Nylon Nights

The Jazz Bros Are Coming! The Jazz Bros Are Coming!

New personality, unlocked.

by Tim Latterner

Every so often, a new going-out trend sweeps through the city and persuades some people to change their whole personality. For sociological purposes, we’ll call these people “bros.” In recent memory, there have been natural-wine bros, who would get corkscrew tattoos and bring what amounted to vinegar with an interesting label to dinner parties. There were the dive-bar bros, who would disavow paying $17 for a cocktail at one place but happily pay $13 for a craft beer in a bar with wood paneling. There were oyster bros, who would foist another $30 onto everybody’s bills by ordering a tray of shellfish that would inevitably end up swimming in melted ice by the end of the meal. Now, a new bro has emerged: the jazz bro.

Jazz bros are not to be confused with jazz fans, or the people who have been going to Village Vanguard, Blue Note, or Birdland for years. The jazz bro is here for the vibes more than the music. He’s smart, calculating even, in painting himself as a mysterious and intellectual outlier, either to those he matches with on dating apps or to the general social scene. In reality, though, he spends more time planning the Instagram post from a night at Bemelmans or Ornithology in Bushwick than actually checking out the quartet playing. Ironically, it can be harder to ID a jazz bro in a dark club, but elsewhere, he’ll gladly tell you all about the nuances of “Take The A Train.” (A good case study can be found in the below Sex and the City episode: Big is clearly considering adapting the jazz-bro lifestyle — and is even more annoying because of it. Meanwhile, Ray King, though also annoying, can’t be considered a jazz bro because he can actually play and owns the bar, even if he takes jazz way too seriously.)

The coming wave of jazz bros was portended in March by James Harris on the Throwing Fits podcast. “I think it’s very Instagrammable,” Harris said. “It’s fake cerebral-ness where you’re like, ‘Ugh, I’m in a jazz club.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if jazz as a subculture, which I think is untapped, was taken up by the cornballs. You’re going to start seeing a lot of these on mood boards. Miles Davis, Chet Baker, there will be a lot of guys claiming to be jazz heads.” In response, Mathew, a regular at jazz clubs around town, says he hates the whole idea. “What even is that?” he says. “Every jazz-musician friend of mine is the hardest working and most under-appreciated guy I know.”

Like it or not, there are plenty of new openings for both jazz bros and enthusiasts. Only Love Strangers, a new Lower East Side cocktail bar, is planning nightly jazz performances. The Red Pavilion in Bushwick is hosting an anniversary party in May with a jazz band and Asian neo-noir cabaret. Uptown, Bar Bastion is putting on “Jazz Fridays” with a live band and extended bar hours, while Scarlet — the Upper West Side bar owned by Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos and Enemy of the People — is also hosting live jazz performances. At Aman New York, a new jazz club is looking to blur the lines between uptown luxuries and downtown clientele with a mix of old classics from Cole Porter and pop music.

Every jazz-musician friend of mine is the hardest working and most under-appreciated guy I know.

Some performers at these places are excited for the new faces in the crowd. “It’s something people have never experienced,” says Theodora, a singer at the Press Club Grill, which has been hosting jazz bands regularly. “It really feels like taking a step back in time to sit and sip a drink and eat cherries jubilee while watching a singer. It feels like something important to keep us connected and grounded. I think it’s good for all of us.”

And it very well could be: If 100 Jazz Bros go to Village Vanguard this month for the vibes, and 10 walk out with a newfound appreciation for the music, that’s 10 more fans than the genre had previously. Jumping on a trend can be a good thing, too, just like how natural wine, oysters, and dive bars can all be great in moderation. So as this fad continues to develop and more friends throw out the idea in the group chat to hit up a jazz club, feel free to take part. But don’t let the mirage of a cultured jazz bro on Hinge or at one of these bars fool you. Because by this time next year, they might have morphed into community-theater or hibachi bros — or whatever comes next.