Founded by saxophonist Henry Minton in 1938, the club is located at 210 West 118th Street, on the Cecil Hotel’s ground floor, in Harlem. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the club was one of the hottest places in town, the birthplace of BEBOP, and a veritable mecca for jazz lovers. Legends like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Kenny Clarke graced the stage of the club in those days, and it became so popular that even Charles Mingus had to audition to get on stage.
However, it wasn’t all fun and games for The Cecil Steakhouse/Minton’s Playhouse. In the 1960s, jazz bands lost some of their popularity, and the venue suffered, eventually closing in 1974. Three decades later, it was time for a revival, and the club reopened in 2006; the Uptown Lounge at Minton’s Playhouse, as it was called, didn’t succeed as planned, and it was closed again in 2010. Then, in 2017, the club returned to its roots and reopened once again, and currently features upscale cuisine by executive chef Elpidio Escamilla.
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