November 4th, 2013 by HarlemGuy

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Minton's Jazz

Minton’s Harlem is the rebirth of legendary jazz club Minton’s Playhouse, frequented by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian and Dizzy Gillespie, in the 1940s and ’50s.  Owner Richard Parsons (former chairman of Citigroup and the former chairman and CEO of Time Warner) has teamed up with Executive Chef Alexander Smalls and Chef de Cuisine Banks White to create a destination offering an exceptional experience that bridges Harlem’s past, present and future.  Mr. Parsons is also the owner of The Cecil, which is adjacent to Minton’s, and which we previously reviewed (click here for the review).

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Richard Parsons dining on opening night

As we approached the restaurant on one of Harlem’s restaurant rows, the first thing we noticed was the glowing plaque indicating that Minton’s is in The National Register of Historic Places.  That set the tone for the experience that followed.

Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted warmly by the Director of Operations  Beatrice Stein, just as she had when she greeted us at The Cecil, where she holds the same title.

The restaurant is a  wide and long though not cavernous rectangle with spacious ceilings.  It is well lit and beautifully designed with rich warm colors everywhere.  There is a nice bar to the right, and a banquet of tables lining a cloth paneled wall to your left.  You walk through this lounge-like space into the main dining room.  There you find tables lining the walls to your left and right.  Some of the walls are mirrored.  Pictures of Jazz Legends including Dizzie and Billie line the walls.  Off in the distance is a stage with a wonderful mural.  The stage features a beautiful black grand piano.  The tables are a combination of two and four tops draped in crisp white linens.  The chairs are comfortable and the tables nicely sized.  The staff is omni-present, attentive and knowledgeable.

We were seated at the first table to your right as you enter the main dining area.  From there you can take in everything while enjoying some privacy.

There are two dining options, both prix-fixe, one two course, the other a four course.  We opted for the five course.

We started off with cocktails which were generously poured.  The Lady Bird was exceptional.  We also enjoyed a variety of red and white wines throughout the evening, which are available by the glass or the bottle.

While we waited for our meal the musicians assembled and started their first of several sets.   These are top-notch Jazz musicians with years of experience.  They did not disappoint – their performances were the highlight of (and throughout) the evening.

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The first course was an appetizer sampler called the Low Country Experience.  We each received a plate containing nine sections, each with a different appetizer.  The variety was fabulous.  It felt as though the chef’s had traveled the world and selected their best fare for our tasting. Our table could have ordered several bowls of the Fried Okra wrapped in Surryano Country Ham.  Other favorites included Deviled Egg Toast with Smoked Trout and Pickled Shallot, Creminis stuffed with creamed collard greens, and Beau Soleil Oysters, Champagne Mignonette Ossetra Caviar.

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The second course consisted of Sherry She Crab Soup with Crisp Yam and Skillet Bread, Winter Apple Salad with Candied Black Walnuts, Butter Lettuce and Smoked Crabapple Vinaigrette, and Roasted Parsnip and Kabocha Squash Soup with Benne Seed Crunch and Brown Butter Creme Fraiche.

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The third course consisted of Smothered Lobster & Shrimp Caserole with Creole Crawfish Gravy an Nora Mills Pimento Cheese Grits, Wagyu Ribeye with Bone Marrow Butter, Chanterella Mushrooms, Sweet Potato Pave and Blacktruffle Glace Deviande, and Pan Seared Venison with Carmelized russel Sprouts, Dumpling Squash and Huckleberry Gastrique.

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The fourth course included Minton’s rendition of Banana Cream Pie with Sable Breton, Sour Cremem Mousse and Banana Sorghum Ice Cream.  And blackberry Cobbler with Brown Sugar Bisquit and Cornbread Ice Cream (and I asked for the requisite cool glass of milk).  We ended the evening with a round of smooth and soothing Cognac.

During and after our meal Beatrice Stein, Alexander Smalls and Banks White were kind enough to stop by.  We of course let them know how much we enjoyed our time, and assured them that we would be back.

