Whether you want to be transported to the past with big-band jazz tunes, get in touch with your spiritual side with gospel, get lost in the belting of a rising talent, or simply get funky on the dance floor, Harlem has a place for you. Culture Trip checks out five of the best music venues in the area.
Courtesy of MINTON’S
Music Venue, Shrine
Minton's Playhouse, New York | Courtesy of Shrine World Music Venue
Along a tree lined street in Harlem lies a notable locale for a night on the town. Enter MINTON’S and be immediately transported to the era of jazz’s inception. The majestic and revamped supper club boasts an historically enviable lineup which has included greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, The Duke, and Lady Day. While decades have passed, Minton’s continues the tradition of delivering infectiously fantastic music in an elegant atmosphere. On any given night at MINTON’S, you can find big band jazz bands, spelling out scores both familiar and unknown. After midnight, the lights go down and the stage hosts a live DJ spinning soul, reggae and hip-hop tunes. The late night eatery serves an enticing menu of southern comfort food staples like Mac and cheese and Hamhocks, where the Chef de Cuisine is JJ Johnson of the Cecil and the Owner and Executive Chef is Alexander Smalls.
Cozy enough for conversation but with plenty of room for dancing, Shrine has cemented itself as Harlem’s premier underground live music venue. Boasting a crowd of locals and visitors alike, the personality packed atmosphere and intimate stage give it the true New York feel. Stop by nightly to hear a range of musical talents – from pop-electro to American folk and from jazz to hip-hop and reggae. Be prepared to move your body after midnight, when rotating DJ’s spin tunes of soul, funk and hip-hop. If you are searching for a good place to party, Shrine delivers.
Harlem’s most prestigious stage and one of New York’s most esteemed cultural institutions – this is the place to be. Although having recently celebrated its 80th birthday, the iconic hall is aging gracefully. While the Apollo stays true to its roots, with Latin jazz, Afro and music of the like at the core of its programming, international acts such as Gorillaz and Lykke Li have graced the performance hall. Legendary Amateur Night at Apollo still reigns supreme – an enchanting evening of entertainment occurring on Wednesdays, this is a trademark occasion for the Apollo, where household icons like Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill have performed. Watch as musical talents rub the tree of hope with prayers not to be ‘escorted’ off stage by the venue’s ‘Executioner’.
Downstairs at Silvana lies an indulgent source of exciting entertainment. Offering a diverse buffet of musical entertainment much like its sister location, Shrine; with electronic rock, Brazilian jazz and hip-hop among them. Live music is featured nightly, followed by a DJ, playing for the nocturnal set until 4am. Indulge in the robust but well selected beer and wine list. Get friendly with the bartender, pull up a seat at one of the closely knit cabaret tables or make yourself comfy in the back lounge area. No matter where you’re stationed, elation will find you at this increasingly popular South Harlem spot.
Cocktail Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Nightclub, American, $$$
Ginny’s Harlem is a sleek speakeasy located underneath the neighborhood newcomer, Red Rooster. The chic lounge gathers a sophisticated and modern crowd. Saturday night’s include a lineup of old and new age jazz talents, while Sundays host a popular Gospel brunch. With famed chef, Marcus Samuelson, behind the menu, you can rest assured that the food delivers at a high standard. From traditional meals of chicken and waffles to uptown steak frites, John Legend and Jason Tmbk are among notable names who have graced the venue to partake in the fabulous combination of food and music.