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There’s something special about seeing jazz at Bohemian Caverns.

The ambiance, for one: the basement club is windowless, candlelit, and relaxed, with couches and soft chairs on the side of the stage that are perfect for group drinking and chatting; on the stage, you’re as likely to see musicians informally jamming as playing elaborate arrangements. In other words, it’s an after-hours jazz club regardless of what time you arrive.

Then there’s the history: Opened 81 years ago, the Caverns have played host to Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Miles Davis, among others. In 1965, Ramsey Lewis recorded “The In Crowd,” one of the last jazz records to hit the US singles charts, there.

But this year, Bohemian Caverns has had some of the most exciting shows I’ve seen, too. Local mainstays Mark Mosley, the Jolley Brothers, and Nasar Abadey‘s Supernova always kill, and Thad Wilson‘s spectacular big band holds court every Monday night. But nationally and internationally known acts like Russell Malone, Anat Cohen, and Claudio Roditi did great work at Bohemian Caverns this year, too. Also, the collective Soul Con Timba this spring recorded the first live album at the venue in 40 years.

Twins seemed plagued by last-minute cancellations in 2007, while Blues Alley continued charging a king’s ransom in admission; Bohemian Caverns never let me down.