Since I started this gig at Motor City Muckraker, my hunt for live music around Metro Detroit has brought me to places I never thought I’d go. From Baker’s Keyboard Lounge on the west side to the dilapidated green house that hosted Whatever Fest on E. Grand Blvd, I’ve heard an eclectic range of music and seen many different venues.
On the way I studied the history behind these places, reminding me that Detroit has one of the finest music scenes in the country. You just have to look in the right places.
Here’s a list of my top 10 best venues in the Metro Detroit area, in no particular order. It is based on sound quality, atmosphere and the likelihood of hearing good music.
1. Cliff Bell’s
The New York Times has called it “the place to be in Detroit,” while it was also voted Detroit’s best jazz club by several jazz reviewers. Putting aside all acclaim, Cliff Bell’s is one of the few jazz clubs around Detroit that still brings in jazz musicians from around the world. Its dimly lit, late-night club setting and art-deco interior is a refreshing time machine to when jazz cats were licking their paws with saxophones and complex time signatures.
John Clifford Bell first opened Cliff Bell’s in 1935 after a slue of failed speakeasies. It was part of a hopping late night club scene on Park Avenue. Bell stopped running the business in 1958, and the building eventually shut down in 1985. It wasn’t until 2005 that owners Paul Howard, Scott Lowell and Carolyn Howard decided to revitalize the Park avenue building and turn it into its current state. Since 2005, they’ve had musicians such as Snarky Puppy, the Rafael Statin Quintet (with Bob Hurst), Willerm Delisfort, Nomo and Baby Dee come to its confines amongst many other talented jazz artists.