass around a hat). Expect to enjoy the music mainly with locals, and I mean real Argentine locals, not your hipster, Palermo Hollywood, quinoa faux-Americans. The retro cameras all over the space are definitely a cool touch for the ambiance. Enjoy jazz in Simik on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays.
Museo Fotográfico Simik| Federico Lacroze 3901 | Tuesday, Thursday – Saturday from 8 PM | Instagram
Now I know what you’re thinking. Is there anywhere I can see jazz on a Monday? Will I have to leave my insatiable thirst for live jazz unquenched on this one cursed day? Must I spend Monday nights at home, alone, screaming at the neighbors that “no matter how pure your vinyl recording of ‘Giant Steps’ is, it will never compare to a live show”? Don’t fear, dear reader, Notorious Club is open every day of the week, and the record store in the front of the club and the very mediocre drinks and food make it another classic jazz club of Buenos Aires.
Also chosen by DownBeat magazine as one of the world clubs to visit, the venue is fairly large, spacious, and attracts Argentina’s best local acts, as well as the occasional foreign import. The record store in the front of the club has a pretty great selection, so if you are looking to expand your vinyl collection (which, if you’re hipster enough to be interested in jazz, you probably are), Notorious is a great place to start. While the lights inside do not get nearly as dim as I would like (I feel like I can read the menu) located on the western edge of Barrio Norte, if you live in Recoleta or Almagro, it is probably your most accessible spot. There is also a band called Saxópatas (Saxopaths), which plays at Notorious almost every month, who you should go see for the ingenuity of their name alone.
Located in the basement of the hotel Melia Recoleta Plaza, Jazz Voyeur’s red brick walls and blue lights give the club a very new, modern feel, as if the space doubles as a Brooklyn slam poetry venue on Tuesday nights. While the food and drinks are, well, about as good as all the other places on this list (except for you Bebop, keep up the good work), the atmosphere is really nice. The space itself has more character than many of the other places on the list, and the cool blue light that bathes everything in the room, impulsed by the wall lighting and overhead window, really gives it a unique feel. Expect to find well off Recoletans (?) and younger, more hip people alike, on performances which take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday.