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New York Jazz-Rock Hotspot Iridium Reopens to Full Houses

Variety logo Variety 3/11/2022 Jem Aswad
© JIM BELMONT

After two years of pandemic-induced shutdown and Omicron-postponed reopenings in December and January, Iridium, the downstairs music club in New York’s Times Square known as the “home of Les Paul,” is finishing the second week of its grand reopening, which launched on March 1 with a performance by the Harlem Blues Project, followed by four shows with a fiery jazz-rock band led by guitarist Mike Stern (featuring the great Randy Brecker on trumpet), blues guitarist King Solomon Hicks, veteran folksinger Tom Rush and tonight and Saturday, guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, and jazz guitarist Larry Carlton, including sets focused on his extensively 1970s work with Steely Dan.

The unusually intimate (for New York, anyway) 170-capacity downstairs club, which has updated its cleaning procedures and air-filtration system, returned with a full menu (including entrees like “The Les Paul” burger and the plant-based “Jerry Garcia”) a robust wine list and many (potent) specialty cocktails. The club is also launching Iridium Underground, a new series focused on emerging artists, next week with Brooklyn-based guitarist-producer Mario and the Mood.

The club originally opened on the Upper West Side in 1994; David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Keith Richards would occasionally stop by for Les Paul’s weekly residency, which lasted for 14 years until his passing in 2009. Artists who have performed at the venue include Jeff Beck, Sheryl Crow, Buddy Guy, the Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts (below), Dua Lipa, Gary Clarke Jr. and Jimmy Vaughan (bottom), Joe Jackson, Stanley Jordan, Muna, Max Roach, and many others. Photos of those and many other artists performing at the venue, as well as autographed guitars and the like, festoon the club’s walls.

Thanks to longtime patrons who have missed the place, not to mention strong walk-up traffic from Times Square, the club has been sold out many nights since reopening.

“We’re so thankful that fans of the room have found their way back to us,” says Iridium owner Ellen Hart Sturm, who also owns the popular Ellen’s Stardust Diner upstairs. “The room has so much history. While we are a rock, jazz and blues club, we’ve also hosted pop artists like Dua Lipa who performed here as part of MTV Set List a few years back before she filled arenas. Now that we’re reopened, we’re looking to continue to diversify the talent we bring to our stage and we’re planning to launch an emerging artist series to support up-and-coming musicians in NYC.”

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