Finding traditional jazz in Austin-area clubs can be elusive.
Austin is not New Orleans and no establishments offer traditional jazz entertainment on a nightly basis. However, some locations do offer traditional jazz or something very close to it on a weekly or sporadic basis.
This is a guide to those places. Bookings change, so consult Other Local Events on this website or call the club before going.
5621 Airport Boulevard
Quality Seafood is located on Airport Boulevard just south of Koenig Lane. It is located in a small shopping center. Parking is adequate most of the time, but large events can fill the lot. Try to come early to music events. There is some parking available at the office building next door.
Quality Seafood is an informal seafood market and restaurant. The food is very good. Seating is at a bar, tables and booths. Quality Seafood recently took over an adjacent store and has been expanded and refurbished. The current traditional jazz attraction is the Texas Moaners.
315 Congress Avenue
The Elephant Room is Austin’s only real jazz club, furnishing jazz nightly in a variety of styles. For a number of years traditional jazz styles were offered from 6 to 8 p.m., with modern jazz bands taking over for the rest of the night. Stanley Smith, who had been booking the 6-8 slot, recently moved back to his native Indianapolis, and it appears that a fair amount of modern jazz is now being booked for the early show.
Street parking can be a real adventure in downtown Austin, but there are some lots and garages nearby. The front door does double duty for Counter 3.Five.VII and the Elephant Room. Go downstairs and immerse yourself in the basement atmosphere of the Elephant Room.
The Elephant Room is strictly a watering hole—beer, wine and mixed drinks. Patrons occasionally bring their own food or have it delivered. You will do best listening to smaller jazz ensembles—big bands tend to overwhelm the space.
1315 South Congress Avenue
The name “Continental Club” sounds posh and sophisticated. The reality is quite different. The Continental is basically a concrete box with a stage and a bar. It is pretty strictly a watering hole—eat before you go. Parking is on the street and can be an adventure, although both sides of South Congress are lined with diagonal parking spaces.
The current jazz attractions at Continental are the Hot Club of Cowtown, a western swing ensemble, and White Ghost Shivers, a talented novelty jazz band.
1110 East 52nd Street
The Carousel Lounge is a piece of Austin entertainment history. It is little changed since the 1960s. It is another watering hole—beer, wine and mixed drinks. Carousel is decorated in a bright circus motif, including a large paper-maché elephant. There are double rows of parking spaces in front of the club. People who find themselves parked in will come back inside to ask the outer parker to move. There are a few spaces at the business next door and some street parking.
The Chaparral Dixielanders play at the Carousel about once a month from 7 to 9 p.m. Other bands run the gamut of popular guitar-based styles. If traditional jazz is your music, check before you go. As at Flipnotics, bands play strictly for tips, so please support the musicians.
1413 Webberville Road
North -4001 North Lamar Boulevard
Westgate -4477 South Lamar Boulevard
There are two Central Markets, both gourmet grocery stores with cafés operated by the grocery store chain HEB. Both offer live entertainment under somewhat different circumstances. Central Market North has a covered outdoor stage, with outdoor tables. In bad weather a portion of the deck is walled off with temporary partitions. At Central Market Westgate, the café and the music are strictly indoors. The shows tend to be bigger at North, and jazz shows are less frequent. Westgate offers some jazz every month, often by several ensembles.
1120 South Lamar Boulevard
The Highball is part of a mixed-used complex called Lamar Union. From Lamar Boulevard all you can see are a couple of large grey cube-looking midrise buildings. Look down one of the complex streets and you can see the Alamo Drafthouse. The Highball is next door. The Highball is probably the spiffiest club offering jazz in Austin. The old club was demolished and the present version built during the development of Lamar Union. There is a large parking garage. Inside, the Highball features a stage and a large dance floor. Several bands get dates there including a small big band called the Copa Kings.
The Butterfly Bar
2307 Manor Road
The Butterfly Bar is in a fenced compound with the Vortex Theatre. The compound is set well back from Manor Road. Look for Home Steam Laundry and Cleaners at the corner of Manor and Cherrywood Roads in East Austin. Park in the parking lot just east of Home Steam and walk back to the compound.
The Butterfly Bar is more of a cocktail lounge than a beer dispensary. It has seating both indoors and outdoors, with the latter predominating. There is a concrete dance floor. The Butterfly doesn’t serve food but a food truck inside the compound serves Italian food with a good reputation. Several bands get gigs here from time to time.
The White Horse
500 Comal Street
The White Horse is an old bar in East Austin on Comal Street between 5th and 6th Streets. It is part of an old East Austin neighborhood which adjoins blocks of upscale apartments and condos. Club parking is skimpy, so plan on circling the block in search of street parking. The White Horse does not serve food, but a food truck is usually parked nearby. The club features a bar, a bandstand and a dance floor. The current traditional jazz attraction is the Rock Step Relevators, a local version of the Thrift Set Orchestra.