Harlem’s legendary Jazz scene has been the source of inspiration for many famous musicians, movies, dancers, and art exhibits over the decades. Although the 1920s was a time of great economic downturn for the entire nation, this Upper Manhattan neighborhood saw a greatly increased appreciation for the genre with the Harlem Renaissance underway, cementing jazz as both a powerful tool for social change against anti-black racism and a representation of African-American ingenuity. 


Today, Harlem jazz clubs are not as numerous as they once were, but by no means are they extinct! Take a look at where to see some of the best jazz clubs in Harlem today. 


Minton’s Playhouse

Minton’s Playhouse enjoys the distinction of being the oldest standing jazz club in the country! Having been founded in 1938 by saxophonist Henry Minton, the venue is widely considered to be the birthplace of modern jazz. Inside the club, photos of jazz legends grace the walls, and the unique ambiance paired with live music makes for an unparalleled experience. 


Minton’s partners with The Cecil Steakhouse to provide guests with a fine dining experience on par with the venue’s distinguished atmosphere. Eating early and staying afterward for a show is the best way to enjoy this piece of living history.


Bill’s Place

An intimate Brownstone that still embodies the vintage decor and feel of the Roaring 20s is the best way to describe this authentic, Prohibition-era speakeasy, and it is a speakeasy in the literal sense of the word. Bill’s Place encourages you to bring your own alcohol and is hidden away from those who don’t know what they’re looking for. 


A giant red door near the club’s entrance on 148 W 133rd Street will lead you into the cozy inside portion of the venue. A $20 cash cover is mandatory and reservations are highly encouraged in order to get the best seats. Bill’s Place is only open on Fridays from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. 


Shrine World Music Venue

Shrine acts as a multimedia arts and culture venue, the perfect place for music lovers of all kinds! The venue brings in diverse crowds and offers a fantastic range of cocktails and meals for patrons to enjoy. Shrine makes use of its spacious stage with live independent artists performing in rotation and 5-6 bands a night. 


Dance the night away with the DJ to live jazz, Latin beats, R&B, afrobeats, reggae, soca, and much more! Shrine World Music Venue mandates patrons to a two-drink minimum. The venue is open every day of the week from 4 in the afternoon to 4 in the morning. 


American Legion Post 398

This community staple extends a warm vibe to anyone who walks through the doors. Drink prices are reasonable, music is plentiful, and affordable soul food is the go-to meal option. American Legion Post 398 is also home to one of the remaining two Hammond organs left in Harlem. 


Jazz is played at the Wednesday Fish Fry, on Thursday nights, and on Sundays. The venue is cash only and there’s no cover charge when you walk in.


Harlem’s jazz legacy has been nurtured and kept alive by dedicated venues and their audiences determined not to lose a vibrant piece of New York City’s history. It is impossible to separate the cultural contributions jazz clubs have bestowed on Harlem from the neighborhood’s enduring legacy as an outpost for all things, musical, artsy, and genuine. Take the opportunity to sample Harlem’s jazz clubs up close and personal while the chance is there, it’s certainly something you’ll carry with you forever.