Best Jazz Club: Royal Room

As much as I love perennial favorite Jazz Alley, acts like Ricky Skaggs and The Average White Band who have graced that stage aren’t the first that spring to mind when I think of jazz. Those would be Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, you know? Things are a little different at composer Wayne Horvitz’s Royal Room in Columbia City. It’s not a jazz club per se, but every local jazz luminary from Cuong Vu to Skerik to Bill Frisell plays here—regularly—and on any given night you can expect anything from a Billie Holiday– or Fats Waller–themed tribute to an African/Latin/Gypsy jazz mashup. Sure, it hosts alt-country and indie rock from time to time, but the soul of improvisation—that building block of jazz—is nurtured here. There’s usually no cover, just a suggested donation, so eager start-up bands from experimental free-jazz troupes to local high-school ensembles have space and time to perform the tunes they love, without the pressure to do anything but play.

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