Alex and I sat on my couch waiting for the full season of Game of Thrones to download. Somehow, we came about the cleverest idea! We were to walk around Harlem and find nice jazz music. Where but Historical Harlem would we find such a thing, right? The place where, despite the Volstead Act in 1920 that prohibited the sale of alcohol, whites and blacks frequented fashionable nightspots for liquor and legendary bands. The home of many black poets, writers and painters. It was in Harlem, you would find world-famous Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. Should I even mention the Harlem Renaissance?
That night didn’t turn out exactly as we expected. For some reason, we didn’t discover a hidden place with graceful women in silver dresses, or men in suits. It happened more like this…
Our first stop was Red Rooster. Although it is not a jazz club, I had been there twice before, and I absolutely love it. It’s on Sam Sifton’s top fifty restaurants in New York City. Both times I’ve been there (during the week), I’ve had the pleasure of listening to amazing live jazz music. I figured a Friday night would be even better. People would be more dressed up, women would wear gloves and hold long cigarettes. Instead, we could barely make our way to the bar. A DJ spinning loud 80’s tunes replaced the jazz bands. Men in their forty’s invaded the space, and it looked miserable, so we left.
Our second stop, Lenox Lounge, surprised me. I definitely want to return, and it would definitely not be for the quality of their wine or cocktails. I’ve walked by it on numerous occasions, and I always just thought it was a dump. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing really snazzy or glamorous about it. If there was, it must have been a long time ago. The cool thing about the bar is that it makes me feel like I was in one of the clubs I often see in old Jazz movies. Like old Jazz musician’s ghosts still hung around, haunting the place, leaving their smell behind, shaking their heads at how poorly the new clientele dressed.
We decided not to pay $20 to get in the back room, where all the fancier people sat watching the musicians in awe. The music sounded great, but we didn’t leave the apartment, intending to pay to listen to good jazz. We thought our presence and the fact that we purchased their horrible drinks would be enough. We sat with the poor folks in the bar area where pop music escaped the speakers, and the smell of urine and old wood tickled our nostrils. We left pleased enough, which I’m still not quite sure why. We passed by an awesome Harriet Tubman Statue (I’ve decided one of my favorite statues in NYC), and made our way to Aloft, a new boutique hotel in Harlem. The bar was pretty, but there was no jazz. There was one big empty room that served as the hotel’s lobby with two DJ’s spinning. I was also not a fan of the drink I’d purchased.
I’m planning on researching on the good Harlem Jazz clubs, and I will return with more!
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