The best Jazz Clubs in Rome. What makes a jazz club truly authentic? Many would say it’s the music. But it’s not just that. It’s the atmosphere that makes each club unique – the shabby sofas, worn wooden tables, the mirrors on the wall and dim lighting. The patrons of the New York jazz scene know it well, having visited the best of the Big Apple’s jazz clubs from top to bottom: from the rugged Fat Cat, with its annexed billiard room, to the characterful Smalls, where a cat roams about the place, the renowned Village Vanguard, the elegant Blue Note and Kitano, and the popular Lenox Lounge. Even Rome has a small jazz scene, there are the historical locals, like Alexanderplatz, and the more traditional clubs like Gregory’s, closeby to piazza di Spagna.
Most of Rome’s jazz clubs have a weekly programme, with different groups playing almost every night. In almost all of the clubs you’ll find a traditional bar and cuisine. Jazz and good food, however, don’t always go hand in hand, at least in Rome. There are only a few exceptions. With this said, read on for a mini-guide to the Roman jazz scene, brought to you by Puntarella Rossa.
Gregory’s is one of the most characterful Roman jazz clubs. It sits across two floors: at street level there’s a room with tables and a bar, with pictures of famous musicians lining the walls. On the next floor there’s the main concert room, with faded blue sofas, mirrors, wooden partitions and the stage, framed by an exposed brick wall. On the menu you’ll find a varied selection of whiskies. The food on offer, however, is not the best. The price of the concert, excluding your food or drink bill, ranges between 15 to 25 euros depending on who’s playing.
Gregory’s Jazz Club*, via Gregoriana 54a Rome. Tel. 327 8263770 e 06 6796386. Open from 8pm to 2am. Concerts start at 10pm. Website
*Photo by Giuseppe Antelmo
In over thirty years of music, the key figures in the world’s jazz scene have played on Alexanderplatz’s stage. From Wynton Marsalis, Joshua Redman, Etta James, Chet Baker, Ray Brown, Chick Corea to Michel Petrucciani. The atmosphere is definitely appealing, but you can’t say the same for the management or the food on offer. We’ve often encountered lazy service and an unimaginative food menu. But Alexanderplatz still remains a historical jazz club where you can listen to the ‘big names’ in jazz, including Italian musicians. The price of a concert, excluding your food or drink bill, costs 20 euros.
Alexanderplatz Jazz Club, via Ostia 9 Rome. Open from 8.30pm to 1.30am. Concerts start at 9.45pm. Tel. 0639721867. Website
Dim lighting, good food and jazz music. Ballad Caffè, a new jazz club in San Lorenzo, combines concerts with fine dining. Nunzia is behind the idea, who for a while was the organsiser of TramJazz, the live music and food service that travelled about on trams for a period, a project was made possible thanks to Atac. On the menu you’ll find an array of dishes, there’s fried egg from Peppovo, a farm from Sora near Livorno (7-10 euros), burratina (a cheese like mozzarella) from Andria (10 euros), smoked John West oysters (12 euros), and a platter of different cheeses. The starters on offer range from spaghettoro (thick spaghetti) ‘Verrigni’ with cherry tomatoes and burratina (10 euros), strozzapreti all’ernica (pasta with porcini mushrooms, bacon, cherry tomatoes and pecorino shavings), and the traditional cacio e pepe (10 euros).
Out of an ancient bakery in the 1700s that then became an important cheese factory at the end of the 1800s, came BeBop Jazz Club in the 1990s, that went on to become the essential spot for blues and jazz music in Rome. In 2010 the club was entirely refurbished and since then it has lost some of its past liveliness. The local is generally frequented by Roman and Italian musicians. A yearly membership is required to enter, which allows you to listen to concerts for free. The bar and food menu are averagely priced.
BeBop, via Giuseppe Giulietti Rome. Concerts start at 10pm. Open from Tuesday to Saturday. Tel. 3457179871. Website
Casa del Jazz
Casa del Jazz is a theatre, not a club, but it’s still worth paying it a visit. It came to life in 2005 under Walter Veltroni, and the space itself has an interesting history. It is in a villa which was at one point seized by the boss of the Magliana Enrico Nicoletti criminal organisation, and then eventually handed over to the Roman capital. Casa del Jazz puts on weekly concerts with many different music styles, from dixieland to avant-garde. In the summer months the concerts take place out in the open, in the large park that surrounds the villa. The restaurant is currently being refurbished, but will reopen soon under new management.
Casa del Jazz, viale di Porta Ardeatina 55 Rome. Tel. 06704731. Website
Il Cantiere – Agus Collective
You’ll find Il Cantiere tucked away on the corner of Trastevere. This too is not your traditional jazz club, but a theatre. The abandoned ex cinema is the official house of the Agus Collective, a collective of 15 jazz musicians on the Roman scene that have for some years organised two or three concerts a week. For only 5 euros you can buy yourself a seat in a creaking red armchair, looking over the stage. Once you’ve entered you’ll find a small dining area, with an unfussy selection of beers and wines.
Il Cantiere, via G. Modena 92 , Rome.
And finally, there’s Cotton Club. Traditional, retro and elegant. It’s not one of our favourites, but it’s worth a visit. You can listen to jazz music here almost every night, but the food and service isn’t the best. Entry costs 10 euros.
Cotton Club, via Bellinzona 2 Rome. Concerts start at 10pm. Closed on Sundays. Tel. 0697615246. Website
Traduzione a cura di Corinna Parker