Still Life: NYC Jazz Clubs – COVID – Survival Score Card
As we head into the 9th month of pandemic deprivation, we are not confident that jazz life will ever resemble pre-COVID status. All music venues struggle against all odds to remain in business during this extended lockdown.
Performers and performance venues were likely hit the hardest as precautionary health regulations were applied to their livelihoods without commensurate economic safeguards. Legally halted from making a living, they should be considered for assistance or other relief.
In two heartbreaking and impactful tragedies of the era, the old guard owners of two of the longest running venues in Harlem: Al Howard of Showmans, and Samuel Hargress of Paris Blues, both succumbed to the virus. The fate of their legendary clubs hangs in the balance.
Before the summer, after a few months of lockdown, I drove around an eerily quiet NYC to photograph “still lifes” of the clubs I used to visit most in Harlem and the West Village. Those photos are displayed below as they appeared in limbo – their ultimate fate still unknown to this day.
If I had gone further east while downtown, I would have shot Jules Bistro on St. Mark’s Place, a wonderful French restaurant / jazz club, that didn’t survive COVID, but had survived 27-years in an increasingly high-rent district. Live free jazz nightly served with mussels and french fries will be their enduring legacy. Another downtown casualty – one of the top venues for jazz in the city – Jazz Standard, also threw in the towel last month after 20 plus years of brilliant presentation and award winning barbecue.
My aim here is to shine a light on these remaining venues and all Big Apple jazz spots, so we don’t forget what makes living in NYC in normal times so worthwhile – supporting them in every way possible.
To see a decent list of local neighborhood clubs see the Big Apple Jazz Club Bible.