5. RED CAT JAZZ CAFE Admittedly, Red Cat has its hits and misses, but for a jazz neophyte looking to make his or her debut into the world of Fitzgerald and Armstrong, this "cafe" is a good place to start. Its relatively new Franklin Street address places Red Cat at the very beginning of downtown, and the seductively curled red cat sign directs scat enthusiasts right to its front door, meaning you can't miss it.
Once inside, you'll find that Red Cat is open to more than just jazz. Nearly all musical genres are put into the daily rotation, some of them derivatives of the improvisational music. There's Reggae Fuse Tuesdays, Rewind Wednesdays (with a live R&B band), Zydeco Thursdays and an upcoming Mardi Gras-themed celebration of the new year. It's like music appreciation class, only a lot more fun.
711 Franklin, 713-226-7870, www.redcatjazzcafe.com