MINTON’S HARLEM Jazz Supper Club

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206 W 118th Street (St. Nicholas & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd)
New York, NY 10026
Reservations: (212)243-2222
Monday – Thursday: 5-11PM
Friday – Saturday – 5-Midnight
www.MintonsHarlem.com

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October 27th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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Abbey Lincoln, was an American Jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress, who wrote and performed her own compositions.  Abbey Lincoln (Anna Marie Wooldridge) was born on August 6, 1930 and passed along on August 14, 2010.  One of the many singers influenced by Billie Holiday where she often visited the Blue Note jazz club in New York City.  Lincoln’s lyrics were often connected to the civil rights movement in America.

During the 1990s and until her death, Abbey fulfilled a 10-album contract with Verve Records.  These recordings are highly regarded in the jazz world and represent a crowning achievement in Lincoln’s career.

Listen to Abbey Lincoln on ITUNES.

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Here is a wonderful live performance (below) of Abbey Lincoln singing  “Midnight Sun” with the incredibly talented Lionel Hampton.  The second video is a beautiful recording of “Throw It Away”, written and performed by Abbey Lincoln.  Some may know this to by Esperanza Spalding’s recent cover of Abbey’s “Throw It Away.”

Abbey Lincoln Quartet (Live) – Lionel Hampton/Midnight Sun

Abbey Lincoln – Throw It Away

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October 20th, 2013 by harlemhouse

Lalah Hathaway at Variety Playhouse

The apple does not fall far from the tree.  A few weeks ago we featured the legendary Donny Hathaway on our Sunday Jazz Corner and in it we briefly mentioned his daughter Lalah.  This week it is all about Lalah Hathaway, daughter of the jazz and R&B great Donny Hathaway.  Though she may be under the radar to some, if you do not already know about Lalah, you will know about her soon as she continues to rise at a rapid pace amongst her peers.

Born as Eulaulah Donyll Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway is referred to as the First Daughter of Soul.  She is considered a contemporary R&B and jazz singer.  In a sea of high pitched soprano female pop culture singers, it is so refreshing to hear Lalah Hathaway in the mix.  There is something about her texture and tone in the same context as Sade or Sarah Vaughan and other infectious swooners that just makes you feel good inside.  When you think of pop culture singers these days, you emmediatialy think Beyonce, Rihanna, pop, Hip Hop, soul etc.  But with the Esmaralda Spalding’s and Janelle Monae’s and other newbies quietly making themselves heard, please take note of Lalah Hathaway and check out her music on iTunes.

The first video you will listen to below is  “Something” by Snarky Puppy featuring Lalah Hathaway.  I was referred to it by a friend and watched blindly, and unprepared.  I started off listening, watching calmly, inquisitively, maybe slightly judgmental, sitting in my chair… watching, waiting… and as it continued I started getting this feeling, this emotion inside of me.  I sat up straight in my chair and tuned everything else out around me.  Now, in one hundred percent concentration mode listening and watching this video in front of me, completely committed with Lalah and her performance I begin talking to my computer screen… next, I am standing, now I’m yelling at my computer, clapping, cheering!!  Alone in my apartment, goose bumps running all through my body up and down my spine I sit back down.  Of course because I’m a man, I did not cry.  Maybe just one tiny tear but I fixed that real quick and like I said, I was alone and nobody was there to see a thing.

I think jazz, gospel, good soul, rock whatever, is supposed to make you, make us feel this way, right?  Sometimes rarely, music can take you there to this place and so when you do feel it and are a part of the art and why music exists in the first place, it is such a great experience.  So ya, that’s kind of what my experience with Lalah was like.  And just remember, nobody cried here!

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Here are two videos below one Live in Harlem with Robert Glasper at Marcus Garvey Park, and  the first one is by Snarky Puppy “Something” featuring a live recording of Lalah Hathaway.  I could have posted 20 more like this but I kept it down to two.  While writing this piece and listening to this music all I could think of was all of the music that we still can look forward to with future recordings of Lalah Hathaway.

