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After Horace Silver’s death yesterday, only Sonny Rollins & Benny Golson remain from Art Kane’s ‘A Great Day in Harlem’ photo. They are the last 2 of the 57 musicians pictured still here. 55 have transitioned.
We’re witnessing time close the chapter on an era. Don’t forget them.
I went looking for food one evening and lamented to my friend on the phone that I couldn’t just go around the corner and get something eat from 22 West. Walking into 22 West was like literally walking into history. I remember the pictures of Malcolm (who used to meet Alex Haley here to discuss his Autobiography), Lionel Hampton, David Dinkins, and more. There was a stool at the lunch counter dedicated to the memory of Howard Bennett (who helped MLK Day become a national holiday). I miss the “come on in” attitude of all the workers. Unlike many restaurants in Harlem today, it was a place that treated everybody like somebody. Most of all, I miss the food. Even if you were taking out (which I was most of the time being single and in my 20’s) it was still on the money.
It was a hidden jewel for quite sometime, then the tour buses started coming and it became a hub for tourists that wanted the “Harlem” experience but were too afraid to stay uptown after dusk. Then, it seems, it became another victim of gentrification closing permanently a few years ago.
There are simply not enough places in Harlem like 22 West and that’s a shame.
“We were mindful that the restaurant supper club targeting a different demographic doesn’t ignore the fact there are people living upstairs,”HCDC President Curtis Archer said.
Those poor folks are going to be gentrified out of town in a few short years. This is how it always starts. Note that he said the restaurant was targeting a different demographic. That’s code word for white people with disposable income. Believe me, this venture ain’t for the poor black and brown people in the neighborhood.
By now, everyone knows Lenox Lounge is closing; another victim in the continued gentrification of Harlem. I’ve actually been expecting this to happen for some time. The rumors of its closing had been circulating since St. Nick’s Pub shut down last year. The owner says the landlord doubled the rent from 10k to 20k leaving him no choice but to shut down.
I could echo the sentiments of many and say “what a shame” it is and move on. I mean, after all, it’s old jazz club whose time has come and gone. But as a person born in Harlem it is more than that. It is another example of how the neighborhood I grew up in is being washed away and rebranded to suit the needs of gentrifiers also known in Harlem as “white folks”. In my opinion, the bar should have long been designated a landmark like Minton’s Playhouse, given the depth of its history in the world of music and in the city of New York. Sadly, that will not happen.
When I lived in Harlem as an adult, I did the live jazz scene heavy. On any given Friday night I’d go to Lenox Lounge, 449 LA, Shrine then up to St. Nick’s Pub to finish the night off. Unfortunately, that will never happen again and I no longer live in Harlem. Like the Lenox Lounge, I too was priced out. Nope. I cannot afford to live in a neighborhood that I once felt like I “owned”. As a child, I went to PS 200 on a 150th and 7th, played “skellies” on every block from 144th to 153rd, kissed my first girl in the courtyard of Dunbar houses, played in the “mountains” of Bradhurst Park, first heard Hip Hop at the “Roof Top” Skating Rink.
I loved that Harlem.
I don’t recognize this one and that is not by accident.
It reminds me of the neighborhood of Georgetown in Washington, DC which used to have a large African American population. Our history in the neighborhood was once rich and deep. You would never know that if you went to Georgetown today. All that remains of that history is Mount Zion Union Methodist Church. I suppose all that will be left of our history in Harlem will be the Apollo. I mean Justin Beiber has to perform somewhere, right?
So when people talk to me about how much better Harlem is today than it was, my immediate answer is always the same…better for who?
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, 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. - full read here
The Wallace Roney Quintet
Short video of PitchBlak Brass Band at Mafrika music festival yesterday. They were great, but their set was cut short. Pics to come shortly.