By Jeniece Smith
Looking for live music and a groovy time? Take a note from George Gershwin, composer of many of America’s favorite jazz standards, who posited that “life is a lot like jazz – it’s best when you improvise.”
You might not expect it in Wisconsin, but America’s original art form thrives alongside the state’s popular country, rock and folk roots. So check out these jumpin’ joints for a night of hot tunes by cool cats.
This ‘50s-style lounge has been Wisconsin’s premier jazz club for the better part of four decades. Purchased in late 2015 by the owner of Milwaukee’s oldest cocktail lounge, the Estate will be closed for renovations until early spring, when the famous neon sign turns on again to welcome patrons back.
Traditionally, the club has offered live music five nights a week and a calendar crammed full of top jazz artists.
The New Orleans-inspired menu and live piano player at this basement barrelhouse will have you thinking you’ve wandered into the French Quarter.
Stop in for jazz and blues performances Tuesday through Saturday, and be sure to try the crawfish cheesecake! Like Wisconsin’s jazz scene, this fluffy Creole cake with crawfish meat, smoked gouda and bell peppers is a mouthful of unanticipated perfection.
If your ideal night out is all about the dining (and award-winning wine!), consider making reservations for the seasonal Jazz and Wine nights on the patio of this Napa-valley inspired destination, set on seven acres in a 130-year-old brick farmhouse.
Sip California-style wines and try Blind Horse’s signature pancetta-wrapped scallops to start off your toe-tapping musical experience.
Maybe you prefer cityscapes and a nightlife feel? Head to downtown Oshkosh and check out this contemporary American eatery with a trendy riverside dining room.
Daily specials include half-price burgers, cheap tacos, a fish fry, prime rib and free wine, with Wednesdays all about the music. Indulge in wine and artisan Wisconsin cheeses as hometown group the Jazz Orgy seduces your ears.
Sip some locally roasted joe from Kickapoo Coffee or a brew from Milwaukee-based Rishi Tea at this organic café. The regionally sourced menu changes with the seasons, though you can always try their tasty crepes.
The artwork, open mic nights and weekly jazz performances from La Crosse-based 3rd Relation Jazz Quartet create a hip beatnik vibe.
What’s a B&B doing on this list? This restored 1800s Victorian mansion has its own house band, Front Porch Swing!
A popular destination for weddings, Tuft’s hosts its own special events throughout the year, including a concert series with frequent guest artists. After the last notes fade into the evening, head upstairs for a soak in your room’s claw-foot bathtub.
Looking for more great live music? Check out these classic Wisconsin piano bars!