The first jazz musicians who arrived in Amsterdam were black American soldiers, jammin’ away with this strange music that no-one had ever heard before.
Cotton Club at Nieuwmarkt Square and Casablanca at the Zeedijk at the Red Light District were the first bars that hosted live jazz Amsterdam.
In 2012 2 new jazz clubs opened in Amsterdam North Sea Jazz Club, named after the famous Dutch jazz festival in Rotterdam and Bethany’s Jazz Club.
Here are 10 live jazz bars in Amsterdam
1. Jazz Café Amsterdam Alto at Leidseplein
Jazz Café Alto is located near Leidseplein and has live jazz music every night. The clientèle is diverse, serving students, musicians, locals and tourists, business tourism as well as happy campers. Alto is a typical Amsterdam brown bar and though smoking is banned like elsewhere, the walls have been soaking up the nicotine for years, so it still feels like a real jazz bar. It’s small with few seats and during weekends it can fill up pretty quickly.
Monday’s are for the Roberto Haliffi Trio.Tuesday is salsa night with Conjunto Amsterdam. Wednesday’s are for ‘the Greenfield Experience’. Sunday’s are for Amsterdam’s trumpet diva Saskia Laroo.
Korte Leidsedwarsstraat 115
2. Bimhuis live jazz with a view
Bimhuis has been Amsterdam’s most important stage for live jazz music since it opened in 1974, favoured internationally by people such as Charles Mingus, Archie Shepp, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra.
Since 2005 Bimhuis has been located at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, just east of Central Station in a newly developed area with breathtaking views on the IJ water. Bimhuis is all for new developments in live jazz music and can programme quite adventurous (experimental), so check programming first.
The Bimhuis also has a restaurant, a late night bar and a sunny terrace along the waterfront.
Piet Heinkade 3
Take either the 25 or 26 tram from Central Station (one stop).
3. Saturday Jazz at Cotton Club
The Cotton Club on Nieuwmarkt first opened its doors in 1940, named not so jazzy: Café Smit, after its owner (Smit is the most common Dutch surname).
After the war, Suriname immigrants and black American soldiers introduced jazz and marijuana into the Amsterdam scene, an excellent combination that would last until this very day.
Owner Annie Smit soon fell in love with Suriname trompet- player Teddy ‘jazzcat’ Cotton and a name change of the bar followed. If the Cotton Club could speak, it certainly would have some great stories to tell.
Every Saturday there is a Jazz concert in the Cotton Club.
4. Monday live jazz at Amsterdam’s Nel
Café Nel states on the website that they have the best terrace for outside dining in Amsterdam and that is probably true. Café Nel also have nice live jazz every Monday night during their Live Jazz NeL Sessions. Usually they are young musicians from Amsterdam who take the stage.
Amstelveld (near Rembrandtplein)
5. Bethany’s Jazz Club at Nieuwmarkt
Bethany’s Jazz Club is located in the old centre of Amsterdam, just off Nieuwmarkt/red light district.
This Amsterdam jazz club opened in 2012 in the cellar of the Bethanien convent, a convent dating back to 1450. The restored Bethanien convent has been hosting classical students and performances from the Amsterdam conservatory since the 1989. And now, a jazz cellar has been added.
Bethany’s Jazz club hosts the Amsterdam Vocal Night, a weekly vocal jazz session every Tuesday night. Professional jazz singers and students may step on stage during the open mic session.
Entrance is €10 and includes a drink.
Bethany’s Jazz Club
6. Wicked Jazz Sounds at Leidseplein’s Sugar Factory
Wicked Jazz Sounds celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2012. The organisation includes dj’s and musicians, management, radio show, club nights in Amsterdam and Utrecht and a record label. The Wicked Jaz Sounds Club Night is a weekly dance night at Sugar Factory (across the Melkweg at Leidseplein). Dj’s and musicians play together with a mix jazz, funk, soul, hip hop, disco, electronic, Latin and house.
Wicked Jazz Sounds Club Night
7. North Sea Jazz Club at Westergasfabriek
The North Sea Jazz Club is located at Westergasfabriek, where it is now 1 of 3 night time venues at this great spot. The live jazz club in Amsterdam says it wants to organise a ‘complete night out’ and so it offers dinner, live jazz music and dancing (DJ’s).
To persuade jazz artists to perform, the (small), jazz club in Amsterdam is cooperating with famous Dutch jazz festival North Sea Jazz Festival (in Rotterdam). This results in a programming of jazz in the broadest sense: from jazz and funk, soul and hiphop to lounge and electronic music.
The live jazz clientèle is young and Amsterdam-hip.
North Sea Jazz Club
8. De Engelbewaarder – live jazz on Sunday afternoon
The Engelbewaarder is a literary café located near Nieuwmarkt in the centre of city on a beautiful canal. There’s a terrace on the waterfront, 15 beers on tap, a restaurant menu with fair prices, a very diverse crowd and regular photo exhibitions.
Every Sunday afternoon, there is a live jazz band, conducted by Jacko Schoonderwoerd, Victor de Boo and Leo Bouwmeesters.
9. Pompstation live music while you eat from Thursday to Sunday
Pompstation is restaurant located in Amsterdam East (Indische buurt). It’s well known for its steaks (Dutch cows) but it also serves vegetarians.
On Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday there is live music to accompany the food. On Sunday there is singer-songwriter night.
Open from 17.00 hours (5 pm)
10. Casablanca at Red Light District
Café Casablanca is an old live jazz club and karaoke bar at the Amsterdam red light district. You can listen to big bands in this small place like the Biggles big band, the Soul Rebels big band and the Bucket big band. When there is a band playing, karaoke starts after the band. If not, karaoke starts at 20.00 (8 pm). Check the agenda (link below).
Free entrance. Be early, gets very crowded.