From understated, low-key Forte to Le Club’s hazy Manhattan hipness, Moscow’s jazz clubs are all unique in their own way. They do have one thing in common, though — great music.
Forte is the most low-key of these clubs. With artful black-and-white photographs of famous musicians and dark brown wood trim flanking the walls, the understated decor resembles something between a sports bar and hunting lodge.
“Our focus is on the music,” said Albert Sergim, Forte’s art director. “It’s for people who really appreciate jazz.”
This is particularly evident on Friday nights, when local jazz guru Alexei Kozlov takes the stage with his group Arsenal. Playing jazz classics interspersed with his own compositions, jazz veteran Kozlov introduces each number with a short explanation of the song’s origins.
In contrast, Le Club — next to the Theater on Taganka — is sleeker, more upscale and more contemporary, with a dark, hazy atmosphere that evokes hip, nighttime Manhattan. Worn wood floors and trendy patches of decaying brick wall are juxtaposed with ornate and colorful painted designs.
The club’s patron saint and art director is legendary Russian saxophonist Igor Butman, whose Big Band group plays every Monday night. Along with this group and other Russian performers, Le Club draws some of the top jazz musicians from around the world, making it a guaranteed option for high-end jazz.
Cool Train, in the B2 club, occupies a large, open space and is constantly astir with people walking to and from other parts of the gargantuan club. This reflects what Cool Train’s art director Oleg Kireyev sees as the club’s “democratic spirit.”
“We have all kinds of jazz here,” he said, “from traditional to jazz rock to ethno-fusion. We treat them all equally.”
At 40 years old, Sinyaya Ptitsa is the most seasoned club in the city, but a recent renovation has added a new and fresh feel to its illustrious history. Adorned with bright colors and immersed in a soft blue light, the intimate, underground space now has a decidedly contemporary edge.
Like Cool Train, Sinyaya Ptitsa caters to musical diversity. From jazz standards sung by Anna Korolyova to the personal compositions of Igor Bril + 5 to the funky sounds of Sergei Manukyan, the club covers the full range of jazz, packing in nightly performances that won’t disappoint.
Beyond these clubs, Moscow offers a number of different jazz options. The club Kurs has jazz concerts six nights a week. Alabama Jazz, right in the city center, is a new club that’s beginning to draw attention to its nightly jazz performances. Jazz Art Club, located in the unlikely venue of the Bulgarian Cultural Center, provides Soviet-style jazz on Friday nights.
For more experimental, jazz-influenced music, check out Club na Brestskoi, Kitaisky Lyotchik Dzhao Da and Dom, although you should check beforehand what type of music is playing that night; the same goes for recently reopened Marika, which also has jazz nights. Finally, Restavratsiya is an elegant, laid-back place with a top-notch restaurant and jazz on Friday and Saturday nights.
8 Bolshaya Sadovaya Ul. (M. Mayakovskaya)
Jazz Art Club
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