Considered, as per its website, to be “the most iconic and oldest jazz club in the United States”, Minton’s Playhouse is located at 210 West 118th Street. Housed on the first floor of the Cecil Hotel, the entry to this legendary Harlem nightspot is actually at 206 West 118 Street.
Founded in 1938 by Henry Minton, a tenor saxophonist, Minton’s Playhouse would serve as the birthplace of a modern jazz genre that would be known as “Bebop”. Minton, manager of the Rhythm Club in Harlem, made history as the inaugural Black delegate to Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians.
Because of his diverse professional experience as a musician, entertainment administrator and union representative, Henry Minton uniquely understood the experiences of those off stage and on stage. In particular, he was acutely aware of the conditions, including poverty and hunger issues, that jazz musicians encountered in New York City. At Minton’s Playhouse, musicians could get a hot meal or a loan from Minton. Also, during this time, the 1930s, they could hear, connect and even perform with celebrated musicians, including Earl “Fatha” Hines and Fats Waller, who Minton knew from his time at the Rhythm Club.