Just a few steps away from the 28th Street subway station is Jazz Standard, the jazz bar New York Magazine called “the best jazz club.” It’s also below Blue Smoke, which Time Out New York named “best barbecue.” The thing is, I can’t speak to either — my knowledge of jazz is limited to smatterings of bossa nova and “Take Five,” and barbecue is not my forte. When I can speak to is the ambiance downstairs, the taste of a certain side dish and the Mingus Dynasty.
Judy, Dorian, Dennis, Keith and I swept past Blue Smoke entirely, heading straight downstairs for the nightly live music. As a bassist and lover of jazz, Dorian had been looking forward to seeing a show since he and Judy had arrived for their brief stay in New York. That night we were seeing Ming Dynasty, the seven-piece original Charles Mingus “legacy” band; the bassist even plays Mingus’s lion’s head bass, the scroll of which is carved to look like, well, a lion’s head. Like I said earlier, I don’t know uch about jazz, but the band was thoroughly enjoyable, maintaining an incredibly level of intensity. My favorite member of the Dynasty was its most adorable pianist, who fairly launched himself off of his stool with his energetic dancing. I also liked the trombonist — why do players of brass instruments always look so surprised with each breath?
I was feeling a bit peckish and knew I’d need a snack before dinner; along with a cocktail called the Illinois Swing (Tanqueray, prosecco and lemon juice, $11.00) I ordered a side dish: roasted cauliflower gratin ($6.95). Each bite was buttery, garlicky and salty, with a hint of lemon and something that I swear was nutmeg. I found myself almost sucking on each crisp-tender piece to get all the juice out.
Unfortunately, Jazz Standard doesn’t allow photography during the show — which is when I was eating — so let my words describe the aesthetic of the place. For me, the standout feature was the red upholstered wall behind the band. It added an oomph to the matte gray walls ans black ceiling and matched the curved red banquettes. If anything, it was like being in a comfy, secret den — that everyone should know about.
116 East 27th Street
New York, New York 10016