While the Russian capital probably isn’t the first global destination that comes to mind when conjuring up images of a thriving blues and jazz music scene, Moscow offers locals and foreign guests alike plenty of marvelous venues at which to swing by, where those who are so inclined can witness world-class jazz singers and instrumentalists ply their craft.
Russians and artists from abroad play their hearts out in a variety of spots around town, enlivening Moscow’s sultry nights with their bluesy rhythms.
For people who revel in exploring a city’s musical offerings under the cover of darkness, get ready for wild encounters with Moscow’s cool blues and jazz clubs, which showcase some of the most outstanding talent Russia has to offer, as well as soloists and ensembles from further afield.
Forte Music Club
Just west of Moscow’s historic Tverskoy Boulevard, jazz addicts can indulge their musical cravings at the Forte Music Club. This venue, which first opened in 1996, welcomes tourists and Muscovites through its doors — and occasionally some bigwigs (scan the crowd) from the Russian Federal Assembly, as the State Duma isn’t too far away.
Blues, funk, jazz and even hard rock are on offer any given night, plus an appetizing meal if you so desire (lots of fish on the menu). With legendary performers like virtuoso saxophonist Aleksey Kozlov, or keyboardist Viacheslav Gorsky turning up to jam, clientele are treated to the best of the best coming from Russia’s sizzling jazz ecosphere.
Alexey Kozlov Club
True music aficionados with eclectic tastes will find their hearts singing out with delight when they step inside the chic Alexey Kozlov Club. This locale, named for Alexey Kozlov (mentioned above), who helms the celebrated jazz and rock fusion ensemble Arsenal, is renowned for its flavorful food, swinging vibes and free-range spirit when it comes to the selection of different bands taking the stage.
Anything from fusion and soul to rock or classic jazz could resonate through the club as patrons filter in, enjoy a drink from the bar’s extensive selection, and then soak in the funk-infused sounds permeating the air.
Rhythm Blues Café
When in the mood for a sonic bath brimming over with blues or rock, Moscow’s Rhythm Blues Café won’t disappoint. This spot serves up international and local blues, plus some stellar cuisine.
Bright, multihued murals of famed international musicians and celebrated Russians cover the outside of the building, while the warm, inviting interior has been greeting enthusiastic customers and musical guests since first opening up in 1998.
The Rhythm Blues Café even had the honor of hosting the kickoff event for MTV’s official 1998 launch party in Mother Russia. Come for the food and liquor, carefree ambience, jam sessions and, of course, the opportunity to hear some great performers displaying their considerable musical chops on stage.
If and when you drop by Jam Club, you’ll not only get to catch amazing musicians jamming with one another in a small, intimate space, but you’ll also be able to jam your own musical soul full of melodic goodness with a pick of performances, as this venue runs two rooms (and stages) at the same time.
Proprietor Andrey Makarevich, legendary Russian rocker — and in recent years, increasingly known as a proponent of human rights — oversees Jam Club’s kitchen, which focuses on Georgian and European cuisine.
Despite the limited size of both music halls, the acoustics are top notch, and stunning sound quality emanates from the blues, soul and rock bands that show up to play. With killer cocktails, a very sociable atmosphere and creative dishes whipped up by Andrey’s kitchen, Jam Club is well worth a stop if you want to delve deeper into Moscow’s jazz scene.
Anyone with a big appetite for jazz, as well as an appetite for substantial gastronomic spreads, should add Soyuz Kompozitorov (the“Union of Composers”) to their Russian jazz itinerary.
Many great performers have graced the stage here over the years, serving up gargantuan helpings of every kind of style of blues or jazz imaginable. On certain nights the club transforms itself from a jazz mecca into a rollicking Latino music hot spot, churning out live merengue, salsa and rumba tunes.
Come early to find a table away from the thick, red support columns inside (which can obstruct your view of the stage); dig into the sizable menu offering fusion and European fare, fresh-squeezed juices and plenty of booze; and then kick back and enjoy a night out in Moscow overflowing with brilliant jazz.