by Ariel Shafir
When it comes to Uptown zipcodes, BOHEMIA understands the value of a neighborhood's culture just as much as the beautiful architecture & properties. That's why it's so important for new and old residents alike to not only be aware of their neighborhood's tradition but to actively support it. In Harlem, the jazz scene today has one foot firmly in its storied past, the other in the exciting present. No one, however, will tell you it’s easy to keep the Harlem jazz legacy alive. Just ask Alvin Reed, who was forced last month to shut down the historic "Lenox Lounge" which hosted jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and John Coltrane in its heyday. This underscores the challenges shared by keepers of the jazz tradition. “You might make some profit,” Vincent Lampkin (Owner of St. Nick's Pub) said, but really, you’re “going to pay to stay around.”
Well, I am one Bohemia agent & Harlem resident who believes it's worth the price of admission to preserve & support our musical history & traditions without having to rely completely on commercialization for funding. Here's a list of a few spots that I recommend you check out which are the face of jazz’s Harlem revival. Its rejuvenation, powered by local talent, enthusiasm and international tourism, comes as Harlem enjoys a second renaissance.
* The National Jazz Museum of Harlem – is slated to move in 2014 to the old Mart 125, across from the Apollo Theater. Powering the revival as much as historical awareness is a younger generation.
* Smoke Jazz & Supper Club – Lounge presents world-renowned jazz musicians seven nights a week. Candlelit tables, plush velvet banquets, antique chandeliers, and an historic full-length bar create a real jazz vibe to go with the excellent acoustics and sightlines.
* Bill's Place – Styled after the speakeasies and jazz joints of 1920s and '30s Harlem, Bill Saxton serves up real jazz and tells the story of the history of the original "Swing Street".
* St. Nick's Pub– on historic Sugar Hill is the oldest continuously operating jazz club in Harlem. And it's hardly changed since 1940, when it was Lucky's Rendezvous and owned by Duke Ellington's piano player, Lucky Roberts.