Henry Minton was a tenor saxophonist who opened Minton’s Playhouse in 1938. The house band had names like Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Count Basie and Benny Goodman. It was frequented by all the icons in after-hours jam sessions for three decades and although they didn’t pay well, they provided a place to create – and it is said the result was the birth of bebop. Miles, Mingus, Fats Navarro, Dexter Gordon, Art Blakey, Max Roach and others – you never knew who would walk through those doors. It was an exciting time in Harlem and Minton’s Playhouse thrived for 32 years, closing its doors in 1974.
Although Harlem has seen many doors close these past few years, jazz has remained as strong as the current in Hells Gate and with so many people willing to put their time, love and money into keeping jazz alive, Harlem is having an incredible rebirth. Like the current in the East River, it can not be said who started it all but no doubt, jazz is one of Harlem’s favorite past-times.
Harlemites couldn’t be more pleased about the resurrection of Minton’s Playhouse. Many of them long time residence and many of them old time musicians themselves. Just across the street from Minton’s Playhouse in the Garden Court Housing, the hallways are lined with wire images of jazz musicians.
This year, the historic Minton’s Playhouse celebrates its 80th anniversary with a series featuring Jazz Legends: Andy Bey, Brian Jackson, Tony Middleton, Maurice Brown and 2018 Grammy award winner, Arturo O’Farrill. The Series will take place every Thursday through February and March, with two sets each evening, 7:30pm and 9:30pm.