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Last Call at Lenox Lounge, Harlem's Famed Jazz Club!

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 4, 2012 8:26:59 AM PST
Mr. P says:
Last Call at Lenox Lounge, Harlem's Famed Jazz Club, Due to Rising Rents .....

The historic landmark will close its doors December 31st.

The gentrification of Black America continues...

One of the last iconic establishments that exemplified the spirit of Harlem will be closing its doors.

According to the New York Amsterdam News, The Lenox Lounge, located on Lenox Avenue between 124th & 125th street which has served as a venue for jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Gil Scott Heron and John Coltrane, will serve its last drink at the end of the year, marking the end of an era in Harlem.

The lounge, which was originally opened as a speakeasy in 1939, rose to fame as a dinner club catering to white patrons. The main act was the Haba Haba Girls, a chorus line of black women.

After the bar was allowed to deteriorate for most of the 20th century, Alvin Reed purchased the venue, which once had Harlem Renaissance writers James Baldwin and Langston Hughes as its patrons, in 1988. Reed restored the original Art Deco interior including the long mahogany bar, checkered black-and-white floor and the world famous Zebra Room. The bar's interior was returned to its original condition and served as the setting for numerous television shows and films including "American Gangster," "Malcolm X," and "Mad Men."

"The most important thing I did for the club was to institute a jazz policy, which played a major role in bringing more customers into the club," stated Reed. "I wanted to make a difference in Harlem, and I think my ownership of the Lenox Lounge helped me achieve that goal."

The New York Daily News reported in March that he would not be renewing his lease because he could not afford the rent increase, which jumped from $10,000 per month to $20,000.

Despite numerous attempts to find partners, court appearances and countless negotiations, Reed said "I have to be out by [December 31th]. Anything that I leave behind will become the property of landlord or the new owner."

Richard Notar, Managing Partner in Nobu Restaurants, will be taking over the space the bar currently sits at and plans to open a new spot named "Notar Jazz Club." Notar has already applied with the local community board for a liquor license.

Reed, a life-long Harlem resident who started out selling 15 cent copies of the Amsterdam News when he was about 8, said he's disappointed to see so many area businesses closing up.

"We almost have to partner with someone from out of the community if we want to survive now."

So damn Tragic!

Posted on Dec 4, 2012 12:40:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 4, 2012 12:50:20 PM PST
The Zebra Room in the Lenox was also the favourite performance spot of Lady Day. She had her preferred seat that I've sat in a few times when hanging out there. I've also sent many of my non-NYC savvy friends when they've been visiting NYC and they always said how much they enjoyed the place. There was always something special about visiting such a club such as the Lenox which is enshrined in the annals of Harlem jazz. The Hammond B3 night always swung mightily and most of the B3 cats in town would be lined up waiting to do their stuff. I also liked to drop in to see the Patience Higgins Sugar Hill band which had a regular weekly gig there. And the after hours jams were something else. A couple of times, I staggered out of there at dawn, hardly able to keep my eyes open, after a night of stupendous jazz,
I knew that the closure was on the cards some months back but nevertheless it's a very, very sad day for the jazz community that it's finally come to pass.
To commemorate this sad event, I've uploaded a YouTube clip of Patience playing at the Lenox to my Facebook page.

Posted on Dec 7, 2012 6:46:45 PM PST

The above link is to a New York Times article. The new owner says he hopes to keep the name.

Posted on Jan 6, 2013 1:28:16 PM PST

The above link is to an article in the New York Times about the reopening of Minton's Playhouse, the birthplace of bebop in Harlem.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 7:33:19 AM PST
I had a run in with New York's finest on the streets of Harlem between sets of Bobby Watson there a few years back.

Saw Cecil Payne there when he was playing alto from a chair. Also Bertha Hope, Danny Mixon and Miles Griffith.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 7:54:00 AM PST
Ah,the music those walls must have heard!

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 2:51:40 PM PST
Hammond B-3 night was a gas. Going to the back room through the bar was like a trip through jazz fantasyland, if there could be such a thing. One of the best aspects of staying on 137th Street with relatives up there.

Peter: You have been fortunate to have seen great jazz in so many special places. The joy of the universal and endearing nature of this music. I think of the early pledges of me and a former buddy from Berkeley Ca/Brooklyn NY to chronicle the many clubs we attended in so many locales.

Posted on Jan 14, 2013 1:28:52 PM PST
I guess that I have been lucky to have seen so many great musicians and been treated with so much kindness along the way. It all makes for good memories. With luck and a down wind, I may still a lot more in the time that I have left. On that note it seems that a so-called fest is being organized by one of the Christian churches here, St.Michael All Angels in Heliopolis. Jazzfest is probably a misnomer as it's just a two hour performance on St. Valentine's Eve. I haven't the foggiest who will be playing even though I was initially consulted by the priest who has put it together. The poster is on my Facebook page for anyone who is interested.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2013 1:54:33 PM PST
Frank, you are absolutely on the button regarding the Hammond B3 night at the Lenox. I was first taken there by a jazz harpist from New York who used to be on the committee for Jazzmobile. She knew just about every jazz musician in the Big Apple and introduced me to a lot of the guys who had turned up waiting for the chance to sit down and do their stuff, guys I'd never heard of in many cases. There must have been at least 8 or 9 B3 virtuosi there on that night. What gas! I left with several CD's that I still prize. I managed to get back a couple more times to those B3 affairs and to the blues evening. And, man, that was also special . It was like being in one of Chicago's South side juke joints. I didn't even know before that NYC had a blues scene. But what did I know? I was just and out of towner from Hicksville.
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Discussion in:  Jazz forum
Participants:  5
Total posts:  9
Initial post:  Dec 4, 2012
Latest post:  Jan 14, 2013

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