A History Of Jazz in Harlem

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Ah, the “Roaring 20s,” an era of dramatic social and political change in Western culture. A time where freedom extended toward African American communities, leading them to migrate north to Harlem, New York City, which quickly became the world’s largest African American community in 1920. This created the Harlem Renaissance, a rebirth of hope for the community through cultural bursts of activity. The Harlem Renaissance, otherwise known as the rebirth of Harlem, brought the most artistic and intelligent beings to the Harlem Neighborhood and carried the novel and now infamous genre of Jazz music to this spirited and historically-rich area.

(Photo by Harlem Spirituals)

Harlem will forever be home to Jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Benny Goodman, Chick Webb, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. It will forever be home to the plethora of black writers, artists, poets, and more musicians who migrated here to share the artistic wealth. Lastly, it will forever be home to iconic landmarks, such as the Apollo Theater and The Cotton Club, that played a major role in reforming the ‘black America.’ The history and culture continues to live on in the neighborhood of Harlem, with the love for Jazz Music all the same.


jazz-trumpetist-newyork(Photo by Fotolia)

Simultaneously, jazz music and the neighborhood of Harlem began to evolve. Harlem’s jazz scene began with Ragtime and Theatre music. This soon lead into The Swing Era and later morphed into the Bepop movement of ‘modern jazz’ that evolved post-WWII. Jazz shifted to a cool style, which was a baby step before the creation of Rhythm & Blues. The Black Power movement arose with the style of Soul jazz. The urge for entertainment birthed Disco, and later evolved into Rap. Ultimately, the Harlem Renaissance takes responsibility for the creation of these dynamic genres of music, and all of these styles are still greatly appreciated today. Yet, the neighborhood of Harlem is often overlooked.

(Photo by Phil Kline)

There is so much culture and history in Harlem. Get a sense of the past at one of many jazz, rhythm and blues clubs, such as Showman’s Jazz Club, Cassandra’s Jazz Club & Gallery or Bill’s Place for some live jazz talent, old-school vibes, and cocktails (or BYOB at Bill’s Place). For an extensive and genuine experience, join the Soul Food and Jazz Tour. Partake in an all-inclusive guided night out in Harlem’s most lively areas with other likeminded travelers, where you will indulge in African American Soul Food and discover the history of Harlem’s Jazz scene while experiencing it first hand at one of Harlem’s most famous Jazz venues. However you choose to spend your time here in New York City, we highly recommend touring the authentic neighborhood of Harlem, home to the change of America’s art, culture, and political scenes.

Each year, keep an eye out for the Harlem Week celebration, coming up on July 29th to August 25th to recognize the beauty of Harlem’s evolution. Check out our Harlem-focused tours to experience Uptown the way everyone should: our Gospel tours, our Walking Food tour or our Private tours. Also, if you are interested in finding more to do in New York City, search through our complete range of tours, attractions and activities. We can also tailor-make programs specifically to match your desires and budgets. Harlem Spirituals is the ideal one-stop-shop to simplify your planning! Find more information on www.harlemspirituals.com.

Have you ever been to a Jazz club in Harlem? Share your experience with us in the comments. Also, if you found this article entertaining, share the love!




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