P.S. At the 6:12 minute mark of this song does she sing a chord?  I think she sang a chord!!  And I love the drummers reaction, he literally got out of his seat as if to say, what just happened.

Singing with Robert Glasper in Harlem, Live at Marcus Garvey Park in August 2012, a classic Nirvana rock song “Smells Like Teen Spirit ” with a jazz twist. Brilliant.

To see more Sunday Jazz Corner Archives (Billie Holiday, Chet Baker, Sarah Vayghan, Cag Calloway and more…)

Posted in Art and Culture, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Community, Dance, East Harlem, Entertainment, Faith/Religion, Harlem, History, Menu Harlem Restaurant Row, Music, New York City, North Harlem, South Harlem (SOHA), Sunday Jazz Corner, West Harlem Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October 18th, 2013 by harlemcondolife
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Photo: Melissa Hom

A return to elegance in the historic village of Harlem.  The day has come for Minton’s to open officially to the public Monday, October 21st.  The Cecil next door and jointly owned just opened last month with a bang and hasn’t stopped since.  Already considered in a league of it’s own in this area.  See our previous write up on The Cecil Restaurant in Harlem (Review).

We look forward to celebrating the reopening of Minton’s with such a past history of Harlem’s jazz greats when it was once called Minton’s Playhouse.  This venue will require that men wear jackets.  The attire (dress code) is formal and it will be nice to see women and men fill the room with a diversity of styles while enjoying live jazz music.  A very timely decision to open (reopen) this historic jazz club with Harlem on the pulse now more than ever in the New York scene.

Looking forward to experiencing Minton’s next week.  Dress to impress and come out to enjoy good jazz and what looks like to be great food.  Take a peek at the menu below.

Here are a couple photos of entrees you can expect from the menu.  Looking forward to trying the Rib-Eye steak.  Minton’s MENU.

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Photo: Melissa Hom – Wagyu Rib-eye with bone

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Photo: Melissa Hom – Crisp Skate Wing with Manila Clams

Minton’s Supper Club
206 West 118th Street
New York, New York 10026
(212) 243-2222
www.mintonsharlem.com

*Photos from Grub Street and Minton’s Facebook Page.

Posted in Architecture, business, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Community, Cooking, Culture, Design Decorating, Drink, Entertainment, Food, Harlem, History, Menu Harlem Hot Spots, Menu Harlem Restaurant Row, Music, New York City, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants, The Cecil Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October 13th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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Let’s go back in time to a different era and take a look at old Harlem with the sounds of Jazz vocalist Cab Calloway.  Born on December 25, 1907, in Rochester, New York, after a short period in Chicago he moved back to New York and landed a gig performing regularly at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club during the swing era.  In 1931 his song “Minnie the Moocher” became a hit and was considered to be one of the first recordings to ever feature scat singing.

Besides Calloway’s musical act, he also appeared on stage and in films.  During the 1930s and 1940s, he worked in such films as The Big Broadcast (1932), The Singing Kid (1936), and Stormy Weather(1943).  Calloway spent two years in the cast of a revival of the musical Porgy and Bess, beginning in 1952.  He also performed in other stage productions over the years and made more film appearances, most notably in the 1979 movie The Blues Brothers.  During the film, Calloway put on his trademark white tie and tails and performed “Minnie the Moocher”.  Cab Calloway died on November 18, 1994.

He took pride in his part of the Harlem Renaissance and also mentions Sriver’s Row in his songs “Hard Times (Topsy Turvy)” and “The Ghost of Smokey Joe.”
Click on the photo below for a link to iTunes to hear all of his music.

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Below is a video of Cab Calloway performing his hit “Minnie the Moocher” Live at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Also, a video clip from the movie “Stormy Weather” (1943) featuring Cab Calloway and his orchestra performing “Jumpin Jive” which ends with the Nicholas Brothers dancing and struttin’ their stuff.

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September 23rd, 2013 by harlemcondolife

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Broiled Giant Spicy Prawns, Yam Flapjack, Piri Piri Sauce.

