Where It’s Scat: The 10 Best Places to Hear Live Jazz in DFW

The Free Man house band, The Free Loaders, plays every Tuesday evening.
The Free Man house band, The Free Loaders, plays every Tuesday evening. Scott McWilliams

More than just a music genre, jazz is a lifestyle often associated with timelessness and musical creativity. North Texas can boast of a few joints perfect to hear local artists explore the grooves made famous by legends such as Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis. Whether you're into sculptural rhythms spit from a saxophone, the soft caress of piano keys or tunes sung by soulful songbirds, these clubs, lounges and restaurants cater to the musical interplay epitomized by the jazz genre.

The Free Man Cajun Café and Lounge
2626 Commerce St., Deep Ellum

For years, folks have gathered at this New Orleans-style lounge to get a good taste of Cajun culture. Propped on Deep Ellum’s stretch of Commerce Street, The Free Man features free live performances daily, which often include jazz, swing, zydeco or Dixieland. On any night, this popular after-show hangout packs patrons like canned crawdads. Last year, owner John Jay Myers, who fronts his band The Free Loaders and leads a marching band through Deep Ellum every Fat Tuesday for Mardi Gras, expanded the floorspace to accommodate more boogie room.

The Balcony Club
1825 Abrams Road, Dallas

One of Dallas’ premier jazz venues, the Balcony Club has been a home for those who live and breathe the lifestyle. Some musicians call this locale “the gig after the gig,” meaning the Balcony’s the spot to hit up after playing a show. This intimate space above the historic Landmark Theater reverberates the charisma left from jazz’s golden age with its old-fashioned aura. Legends such as Big Al Dupree loved to play at the club, and now, groups such as the Jonathan Fisher Quartet regularly grace the Balcony’s stage.
click to enlarge Twilite is a nostalgic Deep Ellum spot where you can catch jazz greats like Shelley Carroll. - ALEX GONZALEZ
Twilite is a nostalgic Deep Ellum spot where you can catch jazz greats like Shelley Carroll.
Alex Gonzalez
Twilite Lounge (Dallas)
2640 Elm St., Deep Ellum

Another NOLA-inspired bar in Deep Ellum, Twilite Lounge sits on Elm Street as a cool place to slam a beer and hear musicians jam. With a Bourbon Street-esque feel, Twilite’s interior looks like something out of A Streetcar Named Desire. It’s downright nostalgic with a ’20s look and feel. And void of cover charges, visitors often hear jazz players such as saxophonist Shelley Carroll boom soothing rhythms throughout this neighborhood bar.

The Crescent Club
200 Crescent Court, Dallas

North Texans can hear piano jazz while soaking up Dallas’ skyline at The Crescent Club. This classy establishment operated on the 17th floor of Crescent Complex’s center office serves as a posh lounge for well-dressed types to sip cocktails in an easygoing atmosphere reminiscent of the Cole Porter days. On most nights, live sound swept by the soft touch of a piano or subtle bass thump lingers in the club.

Sandaga 813
813 Exposition Ave., Dallas

With its dark interior and laid-back vibes, Sandaga 813 radiates music’s mellow side, showcasing smooth jazz artists every Thursday night. This nightclub, a stone’s throw from Fair Park, features an outdoor patio with great space for samba dancing. Dallas music icon Erykah Badu has played Sandaga as have a slew of the city’s jazz favorites, such as trumpeter Freddie Jones.

SoHo Food & Jazz
5290 Belt Line Road, North Dallas

SoHo’s a place to dress nice and embrace a romantic evening. Every night, the house features stylish modern or traditional jazz sets performed by pianists, saxophonists, guitarists, bassists and singers who create an ambiance for those looking to relax. The darkly lit interior mirrors the swankiness of a midtown Manhattan nightclub, while live bands playing near the entrance induce tranquility.

Scat Jazz Lounge
111 W. 4th St., Suite 11, Fort Worth

Cowtown’s Scat Jazz Lounge makes for one cozy spot situated in Sundance Square. Artists explore all jazz styles in this subterranean speakeasy-style club built inside the basement of downtown’s historic Woolworth building. Regular performers of this dim-lit venue, such as singers Tatiana Mayfield and Johnny Reno, keep Scat’s energetic vibe pulsating with their repertoires. Throughout the week, the lounge hosts special sessions including a tribute to Blue Note Records on Tuesdays, Sounds of the French Quarter on Wednesdays and Black Dog Jam, led by bassist Paul Metzger and percussionist Joey Carter, on Sundays.
click to enlarge R.L.’s Blues Palace II is an authentic jazz house. - DANNY FULGENCIO
R.L.’s Blues Palace II is an authentic jazz house.
Danny Fulgencio
R.L.’s Blues Palace II
3100 Grand Ave., Dallas

Always keeping his Blues Palace bopping, owner R.L. Griffin gives blues and jazz artists a home to tackle electrifying sets. Open on weekends to those 25 and older, R.L.’s Blues Palace proves to be a staple of Dallas’ blues community, but Griffin, who heads the house band, jazzes up the joint from time to time. Some nights he gets folks dancing and his Hens “clucking” to something a little more improvisational.

Chocolate Secrets
3926 Oak Lawn Ave., Dallas

This Oak Lawn shop gives chocolate lovers a chance to pair their favorite gourmet candy with fine wine while tuned to delicate jazz music. Every Wednesday and Saturday night, Chocolate Secrets features live acts such as contemporary artist Joe McBride, singer Pat Peterson and guitarist Luqman Rashada who set the mood. These musicians bring grooves to the shop’s Jazz Room while patrons sip pinot and bite into sweet delicacies.

Revelers Hall
412 N. Bishop Ave., Dallas

Back in May, we found a portal in the Bishop Arts venue to take us back in time to New Orleans in the 1920s. The Revelers Hall band, a traditional, largely acoustic house jazz band, plays every Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. It doesn't get more authentic than this. 
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