Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola
By Scott H. Thompson
Tony Bennett called it "the best jazz room in the city," while leading publications like DownBeat and Jazz Times voted the venue one of the world’s best.
Yes, we’re talking about Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center’s intimate jazz club tucked away on the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. And while the main event is world-class jazz, the place also has spectacular views.
“Dizzy’s has become a vital contributor to the jazz landscape in the jazz capital of the world,” explains General Manager Roland Chassagne. “We have more than 85,000 people per year, from all over the world and from all walks of life coming through the club to experience the trifecta: great jazz, great food, and a great view. Our motto from day one has always been ‘Welcome,’ and we continue to create a comfortable environment for our customers and performers.”
The club, which opened in October 2004, prides itself on being accessible to all, and the nightly cover charge is similar to most jazz clubs in the city. It has a discounted cover charge for students, which is generally half-price. There are inspiring After Hours sets with a hard-to-beat $10 cover charge that take place after the headliner sets (11pm weekdays and 12:30am weekends, excluding Mondays and Sundays). After Hours recently added the Late Night Session, hosted by vocalist Michael Mwenso on Thursdays at 11pm. The Late Night Session is designed “to provide local and visiting musicians a place to hang, commune, and play together into the morning hours, while featuring some of today’s greatest young musicians,” says Mwenso, who recently joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center team after successfully running the internationally acclaimed Late Show at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.
Mondays at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola features a variety of programming, from college-level jazz bands fronted by seasoned veterans to Monday Nights with WBGO, hosted by on-air personality Rhonda Hamilton who conducts interviews with performing artists that night. Mondays also showcase stand-alone special bands. Recently, the Walter Blanding Sextet, which showcased an all-star Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra lineup including Blanding (tenor saxophone), Marcus Printup (trumpet), Vincent Gardner (trombone), Dan Nimmer (piano), Carlos Henriquez (bass), and Ali Jackson (drums).
“Playing at Dizzy’s is like being around family on special moments in life,” says Henriquez. “The feeling provided by the staff and people attending the club will make your visit an evening of great moments.”
Blanding is also a big fan of the venue. "Of all the jazz clubs in New York City, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola is definitely one of my favorites for many reasons. One is because of the beautiful view of Columbus Circle and Central Park, which can be seen behind the performers as they play their hearts out. Another is because of the warm and inviting atmosphere which is always present. And, the greatest reason, of course, is the music,” insists Blanding.
Blanding recalls playing to a sold-out audience in April. “Without a doubt, it was one of the most positive, fulfilling experiences for every single person in the whole room, not only spiritually, but also just plain fun,” he says. “In the packed room, feeling the band and audience together swinging to the rhythm of the music created a kind of intimate relationship and vibration between the performers on stage and the audience. This is the kind of experience that reminds us all why we love to go out and hear good music, particularly jazz.“
The entire club was pulsating with an electric energy that made us all feel just a little bit better, when leaving the club, than we did when we came in. And I mean every single person in the room! This is what a jazz club is supposed to feel like," Blanding concludes. If you missed his ensemble in the spring, the Walter Blanding Sextet returns to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on August 27.
Headline artists that have performed here include: Bill Charlap, Bobby Hutcherson, Charles McPherson, Cindy Blackman, Dianne Reeves, Eliane Elias, Frank Wess, Gary Bartz, George Coleman, Grady Tate, Greg Osby, Hank Jones, Jeremy Pelt, Jim Hall, Joe Lovano, Marcus Roberts, Monty Alexander, Nicholas Payton, Regina Carter, René Marie, Robert Glasper, Russell Malone and Steve Turre. Stevie Wonder even came in one night after hours to sit down at the piano and jam.
Of course, under the direction and guidance of General Manager Roland Chassagne, Assistant Manager Desmond Prass, and Programming Director Todd Barkan, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is in good hands. The staff is attentive and knowledgeable about the music, while the award-winning catering company, Great Performances, provides jazz lovers with a delicious variety of southern style culinary delights with a New York flair. Add to this spectacular, talented headliners gracing the stage every night, and that’s a recipe for a truly world-class jazz club.
Scott H. Thompson is Assistant Director for Public Relations at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
For more information, visit jalc.org.
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