Justus, one of the MCs of long-standing local hip-hop group Cut Throat Logic, felt he might've been going out on a limb when he asked the legendary KRS-One to perform on a track for his first solo album. After all, the two had just met after Justus opened for KRS-One's show at the now-defunct Brickhouse last fall. But that show turned collaborative when Justus joined KRS-One onstage for a freestyle battle. Justus asked KRS-One to join him at the studio that night, but the MC made him take a rain check. He made good on his word a month later, though, when Justus opened for KRS-One in Los Angeles. The former frontman of Boogie Down Productions recorded some raps for Justus' song "Hip-Hop Today & Forever," shouting out Justus' name and giving props to the city of Phoenix. The song appears on Justus' record, Born Justus.

The Rhythm Room

This supergroup includes some of the most talented blues players in Phoenix — Big Pete Pearson (vocals), Chris James (guitar, vocals), Bob Corritore (harmonica), Brian Fahey (drums), and Patrick Rynn (bass) — and they've been bringing a classic Chicago blues sound to the Valley since 1991, when Corritore founded the band. They've been bringing down the house at their home venue and namesake, the Rhythm Room, ever since, also serving as a backing band for touring acts such as Bo Diddley, Louisiana Red, Pinetop Perkins, Nappy Brown, and Henry Gray. Whether they're rocking a raucous blues number like Lowell Fulson's "Too Many Drivers at the Wheel" or a slinky slide-guitar crawler like Little Milton's "Possum in My Tree," the Rhythm Room All-Stars always deliver a high-energy, soulful show brimming with blues. They play regularly at the Rhythm Room — more than monthly — but can most often be found rocking out on the third Friday of every month.

Best Place to Hear Jazz in Downtown Phoenix

The Lost Leaf

The Lost Leaf
The Lost Leaf

Every Sunday and Monday night, two of the Valley's best jazz ensembles, Jiggle and Moseyhorse, nestle themselves in the exposed-brick corner of this artsy beer/wine bar and play the hippest burning jazz in town. Jiggle, which starts at 9 p.m. each Sunday, is an experienced quartet that plays both originals and standards and features ASU prof and tenor saxophonist Bryon Ruth, woodwind player Scott Zimmer, in-demand bassist Ted Sistrunk, and young-buck drummer Shaun Lowecki. Every Monday at 10 p.m., the Tempe-based Moseyhorse focuses on straight-ahead takes on jazz originals and showcases guitarist Jeff Libman, John Chapman on bass, tenor saxophonist Jeff Gutierrez, and percussionist Lowecki.

Seeing these serious jazz cats jam in the no-frills environment reminds us of some of our favorite listening experiences in New York City, where jazz is king. But unlike NYC, where you're forced to pay at least $10 for one 45-minute set of music, there's never, ever a cover charge at The Lost Leaf. That rules.

Best Place to Hear Jazz in Scottsdale

Nello's

Jac's Pizzeria & Pub
Evie Carpenter

When we were young, we threw a temper tantrum when Mommy tried to force us to take those dreaded piano lessons. Now, as slightly more mature adults, we wanna cry out of jealously when we watch the amazing piano-based trios who gig every Tuesday night at Nello's in Old Town Scottsdale during their Moonshiner Jazz series. Jazz pianist Dan Delaney programs this weekly event, which has featured Rachel Eckroth, Jacob Koller, Nick Manson, and ASU jazz studies director Michael Kocour wowing the audience on the house piano. Many of the scene's best musicians, such as drummer Rob Moore, pianist Andy Margolis, and saxophonist Paul-Eirik Melhus have attended and have been asked to stop stuffing their faces with pizza to play a couple of tunes with the band. The three sets of music from 7 to 10 p.m. are always free.

This place will ruin your diet. But isn't the point of happy hour to get all nasty on some bar food and cheap beer after a frustrating day at work? We know that after a long day of calling people who don't want to talk to us, that's about all we're good for. And Mickey's is the perfect place to dig in while slumping on an old couch and watching the game. This place has turned bar food into a lowbrow art form. Our personal fave is the mozzarella and pesto cheese stix (yeah, spelled like that), though we don't mind the mountain of cheese fries, either. These and other selected munchies are half-price from 4 to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and so are well drinks, beer, and wine. Just make sure to clear out around 9, when the place starts to fill up with $30K millionaires.

Big Fish Pub

If you read our feature story about Agwa de Bolivia Coca Leaf Liqueur ("Liquid Blow," Niki D'Andrea, June 26, 2008), a new liqueur made from Bolivian coca leaves, you may have tried to order it at your favorite local bar, only to find that it either didn't carry Agwa or was completely out of the tasty new booze. Thank goodness for Tempe rock club Big Fish Pub — not only does the bar stock the sweet green elixir, but it makes sure you know it: There's a big sign behind the bar that reads "NOW SERVING AGWA." And the bartenders are staying on top of things, too, concocting a variety of Agwa drink recipes to suit any taste, whether patrons crave something with a spicy bite (like an Agwa Mojito) or the equivalent of a liquid speedball (Agwa/Red Bull).

MercBar
MercBar

When it came time to round up our 10 best girlfriends for the long-awaited Sex and the City movie, we knew there was only one place to go afterward, for a round of cosmopolitans: Merc Bar. We love this Biltmore hotspot because it's not only dark and sexy but comfy — the perfect place to talk, sip, and ogle eye candy. We particularly love the cosmopolitans: classic pink tartness in an elegant glass. To quote Samantha Jones, "What could be more fabulous?"

Durant's

Flashy, trendoid nightclubs have tried their best to Disney up the martini, essentially dumping the dessert of the day into a cocktail glass, splashing around some alcohol, and slapping the suffix "-tini" on it. The result is a concoction that looks like something a Kool-Aid-swilling, Skittle-chomping Muppet might have vomited.

The beauty of the martini is its crisp simplicity. Durant's, the unparalleled old school steakhouse and lounge, has understood this since its inception in 1950. Martinis here are as smooth as the red leather interior is swingingly swank. For the best that the classic martini can be, Durant's always feels like home.

Padre's Modern Mexican

We'd always been big fans of the margaritas at Padre's, but, as every drinker knows, man cannot live on margaritas alone. So we scanned the menu one night and found Padre's signature daiquiri — and we're pleased to say we've never looked back. Named for Ernest Hemingway, who was a daiquiri lush, Padre's version isn't the stiff slush that you might remember your great-aunt drinking in Acapulco. A simple mix of rum, fresh lime juice, and a touch of sugar, it's light, tart, and divine. Somewhere in Heaven, Papa is smiling.

Barrio Cafe

Finding the best liquor selection is just a matter of geography. If you want a killer poured pint, visit an Irish bar. For wine, try a European bistro. So, it's no surprise that we discovered the best tequila selection at a top-rated Mexican restaurant. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's neighborhood cafe boasts more than 250 top-shelf, premium, and Super-Jalisco tequilas, from the classic and relatively inexpensive Jose Cuervo to rarer, extra-añejo (well-aged) varieties. Because the choices are so vast, the Barrio's bartenders will recommend a great pairing, much as a sommelier would help you select the perfect wine. And they won't even fault uninitiated gringos for looking for the worm — which is only found in mescal, a different type of liquor made from the agave plant.

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