Great Find: Marjorie Eliot's Parlor Jazz

In a private home way uptown, the Harlem Renaissance comes alive every Sunday.
Description
Insider Exclusive Offer: 

Back in the days of the Harlem Renaissance, a cottage industry of private jazz salons took hold in the living rooms of far uptown Manhattan. These days, one local woman, Marjorie Eliot, keeps the tradition alive in her apartment just off 160th Street, where every Sunday she runs one of New York’s last parlor jazz salons.

Originally started as a tribute to her son Phillip, who passed away in 1992, Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Jazz has become an unmissable Sunday tradition for anyone lucky enough to have heard of it (a diverse crew that comprises old-school jazz heads, local bold-face names such as Marcus Samuelsson, a few well-informed tourists, and, on a recent Sunday, a Robb Report NYC correspondent).

It’s fitting that Eliot’s jazz series takes place where it does. The historic apartment building was once home to major faces of the Harlem Renaissance, including Joe Louis, Count Basie, Thurgood Marshall, Lena Horne, Coleman Hawkins, Erskine Hawkins, Canada Lee, Teddy Wilson, and more. The lobby, complete with a stained-glass ceiling, sets a refined tone that doesn’t stop until you leave, utterly charmed, several hours later.

If you walk in after the music has begun, two things will happen. One, because the rest of the audience will be paying rapt attention to the musicians, you will feel as if you are intruding. Not to worry: The second thing that will happen is that, almost immediately, Marjorie herself will appear at your elbow and help you find a seat. Under any other circumstances, her apartment would feel spacious, but as a makeshift concert hall, it is packed with people on folding chairs and wooden stools, filling the living room, the kitchen, and the foyer, with more people standing behind them.

For two hours the music continues, with a rotating cast of young and old musicians taking their positions against the back wall of the living room. Some are regulars, and some are new. "It is so rewarding for me to be able to bring a diverse audience—which ranges from people who come every Sunday from Westchester, to people who come once a year from Sweden—and the musicians together, face-to-face," says Eliot.

On our visit there was a pianist, a vocalist, a man playing the bass, and another playing the trumpet; one man alternated between the flute, the clarinet, and the saxophone. They played everything from church hymns and songs of peace to a tear-jerking rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” They stopped only for a brief intermission, during which platters of cookies and apple juice were passed from one audience member to the next, turning the secret Sunday jazz concert into Sunday at Grandma’s house.

The highlight of the afternoon was when Eliot took the stage to play piano, and sunlight seemed suddenly to come pouring into the room. Almost everyone was transfixed. Our advice: Close your eyes and just listen. And go back again soon.

Also, keep an eye out for Marjorie Eliot's annual outdoor concert, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year with two days of outdoor jazz from August 18 to 19 in the courtyard of the historic Morris-Jumel Mansion, Manhattan's oldest building, located right next door (65 Jumel Terrace, 212.923.8008).


Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Jazz: Every Sunday from 4 to 6 p.m., 555 Edgecombe Avenue, Studio 3F, 212.781.6595. Admission is free. No reservations necessary; seats are first-come, first-serve.
 

