Piano playing © iStock/Milenny
The Czech Republic’s historic repertoire of folk music is a jubilant mix of thigh-slapping polkas and merry violin ensembles. And there’s plenty of it in Prague, performed by troupes in traditional costume for visitors seeking some local charm. However, the capital’s own residents have a preference for more sophisticated sounds. Consequently, the live jazz scene in Prague is world-class, with its well-attended International Jazz Festival rivalling the one in Montreal. From smooth music cruises to trendy basement gigs, here are Prague’s favourite live jazz venues.
AghaRTA Jazz Centrum
Discerning jazz fans know to seek out the club that’s named after iconic composer Miles Davis’ 1975 live album. You’re in great company at Agharta, too, with a buzzing line-up of local and international stars rolling out swing, blues and ragtime into the early hours every night, and modern jazz the overriding tune of choice. It’s all about the music here – there’s no food menu, although the bar does pour a great selection of Czech wines, beers and spirits.
Reduta Jazz Club
Reduta is the godfather of live jazz clubs in Prague. Opened in 1958 by a collective of local musicians, it has seen performances from icons like Louis Armstrong, Ronnie Scott and Acker Bilk. It’s even famed for an impromptu sax session from Bill Clinton when he visited in 1994. A sleek venue with plush red seating, it’s one of Prague’s well-heeled live jazz clubs.
Mixing up its offering with a heady concoction of blues, funk and acid, Jazz Republic brings in some impressive acts and doesn’t shy away from the experimental. Gigs by the likes of blues hero BB King and jazz singer Jon Hendricks have boosted its kudos over the two decades since it opened, with great craft beers and a lively, intimate setting hitting a hi-hat among Prague’s live jazz fans.
This stylish club is set on the banks of the Vltava River, and offers a more contemporary vibe than Prague’s underground cellar bars. You can catch everything from swing and dixieland to R&B and bebop in Jazz Dock’s concert hall or up on their outdoor deck. They’ve got a swish, 10-foot-long bar with a killer cocktail menu, too.
A clever combination of Prague’s iconic Vltava, an honest, down-to-earth menu with a decent selection of Czech wines, and some excellent tunes make Jazz Boat a great way for improv enthusiasts to appreciate Prague from the river. Secure a window seat to watch the glitter of Prague at night glide past.
U Malého Glena
U Malého Glena is one of Prague’s cosiest destinations to catch live jazz. Located in a quaint Baroque building near the Charles Bridge, the small-but-sweet jazz bar is open seven days a week. Each Sunday is a jam session where anything goes, and on Mondays you can catch Stan the Man and his Bohemian Blues Band – the longest running blues gig in Prague. Expect great local and visiting musicians throughout the week.