New York’s Best Jazz Club – NY MAGAZINE
The Iridium started in 1994 with a simple mission: present the best in live jazz-no small task in a city like New York-in an intimate performance space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Deemed “hallowed ground” by iconic guitarist Steve Miller, the Iridium stage has played a part in launching the careers of countless preeminent jazz artists, including James Carter, Ravi Coltrane, Cyrus Chestnut, and many others. Its fabled impromptu jams have led to myriad irreproducible moments, such as a night early in the club’s infancy when the legendary Lionel Hampton sat at the piano accompanied by peerless trumpeter and unofficial jazz spokesperson Wynton Marsalis. The fledgling club soon caught the attention of none other than Les Paul, the father of the electric guitar, who made it his weekly home for more than 12 years, right up to his passing in August 2009.
A relative newcomer to the jazz scene, the Iridium was quick to get on the map, named “New York’s Best Jazz Club” in New York Magazine, featured in The New York Times, and receiving international recognition for its contribution to live music. Numerous recordings and a weekly live broadcast on jazz radio station WBGO cemented Iridium’s reputation as one of the world’s best purveyors of jazz. The club soon attracted the leading denizens of jazz, including McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, Michael Brecker, Charlie Haden, and Max Roach. Before long, it was clear that the club had outgrown its cozy confines at its original location on 63rd Street and 8th Avenue, relocating to 51st Street and Broadway, a stone’s throw from jazz’s storied 52nd Street. The new location took Iridium’s already legendary programming and combined it with gourmet food usually not found in a jazz club, a consummate wine list, great sight lines and a Meyer Sound system advised by Les Paul himself.
Les Paul’s absence is keenly felt, but the club has gone from mourning him to honoring him by preserving his memory with Les Paul Mondays, a weekly series featuring the Les Paul Trio (guitarist Lou Pallo, bassist Nicki Parrott, and pianist John Colianni), performing with a different special guest, among them guitar gods Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, and Zakk Wylde, as well as many others. A portion of the proceeds from the series are donated to the Les Paul Foundation. The club has now expanded Les Paul Mondays to include other days of the week, with the goal of creating a more guitar-centric room in honor of Les Paul.
For those that never saw one of Les’s shows, each Monday was a can’t-miss event featuring superstars such as Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, and Slash paying homage to the master. In June 2010, Jeff Beck officially dedicated the performance space to Les Paul with two electrifying performances during Les Paul’s 95th birthday week, which will be released on DVD next year and was also filmed for a PBS special. As a tribute to Les Paul and the huge shadow he casts over the entire music industry, the Iridium has expanded its mission to not only present the best in live jazz, but also the best in guitar regardless of musical style or genre. In pursuit of this goal, Iridium will not only be presenting legends, but also lesser-known guitarists with a unique voice. This more diverse booking policy is best encapsulated as “Jazz any instrument, guitar any genre.”
We welcome your feedback and encourage you to join our Facebook Fan Page and follow us on Twitter. Even without Les Paul, the Iridium is committed now more than ever to presenting the best in live music that the city has to offer.