The Prague Jazz Scene

Prague has a lot more to offer than beautiful scenery and cheap beer. Perhaps you didn't know that the city is a paradise for the jazz devotee. Every night you can choose from a wide variety, depending on your personal taste in jazz and the kind of atmosphere you like. Prague hosts a number of "pur sang" jazz clubs, but the music is played in hotels, restaurants and bars as well.
What follows is a listing of Prague Online favourites, which should make your choice easier in finding the right place for you.

Jazz Club Zelezna - Zelezna 16, Prague 1. Open every night from 8 pm. till 1 am.

A jazz club like a jazz club should be. You enter the basement in a medieval, arcadic cellar. It's quite a large place though, with a separate bar, a cd bazar and of course, the stage. If you want to be sure of a seat, reserve a table, otherwise it's standing room only in most cases. Zelezna offers a wide variety: folk music, mainstream, bebop, dixieland, and blues. Wednesday evenings are often reserved for cabaret, which is very amusing, no matter you speak Czech or not. Jam sessions are held on Sundays, if you are among the active jazz lovers. The quality of music offered can sometimes be disappointing, but the atmosphere is great. A personal favourite.

AghaRTA Jazz Centrum - Krakovska 5, Prague 1. Open every night from 9 pm. till 12 pm.

Once famous for its underground reputation, it is said to have lost most of its charm. AghaRTA is still a major jazz hangout in Prague though. Check out the great Lubos Andrest, master guitarist, Frantisek Kop, saxofonist, and singer Yvonne Sanchez. All the great names of the Prague jazz scene find their way to AghaRTA regularly. The music should be the only reason for your visit though, since the place offers little in terms of atmosphere and comfort.

U Maleho Glena - Karmelitska 23, Prague 1. Open every night till 1 or 2 am.

Perhaps the smallest music club in the city. On the first floor there is a bar with the same name. Go downstairs and you enter the music bar. Twenty-five people and it's already crowded, but it adds to the atmosphere. Very intimate, and a good example of how musician-audience interaction can boast a performance. Jazz jam sessions every Sunday. A personal favourite are the weekly performances (on Mondays) of "Stan the Man and his Bohemian Blues Band". Be there in time, or you will have to listen to the music in the bar section of the place, and perhaps you will be able to catch a glimpse of the performance by looking through the small doorway. Highly recommended though !

Jazz Club U Stare Pani - Michalska 9, Prague 1.

Do you want to combine your dinner with jazz ? Then U Stare pani is the place for you. A restaurant atmosphere, and the host of many top performers. The well known Czech jazz giant Emil Viklicky (piano) is often heared here as well as the forementioned Yvonne Sanchez. Mostly mainstream and bebop.

Hudebni Klub U Bubenicku - Myslikova street (near Manes), Prague 1.

When you are tired of the typical jazz club atmosphere, but still want to hear it played, visit U Bubenicku. A typical Czech place, with good Dixieland jazz every Tuesday evening. Be sure your vocal chords are in shape, since on some nights the infamous singer from the Charles Bridge invites you to sing along with his lyrics on well known jazz standards. The number one place where atmosphere is concerned. A heavy metal fan can suddenly turn into a jazz lover here. Something you must have experienced !

Malostranska Beseda - Malostranske namesti 21, Prague 1.

One of the larger clubs, more like a small concert hall. A large stage and a separate bar. The atmosphere is consequently more official, and the programme contains top names. Good acoustics and a wide variety of offerings, from folk to rock. At least two or three times a week jazz or related music, mostly larger bands.

Metropolitan Jazz Club - Jungmannova 14, Prague 1.

The place to go when you are a traditional jazz devotee. Every night the club hosts one of the many Prague based traditional jazz groups. Among the best of them are the Jaroslav "Fats" Kos Trio and the Bob Zajicek groups. High prices and an often unfriendly service don't contribute to the atmosphere, but for the "trad-lover" the place is a must.

Klub De Lux - Vaclavske namesti 4, passage palac Astra, Prague 1.

One of the most recent new clubs to enter the scene, De Lux offers live jazz nightly from 8 till 11. The club is a multi-entertainment centre, offering Thai food, contemporary music to dance on, and hosts a jazz lounge. Good to know: no coverage when you have dinner there. The jazz often comes from the Najponk Trio, lead by Jan Knop, one of the city's best piano players.

Reduta - Narodni trida 20, Prague 1.
Probably the most famous jazz venue in Prague, it is a stylish place for the "sophisticated" jazz lover. The club is very proud of the fact that Bill Clinton once played his tenor there, since pictures of that memorable night can be seen outside at the entrance to attract customers. An ideal place though when you appreciate a more official atmosphere. The music is not always of the highest quality, but incidentally a top-act is on schedule.

Chelsea's - Zelezna 24, Prague 1.

This restaurant offers live jazz three nights a week. Often small Dixieland groups or trio's. The location enables you to combine a visit to Chelsea's with Zelezna Jazz Club.

Radisson SAS Hotel - Stepanska 40, Prague 1.

A beautiful Art Deco interior features a BeBop bar. Also accessible for non-guests, the music offered can be outstanding. If you're lucky you catch the Jakub Safr quintet, which plays Swing a la Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson. Expect high beverage prices.

Red Hot and Blues - Jakubska 12, Prague 1.

A restaurant offering Creole, Cajun and Tex-Mex specialities and live jazz or blues nightly from 8 till 11. Not a place for the real jazz lover, but if you like to dine with music it's perfect.

Besides the places listed, a number of other bars and restaurants offer live jazz. Restaurant U Price for instance on the Staromestske namesti (opposite to the astronomical clock). On many a night you can hear cheerful Dixieland jazz coming out of the restaurant. Beware though, since U Prince is infamous for its ripping of tourists.
Marquis de Sade (Templova 8, Prague 1) offers live music three times a week. Jazz mostly on Wednesdays.
A complete listing is of course almost impossible, but the information provided can be of assistance and should allow you to be able to plan a "Jazz week" to Prague and check out the scene. There is something for everyone !

Martijn Kanters