With its maze of tiny rooms, The Knitting Factory (74 Leonard between Broadway and Church, 212-219-3132) offers something for everyone: It's not unusual to find free jazz and punk rock on the same night.
On Monday, Aug. 30, check out OK Go, a terrific band that updates '70s power-pop with new-millennium irony. Or skip the music and just have a drink at the cozy downstairs bar.
Fez Under Time Cafe (380 Lafayette at Great Jones, 212-533-7000) is a downstairs bar and supper-club with chic Moroccan decor. Acts tend toward jazz and electronica rather than rock.
The Mingus Big Band, which features a rotating cast of musicians and plays every Thursday, is highly recommended. Monday Aug. 30, find out if singer-pianist Rachel Yamagata really is, as some critics say, "the new Norah."
Want to recall your college years? Head to Webster Hall (125 E. 11th St. at 4th Ave., 212-353-1600), a popular hangout for students from nearby New York University. The emphasis is usually on drink specials and dance music, but it also has a comfortably sized room for live music.
On Wed., Sept. 1, a bevy of female rockers will play a show sponsored by - who else? - Maybelline. Among them: Liz Phair, who recently traded her tough-girl attitude for sexy outfits, and Swedish singer Nina Persson, whose band The Cardigans spins sugary, irresistible pop.
Or, if you're feeling adventurous, head down to Manhattan's super-hip Lower East Side and just take a gamble. Piano's (158 Ludlow at Stanton, 212-505-3733) typically books a mix of local acts and buzzworthy touring bands.
At The Mercury Lounge (217 E. Houston St. at Ave. A, 212-260-4700) anyone playing is usually on the way up. Arlene's Grocery (95 Stanton St, between Orchard and Ludlow, 212.995.1652) is less finicky and also less pretentious: With several bands packed onto a single bill, you never know what you might hear.
-- Rafer Guzma
Village Vanguard, 178 Seventh Avenue South (212-255-4037): For almost 70 years, this onetime basement speakeasy in Greenwich Village has provided safe haven to the hippest acts on Earth.
It is now regarded as, simply, the world's finest jazz club with its uncompromising standard for musical quality. This week (Aug. 31-Sept.5) promises to provide what the club does best: Great chamber jazz with pianist Paul Motian, saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell.
Birdland, 315 W. 44th St. (212-581-3080): It's located a couple blocks west and few blocks south of where it served as Bebop's magic kingdom during the 1950s and 1960s.
But over the last few years, this club has more than earned its legendary nickname. The Harry Allen/Joe Cohn (CQ) Quartet perform Aug. 30. Pianist Joey Calderazzo leads a trio Aug. 31-Sept. 2 and pianist Lynn Arriale brings her own group Sept. 3-4.
Blue Note, 131 W. 3rd St. (212-465-2462): Internationally renowned for landing the biggest names in the business. This week belongs to the vocalists with Amel Larrieux performing Aug. 30 through Sept. 1 and the unstoppable Abbey Lincoln on stage for the rest of the week.
-- Gene Seymour
Midtown's Le Jazz Bar is one of the newer musical venues but it gives equal time to both legends and legends-to-be. In that category put Karrin Allyson, a husky-voiced singer from Kansas City with a penchant for a jazz/pop repertoire.
Her latest -- and ninth -- album, "Wild For You" (Concord), released in June, is a tribute to her favorite artists, Elton John and Joni Mitchell among them, and she'll be singing their songs, as well as lots of others, including some cabaret classics. Aug. 31-Sept. 5. (41 E. 58th St. (212) 308-9455).
The legendary literary Round Table doesn't meet at the Algonquin any more but the hotel's paneled Oak Room is one of the city's most prestigious showcases for cabaret talent.
During the RNC, the spotlight will shine on the subtle and sophisticated Barbara Carroll, a pianist extraordinare known to break into song. Rex Reed has said she "reinvents the classic lines of Kern, Porter and Ellington" and along the way, she's known to do a mean rendition of "Surrey With the Fringe on the Top." Jay Leonhart accompanies her on bass. Aug. 31-Sept. 5. (59 W. 44th St. (212) 410-9331.)
Fifth Avenue's venerable Pierre Hotel used to be President Nixon's New York home away from the White House. That was before Kathleen Landis' time, although the singer-pianist has been appearing in the Cafe Pierre for a long time.
Songs from the 1920s are her favorites, and she admits a special affinity for the music of George Gershwin, but Landis travels through all of the decades, playing and singing everything from Chopin to Cy Coleman. Aug. 31-Sept. 5. (2 E. 61st St., (212) 940-8195.)
-- Blake GreenCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times