While jazz aficionados await word on the revival of legendary Harlem clubs such as Minton’s Playhouse, Lenox Lounge and St Nick’s Pub, the music is going strong at another uptown venue.
On Sunday afternoons, in-the-know locals and tourists can be found ringing the buzzer for Parlor Entertainment in a landmarked apartment building on the northern edge of Manhattan’s historic Sugar Hill district. For 21 years, Marjorie Eliot has opened her home for weekly jazz matinees, taking turns on the piano with her son Rudel Drears and gigging with a variety of musicians and singers.
Guests who arrive in time to claim one of the 50 or so seats – squeezed into the parlour, foyer and kitchen – are treated to an intimate two-hour programme, with the added bonus of granola bars and juice at intermission.
For Eliot, the concerts are a way to honour the memory of two of her sons who have passed away. “I do it to celebrate my children,” she said. “It helps me in all kinds of ways.”
Despite a busy schedule giving private lessons and performing at schools and nursing homes, Eliot, who started playing the piano as a child and grew up surrounded by jazz, delights in the steady stream of visitors who turn up every week. As she puts it, she is supporting the tradition of African American classical music. “It’s not worth anything if it’s not shared,” she said.
Later this summer, Parlor Entertainment will take the music outdoors and across the street to the grounds of the 18th-century Morris-Jumel Mansion for the 21st annual Jazz at the Mansion. The free, two-day event runs from 2 pm to 6 pm on 17 and 18 August.
The regular Sunday concerts start at 4 pm at 555 Edgecombe Avenue, apt 3F. Doors open at 3:30 pm. There’s no admission charge, but donations are accepted.
Amy Brader is the New York City Localite for BBC Travel
New York City with Lonely Planet
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