THE ALHAMBRA BALLROOM was orig­i­nally built as the Alham­bra The­ater in 1905.  It began as a vaude­ville venue, even­tu­ally shwo­ing movies.  In 1926 it opened an upstairs ball­room host­ing leg­endary per­form­ers Bessie Smith, Jelly Roll Mor­ton, Frank­ing Man­ning and a swing­ing wait­ress named Bil­lie Hol­i­day.  With a swing­ing band per­form­ing on stage, this site became one of the most his­toric dance halls in the coun­try.  At the height of its influ­ence, the likes of Cab Cal­loway, Duke Elling­ton and Count Base brought the mighty sounds of their big bands to the stage incit­ing swing dancers to bat­tle it out.

THE APOLLO THEATER is one of Harlem’s. New York City’s, and America’s most iconic and endur­ing cul­tural insti­tu­tions. From the his­toric night in 1934 when Ella Fitzger­ald first won Ama­teur Night, to per­for­mances by Benny Carter, Julian “Can­non­ball” Adder­ley, Louis Arm­strong, Count Basie, Bil­lie Hol­i­day and Cab Cal­loway, the list of jazz greats who played the Apollo goes on and on.

CLUB HARLEM, a long-forgotten lit­tle jazz haunt on 145th Street, was Cecil Taylor’s first expe­ri­ence at per­form­ing live. He speaks fondly of a time when he had to play from 9 pm to 4 am, with one 15-minute break. The upright piano had 8 work­ing keys on a good night and the pay was $50 a week. It was in 1952. He had to play stan­dards, not his own music, and he reports that many guys could play those stan­dards in every key. In this prov­ing ground, every­body wanted the gig.

HAVANA SAN JUAN was a club that opened dur­ing the height­ened pulse of the 1960’s. Located on 138th Street and Broad­way, it was a haven for iconic music celebri­ties such as Machito, Sammy Davis Jr., Celia Cruz, Frank Sina­tra, and Tito Puente. The place inspired these artists to cre­ate what we know today as “Clas­sic Salsa,” a music and dance that has united cul­tures through gen­er­a­tions and carved a per­ma­nent place in Amer­i­can music.

LENOX LOUNGE, with its famous Zebra Room, was giv­ing it up to jazz lovers since 1939. A hotbed for jazz leg­ends, it was also a favorite haunt for Harlem Renais­sance writ­ers, James Bald­win and Langston Hughes, among them. Lenox Lounge and the Zebra Room are often a fea­tured loca­tion in music videos (Luther Van­dross, Janet Jack­son, Madonna, Keith Sweat, P. Diddy, Quincy Jones CD cover and more.

MINTON’S PLAYHOUSE was famous for its jam ses­sions in the early 1940’s, where Thelo­nious Monk, Kenny Clarke, Char­lie Parker and Dizzy Gille­spie pushed the bound­aries of the art and pio­neered bebop. Equally noto­ri­ous were the club’s “cut­ting ses­sions,” great bat­tles between the likes of mas­ter trum­peters Roy Eldridge and Dizzy Gille­spie or sax giants Lester Young and Ben Webster.

CLARK MONROE’S UPTOWN HOUSE Some­times short­ened to Monroe’s Uptown House or sim­ply Monroe’s, Clark Monroe’s Uptown House was a night­club in New York City.  Along with Minton’s Play­house, it was one of the two prin­ci­pal clubs in the early his­tory of bebopjazz.

Clark Mon­roe opened the Uptown House in the 1930s, at 198 West 134th Street in Harlem, in a build­ing which for­merly held Barron’s Club (where Duke Elling­ton worked early in the 1920’s) and the The­atri­cal Grill.  From the late 1930’s, the club pre­sented swing jazz and Bil­lie Hol­i­day held a res­i­dence there for three months in 1937.   In the early 1940’s the club became known for its jam ses­sions, where many of the play­ers involved in the birth of bebop played together.   Al Tin­ney led Monroe’s house band, which included Max RoachLit­tle Benny Har­risGeorge Tread­well, and Vic­tor CoulsenChar­lie Parker was a fea­tured soloist at the club in 1943.

An impor­tant live record­ing of Char­lie Chris­t­ian fea­tures a jam “ses­sion at Monroe’s.”  Mon­roe moved the club to 52nd Street in 1943 and opened a sec­ond club, The Spotlite, in Decem­ber 1944.

PARK PALACE was the up-the-steps dance­hall sec­tion of a dou­ble venue that included a down­stairs space called the Park Plaza at the north­west cor­ner of 110th and Fifth Avenue. Together, night­club and dance­hall com­prised a tremen­dously sig­nif­i­cant New York City stop for afi­ciona­dos of Latin dance music. Nightly, one could be sure that some of the great­est instru­men­tal­ists and singers from Cuba or Puerto Rico would be there, serv­ing it up for East Harlem’s Latin dancers and music lovers.

SHOWMAN’S JAZZ CLUB was a hang­out for Apollo enter­tain­ers sixty plus years ago, when it was lit­er­ally right next door to the famed the­ater. In 1988 it moved to its present loca­tion on 125th Street, where this inti­mate room remains one of Harlem’s pre­mier jazz clubs. Over a famed bar, pho­tos of a pan­theon glow: Sarah Vaughan, Lionel Hamp­ton, Pearl Bai­ley, Eartha Kitt and Duke Ellington.

SMALL’S PARADISE, which per­son­i­fied the excite­ment of Harlem nightlife dur­ing the “Roar­ing Twen­ties,” was famous for its first-class musi­cal acts, elab­o­rate floor­shows, danc­ing wait­ers and famously inte­grated audi­ence. Cus­tomers vied for space on the postage-stamp-size dance floor while Charleston-dancing wait­ers brought Chi­nese food and boot­leg liquor to the small tables. One waiter who went on to greater fame was Mal­colm Lit­tle, later known as Mal­colm X, who worked at Small’s in 1943.

The Sugar Cane Club was a cabaret at the edge of Harlem’s poorer neigh­bor­hoods at 135th Street and Fifth Avenue, that was part of the Harlem Renais­sance cul­tural milieu of the 1920’s and 1930’s, where African Amer­i­can jazz per­form­ers min­gled with white and African Amer­i­can patrons. While not as upscale as the seg­re­gated Cot­ton Club, which catered specif­i­cally to an elite all-white clien­tele, the Sugar Cane Club was still fre­quented by whites from else­where in New York City as well as by its mostly African Amer­i­can cus­tomers, func­tion­ing as a speakeasy as well as a night­club dur­ing Prohibition.

The Sugar Cane Club was a small venue that despite its avail­able space would attract a huge num­ber of patrons.  Many pop­u­lar African Amer­i­can jazz per­form­ers such as Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters, Duke Elling­ton and Louis Arm­strong played there.  Much like many other pop­u­lar Harlem night clubs, both the end of Pro­hi­bi­tion and the Great Depres­sion severely affected its business.