Minton’s Playhouse is a historic Harlem jazz club where bebop modern jazz was born in the 1940s. Bebop and cubop (Cuban bebop) were birthed at the same time by many of the same musicians. Dizzy Gillespie was in the middle of it all.
Many of NYC’s legendary jazz clubs have changed locations, but Minton’s is still the same room where legends were made.
Minton’s Playhouse News
New York Venezuelan pianist Benito Gonzalez 4tet plays Jazz at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem on Fri, Nov 26 at 7pm & 8pm (6pm & 8pm doors). $25. 🇻🇪
Minton’s Playhouse Tickets
206 West 118th St
(between Frederick Douglass Blvd and Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd)
Where Bebop was Born
Minton’s Playhouse was founded in 1938 when tenor saxophonist Henry Minton converted the Cecil Hotel’s bar and dining room into a jazz club. Minton was part of the first generation of jazz musicians who came up through vaudeville and played on some of the early jazz recordings. His concept for the club was Harlem’s Rhythm Club which was another place where legends played.
In the 1940s cats like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and an endless list of jazz giants would play and jam at Minton’s. It was in the jam sessions where bebop was made. The musician’s union used to fine artists for jamming, but they left Minton alone because he was the first black member of the union local.
The House Band of House Bands
In 1941, the house band was Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Christian. Art mirrors the times. It was war time and the beginning of the atomic age so bebop reflected that crazy explosive energy.
By 1942, Charlie Parker became a regular. Miles Davis followed “Bird” and it went on like this throughout the 1940s. It was the after hours place where artists went to hang out after their own gigs. The place was known for its food too.
In the 50s, the club started hosting big names and lost some of its shine. Things declined in the 1960s and the club closed in 1974 when a fire shut down the Cecil Hotel. It reopened in 2006 and has gone through ups and downs, but keeps on going.
New York is always changing. It’s a city that devours its own children. The jazz clubs on 52nd St are just legends now and Birdland is in a different space in a different part of town, but Minton’s really is one of the actual rooms where history was made.
When Cecil’s Steakhouse closed, it merged with Minton’s.