Jazz at Kitano: New York’s Newest Jewel Box Boite

by Mark Thompson

EDGE Style & Travel Editor

Saturday June 30, 2012

From Prohibition through the early Fifties, Manhattan was the crossroads of the jazz world. The two-block stretch of 52nd Street, between Fifth and Seventh Avenues, was chockablock with such renowned jazz clubs (including 21 Club, Jimmy Ryan's, the Onyx, Club Samoa, Club Downbeat, Club Carousel) that the street became known as "Swing Street."

Times change. The 21 Club is the sole survivor from "Swing Street." The original Birdland, known as "the Jazz Corner of the World," located just north of 52nd Street on Broadway, houses a "gentlemen's club" called "Flashdancers."

While Manhattan is still home to a number of jewel box jazz boites, those subterranean dens of pleasure and provenance where legends linger in the floorboards and along the zinc-topped bars, it's always a pleasure to welcome a new member to Manhattan's illustrious family of jazz venues.

Opened in the late spring of 2012, Jazz at Kitano is located in the Grand Central area of Murray Hill in a grand white stone townhouse just off Park Avenue that once belonged to the Rockefeller family. Adjacent to New York's Kitano hotel, Jazz at Kitano continues the hotel's tradition of presenting world-class jazz performances.

Jazz aficionados discovered The Kitano New York when the hotel began hosting nightly performances in the hotel’s mezzanine lounge. "We want Jazz at Kitano to reenergize and reinvent the supper club scene in New York," said General Manager Clement Carey. The new supper club features a full schedule of live jazz entertainment, complemented by contemporary Pan-Asian cuisine.

The elegant room’s mahogany walls are hung with contemporary art, while a thirty-foot ceiling that opens to skylights harmonizes with the vocal flights that take wing from the stage. Serving breakfast, lunch, dinner - and a weekend jazz brunch, Jazz at Kitano’s menu includes sushi and sashimi, as well as cocktails evocatively named "Honey Deuce," "Mamie Taylor," and "White Velvet."

Performers at Jazz at Kitano have included the multiple Grammy-nominated Toshiko Akiyoshi Trio, Fred Hersch/Julian Lage Duo, Wycliffe Gordon Quartet, and Katsuko Tanaka Quartet.

"All views are completely unobstructed and the acoustics outstanding," states Musical Director Gino Moratti.

"We also proudly maintain our Steinway piano in concert condition to showcase the abilities and artistry of the best pianists in the jazz world."

A recent Saturday evening featured a spellbinding set by the Janis Mann Quartet. The extremely soulful Mann offered a series of classic standards that included a bravura rendition of Abbey Lincoln’s "Throw It Away." Mann’s performance of "You Taught My Heart to Sing" brilliantly summoned Dianne Reeves, even while making the McCoy Tyner song her own.

The evening’s climax, however, might well have been Mann’s definitive version of Henry Mancini’s "Slow Hot Wind." This often-overlooked gem was given new meaning by Mann, evoking not only Sarah Vaughan (whose version was said to be Mancini’s favorite) but also the sultry and smoky tones of June Christy.

The atmosphere at Jazz at Kitano harks back to an era when Manhattan was the de facto capital of elegance and jazz; check in for an evening and relive the romance.


Jazz at Kitano’s weekly line-ups feature:
• Monday: Jazz Jam will invite musicians and vocalists to join in all evening, backed by the three-piece house band.
• Tuesday: Young Pianist Series will feature a new up-and-coming artist each month.
• Wednesday and Thursday: Top jazz entertainers ($10 cover charge + $15 minimum)
• Friday and Saturday: World-class marquee jazz acts ($25 cover charge + $15 minimum)
• Sunday: Jazz Brunch

Sets are Wednesday through Saturday, at 8 and 10 p.m.

Click here for July jazz schedule

For more information, contact The Kitano New York at 212-885-7000, 1-800-548-2666 or log onto www.kitano.com.

Click here for menus and schedule

Click here for Janis Mann’s website


A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.