No genre of music has helped shape the USA as much as Jazz. Jazz has given birth to countless sub-genres – from Rock N Roll to Hip Hop. The memories of notable Jazz singers like Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, etc., will live on forever. That’s because people still celebrate these famous Jazz legends in jazz bars across the country.

Most of the greatest minds of Jazz share one characteristic – they all performed in Harlem. Harlem, the center of the “Harlem Renaissance” in the 1920s, was and continues to be the global jazz hub. If people want to experience African American culture and live jazz music – a trip to Harlem is a must.  

Vaccinated people in New York can use the Excelsior Pass to enter sports arenas, music venues, etc. Anyone with this digital passport for COVID19 can start exploring the best jazz clubs and museums in Harlem. Confused about which jazz spots in Harlem you should visit? Here’s the definitive guide on the best venues to hear live Jazz in Harlem –

Red Rooster

Red Rooster is famous for its soul food. But, this vibrant restaurant in Harlem is even more famous for attracting jazz greats. From James Baldwin to Nat King Cole – every major Harlem jazz legend has performed at Red Rooster. Now, young jazz musicians and emerging talents perform live music at the restaurant. These features make Red Rooster one of the best places to experience live Jazz Harlem.

The classic food offerings at this establishment only make the music sound better. The restaurant only employs local musicians, artists, chefs, waiters, and other restaurant workers. Visitors get to experience more than just live performances or cocktails. They get to enjoy the true culture of Harlem. 

The National Jazz Museum

If visitors want quick history lessons on Jazz before hitting any of the clubs, they must visit the National Jazz Museum. Located at the center of Harlem, the National Jazz Museum is renowned for preserving and promoting Jazz. It also hosts live performances and educational workshops for visitors.

Many current jazz stars hold interactive exhibits at this spot. Most impressively, visitors get to listen to the rare Savory collection. This collection features 100+ hours of live recordings that date back to 1935. Visitors get to listen to notable jazz legends and how their music sounded on live radio broadcasts.

Minton’s Playhouse

Another must-visit jazz spot in Harlem is the Minton’s Playhouse. Established in 1938 by famous jazz saxophonist Henry Minton, this jazz club continues to attract local jazz musicians. For over 80 years, jazz legends have gathered at Minton’s Playhouse to host jam sessions. People can dine and wine while listening to live jazz music at the playhouse. Visitors should watch out for tribute acts where young jazz musicians cover classic jazz songs.

Catch the Jazz-Mobile in Action

As the name suggests, the “jazz-mobile” is a moving crew of jazz musicians. They visit different parts of Harlem to provide free concerts. These free concerts are purely designed to preserve the tradition of live jazz music. Visitors must visit the website of this group of musicians to check their schedules before visiting Harlem.

Bill’s Place

Bill’s Place is by far the most important jazz club you can visit in Harlem. The place has been home to Jazz since the early Prohibition era. Over the years, multiple jazz clubs have occupied 133rd Street – only Bill’s Place has remained, and it keeps growing. Jazz legend Billie Holiday was discovered in Bill’s Place.

Visitors can enjoy live Jazz shows every Friday and Saturday (mostly between 8 and 10 pm) at Bill’s Place. Unlike other jazz clubs on this list – Bill’s Place is solely for music lovers. If you want drinks or soul food – visit other sites. Bill’s Place is an alcohol-free establishment. All visitors are there only for the music. 

Explore these iconic spots, and you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring music and unforgettable jazz night-outs!