Jazz wasn’t invented in New York, but in many ways the city has always been its spiritual home. These days you can hear jazz just about every night of the week, in famous venues like Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Blue Note, the Standard, and the Village Vanguard. Or you can catch a show at a more intimate, more unusual venue. By Jessica Allen.
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Every Sunday at around 4 p.m., Marjorie Eliot welcomes friends, family, and strangers into her Washington Heights home for an afternoon of jazz. What began as a way of honoring a son who passed away on a Sunday has become a community gathering, a source of solace for many, and a rollicking, lively good time. Ms. Elliot sets up about 50 chairs in her parlor, kitchen, and hallway, and anyone and everyone is welcome to the free concert. Prepare to be moved by the spirit of love and generosity that pervades.
On Thursday nights, the basement of American Legion Post 398 in Harlem gets packed. People come to eat southern specialties like fried chicken and cornbread and to hear jazz (there’s no cover, so make sure to order some food and drinks). While the accommodations might be low-frill, the music is passionate, and the atmosphere is warm and collegial. Depending on the night and the clientele, the musicians will often bring people up from the audience for a song. Give it a few visits, and that could be you up there.
Sankofa Aban, a bed and breakfast in Bedford-Stuyvesant, hosts an intimate jazz series in the front parlor of its townhouse, built in the 1880s and owned by the same family for four generations. The weekly concerts feature vocalists and musicians both well-known and unknown, and is meant to evoke the neighborhood’s heyday as an epicenter of jazz in the 1960s. Check Sankofa Aban’s Facebook page for details, and remember that your ticket gets you access to the fishfry and an open-mic session later in the evening.
On select Fridays, the Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea welcomes contemporary jazz vocalists and bands from around the world. The acoustic concert series takes place in the Rubin’s performance space. As musicians unobtrusively explore the intersection of jazz and music and chants from Himalayan Asia, you’ll likely be reminded of the diverse influences that pour into any musical genre, but particularly jazz, with its history of collating and collaging.