View Parlor Jazz at Marjorie Eliot's in a larger map

Tags: 
—Christina Garofalo
  • Ocean House
Robb NYC Guide: Boutique Hotel Escapes Picking a weekend getaway spot isn't as easy as it sounds. Nothing...
  • Avenue A Club. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Welcome to Exotic Car Heaven The Ironbound section of Newark is about as plush as its name implies...
  • Harlow. Photo by Owen Hoffmann.
Decadent Dining Returns Richie Notar is sick of casual dining. The restaurateur who managed the...
  •  Golf & Body NYC. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Manhattan’s New Golf Club Billed as a state-of-the-art urban country club, Golf & Body NYC is a...
  • Truman’s Gentlemen’s Groomers. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
The Best Shave in New York If you’re anything like us, your morning shave routine involves a...
  • Madison Fine Time. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
An Extraordinary Patek Collection Watch collectors and admirers, there’s a new must-see attraction in...
  • Freemans Bench-Made Bespoke. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Robb NYC Guide: Custom Suits Few purchases are more important to get right than a suit—and there...
  • Nat Sherman. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
The Year in Pictures One of the great things about working at Robb Report NYC is being able to...
  • Grilled scallop and uni at Neta. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
The Ramen Revolutionary Long Island native Ivan Orkin moved to Japan 10 years ago and opened 12-...
  • Auden. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Fine Dining Is Back at the Ritz It’s been nearly a year since BLT Market closed on the ground floor...
  • 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL
Great Find: Cooper Classic Cars When Elliot Cuker decided to open Cooper Classics Collection more than 30...
  • E. Vogel. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
A Lasting Custom Footwear Tradition Custom clothing has gotten a fashion update and broadened its base in...
  • Freemans Bench-Made Bespoke. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Freemans Goes Bespoke Freemans Sporting Club was a kind of modern-day menswear pioneer when it...
Bicycles Go Bespoke Yes, riding a bike in New York is more convenient and less dangerous than...
  • Jimmy. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Our Favorite Rooftop Bars When the temperature and humidity compete to see which can hit 100 first,...
  • Ursus Books and Prints. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Collector’s Guide: Rare Bookstores Argosy Book Store Founded in 1925, Argosy is a third-generation family-...
  • The Hideaway
The Real Montauk: 5 Classic Spots Duryea’s Lobster Deck and Seafood Market With buildings that date...
  • Leffot. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Great Find: Leffot shoes If men’s shoes were a religion, Leffot might be a temple. Actually,...
  • Bhambi’s Custom Tailors. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
NYC’s Top Tailors You know the feeling: You have some garments altered, and when you pick...
  • Croteaux Vineyards
Provence on the North Fork As you pull up to the charming, shady entrance to Croteaux Vineyards, on...
Great Find: Marjorie Eliot's Parlor Jazz Back in the days of the Harlem Renaissance, a cottage industry of private...
  • Holland & Sherry
Bespoke Everything   For 185 years, the Scottish company Holland & Sherry...
  • Delamar Greenwich Harbor
Delicious Drive Destinations La Maison Blanche, Shelter Island This breezy boutique hotel in a big...
  • Five Story
New York’s Very Own Colette New York’s most inspired new boutique came to be not out of passion...
  • Carnegie Club. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Where to Smoke Like Don Draper  It’s been long enough now that it’s hard to remember...
Great Find: Cocktail Kingdom Hidden on the fifth floor of a building on 25th Street in Chelsea is one...
The Art of Framing When the Metropolitan Museum of Art decided to celebrate its new American...
  • Booker and Dax. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Better Cocktails Through Science As director of culinary technology at the French Culinary Institute, Dave...
The Greatest Sake Selection All 150 of the sakes available at Kirakuya, a new Japanese restaurant in a...
  • Apotheke. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Chinatown's Delicious Surprises Brother and sister duo Heather and Christopher Tierney know all about how...
New York’s New Top Flight It took a luxury yacht designer to notice that while the Upstairs/...
  • Snap
Sports Bars Done Right Time was, finding a good sports bar in New York was about as easy as...
Make Your Own Power Lunch Sure, a long boozy lunch in a corner seat with a commanding view at the...
From Law Suits to Making Suits Great Jones Alley is one of those little-known slices of New York that,...
  • A.F. Rapoport Hot Buttered Rum at Joseph Leonard. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Hottest Cold-Weather Cocktails A.F. Rapoport Hot Buttered Rum at Joseph Leonard Self-proclaimed “...
  • Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
Chef’s Table: Ultimate Off-Menu Dining You’ve been to Per Se. You did the new dining room at Le Bernardin....
The Best Haircut in New York “Three weeks,” says Takamichi Saeki. “You haven’t...
  • Peter Elliot Boots, etc. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Boots and All If there were a benevolent king of the Upper East Side, he might be Peter...
  • Culture Espresso
The Fine Art of Espresso New York’s always been a coffee town. Those blue-and-white deli cups...
  • Armando Cabral Men’s Footwear. Photo by Chelsea Curtis.
Rising Footwear Designer Armando Cabral Twenty-nine-year-old Portugal native Armando Cabral started his career as...
BYO Best of NYC Whether you bring a bottle of 1997 Opus One to the table, or a favorite...
Cocktail Cures at the Bar on Fifth Bar on Fifth mixologist Robbie Clift knows the cocktail cure for almost...