International Music Scene Spotlight: Jazz in Prague

posted by Rose Mardit on July 19, 2012

In addition to the beer and puppets for which the city is known, Prague boasts another almost magical element: a thriving jazz scene. Beginning in the 1920s, Czech jazz and blues artists started to gain popularity. Music was strictly regulated under the Nazi occupation, and jazz in particular was reviled. Restrictions on tempo, rhythm, instruments and how they could be played, and lyrical content should have paralyzed the scene, but inspired underground performances instead.

Today, jazz is as popular as ever. There are festivals throughout the Czech Republic, such as Prague International Jazz Festival, Bohemia Jazz Fest, and JazzFestBrno. Visitors to Prague will appreciate the high concentration of live music venues. These unassuming treasures are tucked inside the winding streets of seemingly every neighborhood in the city, and a great many are in the conveniently situated Old Town. Here are a few of the best places to experience jazz in Prague.

AghaRTA Jazz Centrum
Zelezná 16, 110 00 Praha 1
Staré Mesto - Old Town
+420 222 211 275
Close to Old Town Square, this jazz club features a lively bar and a record shop which is open 24/7. It is named for the Miles Davis album and was opened the day after the legendary musician died. AghaRTA features modern, swing, Latin, blues, fusion, and has a cozy atmosphere despite being housed in an underground cellar. They also host a jazz festival every year. Live music daily, from 9p to midnight.

Jazz Club u Staré Paní
Michalská 9, 110 00 Praha 1
Staré Mesto - Old Town
+420 602 148 377
+420 605 285 211
u Staré Paní is located in a building with a hotel and restaurant of the same name, which means "The Old Woman." This small club gives off a chic-without-trying vibe, and even though it is steps from Old Town Square, many nights seem filled with local Czechs. International and top local performers take the stage regularly, and their wide variety of personalities ensure that each night is different and enjoyable. Concerts being at 9p Wednesday through Sunday.

Reduta Jazz Club
Národní trída 20, 110 00 Praha 1
Nové Mesto - New Town
+420 224 933 487
Reduta has been a jazz destination for over 50 years. The club used to have a more underground feel and has become popular with tourists in recent years, but it is still a reliable choice for high-quality music. Jam sessions and more formal performances run the gamut from traditional to modern, dixieland to soul, and everything in between. The club is very proud to have hosted former U.S. President Bill Clinton and his tenor saxophone on stage in 1994, and a photo from that night is still posted outside. Live music at 9:30p every day.

u Malého Glena
Karmelistká 23, 118 00 Praha 1
Malá Strana - Lesser Town
+420 257 531 717
Among the smallest clubs in the city, some of the more important personalities in the Czech jazz scene play here. The restaurant and bar are on the first floor, the music bar is downstairs, and since it is also an apartment-style hotel, there is really no need to ever leave. Every night of the week at u Malého Glena is different: blues on Mondays, jam sessions on Sundays, two artists with residences, etc. It has a warm, intimate atmosphere and is located near one of the most famous Prague landmarks, the Charles Bridge. Concerts start every day at 9:30p.

Jazz Dock
Janáckovo nábrezí 2, 150 00 Praha 5
+420 774 058 838
A newcomer to Prague's jazz circuit, Jazz Dock has emerged as one the most highly-regarded music venues in the city. Situated on the Vltava River and outside of the tourist center, both the interior and exterior have a striking, modern feel. The entrance fees are low (with reductions for anyone under 25!), the drink menu extensive, and the music top-notch. There are performances most nights of the week, with an international roster and massive variety of musical styles; just check the program online. A rooftop cafe is open during the warmer months.

Jazz na Hrade
Prazsky hrad, 118 00 Praha 1
Hradcany - Castle District
+420 224 373 156
+420 224 372 419
Visiting Prague Castle is a must during any trip to the city, but this architecture also offers a surprising cultural experience with its Jazz at the Castle series. The eight year old program, started by current President Václav Klaus, provides an opportunity to hear high quality music in a beautiful setting. Performers come from all over the world for these monthly concerts.