With a rich musical history, it’s no surprise that Harlem continues to be a center for live music to this day. While jazz was a major force in the Harlem Renaissance a hundred years ago, the current scene across 110th Street embraces soul, folk and dance music, just to name a few.
Here are the top Harlem music venues to check out in the new year.
253 W. 125th St. near Frederick Douglass Boulevard
The Apollo Theater (Image: Phil Dolby/Flickr)
True to their motto “Where stars are born and legends are made,” The Apollo Theater has been nurturing thought-provoking black artists for over 100 years. Keeping that reputation in good stead, on February 25, the legendary 1500-seat venue will feature Afropunk’s “Unapologetically Black: The African-American Songbook Remixed” which pays tribute to African-American protest music. On March 11, the Apollo presents the fifth annual “Africa Now!” concert celebrating the best in contemporary African music.
2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. near West 134th Street
Launched in 2007 “by musicians and music lovers,” Shrine World Music Venue is dedicated to supporting art and culture across mediums including music, theater and dance. With a steady roster of independent musicians gracing their stage, you’re sure to find genres as diverse as dancehall, funk, blues, folk and reggae by artists performing several sets a night, usually from 4 p.m. to midnight. Check their packed calendar for 2017 gigs.
310 Lenox Ave. at 126th Street
Red Rooster (Image: Edsel Little/Flickr)
Best known for its unbelievable food, Red Rooster and its downstairs venue, Ginny’s Supper Club, also features an array of live music and DJs, with no cover charge, seven days a week. On Mondays, you’ll hear The Rakiem Walker Project, a seven-piece band, while Thursdays bring an upbeat blend of party favorites from DJ Masai. And don’t miss the Sunday Brunch featuring the Gospel for Teens Choir. Check their website for further details and performers.
2361 Seventh Ave. at 138th Street
A new spot on the scene, Harlem Nights features a great menu of small-bite comfort food, along with excellent cocktails and beer. On the stage, you’ll find soul, jazz, acoustic folk rock and interactive jam sessions, while DJs spin classics and contemporary jams late nights on Fridays and Saturdays. Check their Facebook page for the latest musical offerings at this laid-back lounge.
2021 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. at West 121st Street
Paris Blues (Image via Harlem + Bespoke)
Founded in 1969 by Samuel Hargress, Jr.— who at 78 years old can still be found among the crowd — Paris Blues offers seven nights of live jazz each week along with complimentary food and a two-drink minimum. This decidedly “dive bar” establishment is reminiscent of a New Orleans hideaway with a diverse crowd and great music. A true jazz gem in Harlem.