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Spotlight on Jazz: Minton’s Playhouse

May 13, 2012

So, we went to Minton’s last night to check out the final performances of the Harlem Jazz Shrine’s Tribute. It was definitely a labor of love. The folks in charge of this week of amazing music and history pulled out all the stops and managed to get a club that has been shuttered for two years to re-open for one special night.
It felt like going back in time. The crowd was amazing and the music beyond explanation. If those walls could talk…
Tenor saxophonist Henry Minton opened Minton’s Playhouse in 1938. In 1940, the club’s management was taken over by the former bandleader Teddy Hill, who concentrated much of his energy on the regular Monday-night jam sessions, in which visiting musicians took part; among the guest performers who played there often were Dizzy Gillespie, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Christian, and Don Byas. The resident musicians included Thelonious Monk (from 1939), Kenny Clarke, Joe Guy (who lead the house band), and Rudy Williams (1945).
The weekly jam session and after-hours playing at Minton’s provided an opportunity for musicians such as Gillespie and Monk to explore new ideas together, and their experiments played an important part in the development of bop. In the 1950s, Tony Scott and Jerome Richardson held long engagements there. A few have tried to re-open the place long-term, but no one has really succeeded. We personally believe this old stomp has got a few good years left!

UPDATE: It turns out someone else thought this old stomp could stand up and do it again. That’s right ladies and gentlemen former Time Warner and Citi CEO Richard Parsons has invested in Harlem and is reopening Minton’s along with two new restaurants this September! We will see you at the club!

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