The highly anticipated Cecil opens today with a frenzy of social media flying in as fast as they possibly can just to experience what all the buzz is about.  We here at Harlem Condo Life are among the enthusiastic media, and look forward to our first time experience with Cecil.  We have high hopes  for this old meets  new establishment and newest addition to Harlem Restaurant Row.  They have our attention with small plates such as “Broiled Giant Spicy Prawns, Yam Flapjack, with Piri Piri Sauce” (above ) and “Spicy Crispy Ginger Squid with Okra and Sweet Chili Peanut Sauce.”  Or a shared bowl for two of Afro / Asian / American Gumbo (Smoked Turkey, Chinese Chicken Sausage, Gulf Shrimp, and Crabmeat)

Take a peek at Cecil’s menu (below) with a scrumptious assortment by – Chefs Alexander Smalls – Restauranteur, and Joseph “JJ” Johnson – Chef de Cuisine.

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The Cecil MENU.  Here is a photo they sent us of their sticky buns.  I don’t know about dinner, but I am ready for these sticky buns right now!  They also were recently written up in the Huffington Post, The Hollywood Reporter and The Wall Street Journal.  Both The Cecil and Minton’s were mentioned in Huff Post BLACK VOICES and one dish in particular that stood out to us was the “Black Benne Seed Ahi Tuna.”  Looks delicious.

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photo by Lucy Schaeffer for Huff Post

So let’s get our forks and knives ready, and go experience the new CECIL together.  I’m up for the adventure and ready to dig in.  See you all there!

The Cecil
210 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10026
Tel (212) 866-1262

The Cecil New Restaurant in Harlem

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September 15th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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A Song For You, was written by Leon Russell in 1970 and is considered an American classic.  Many performers have sung this song, from jazz icons to pop superstar Elton John.  But nobody has sang it quite like Donny Hathaway.  This song is a great example of how a really powerful ballad can transcend all genres and styles of singers from rock to soul, blues to jazz, pop to country.  Donny’s version brings out the soulful core of this heartfelt classic with his distinct vocal timing and texture and emotion bringing it to a level that few performers can reach with such conviction and truth.  You really believe those lyrics that he is singing.  There is no doubt in our minds that he has lived this song and he commands our complete attention with that touch of church added to it from his early gospel roots where he sang in the church choir with his Grandmother, who was a professional gospel singer herself.  It definitely ranks in the top 10 songs written of all time, if not in the top five.

Donny Edward Hathaway was an American jazz, blues, soul, and gospel vocalist and musician.  Known for his own songs and solo career he also had many hits with vocalist and friend Roberta Flack, including “Where Is The Love” and “The Closer I Get To You”.  His friendship with Roberta Flack goes back to college days where they attended Howard University together and remained friends until Donny’s death in 1979.  It is reported Mr. Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the window of his 15th-floor room in New York’s Essex House hotel, and that he had jumped from the balcony.  His life ended tragically and way too soon.  It is written he had battled with psychological issues throughout the best part of his career.  He began to suffer from severe bouts of depression and it was found that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.  Over the course of the 1970s, Hathaway’s mental instability wreaked havoc on his life and required several hospitalizations.  The effects of his melancholia also drove a wedge in Flack and Hathaway’s friendship; they did not reconcile for several years, and did not release additional music until the successful release of “The Closer I Get To You” in 1978.  Flack and Hathaway then resumed studio recording to compose a second album of duets.

Hathaway and his wife, Eulaulah, had two daughters, Eulaulah Donyll (Lalah Hathaway) and Kenya.  Lalah has enjoyed a successful solo career, while Kenya is one of the three backing vocalists on the hit TV program American Idol.  He also had another daughter, Donnita Hathaway.  If you do not have any music by Donny Hathaway here is a great starter album for you to buy A Donny Hathaway Collection.  He remains one of the finest singers of our time.

Here is Donny Hathaway singing Live  1) A Song For You and below it is the original version, 2) A Song For You by Leon Russell.  Not just anyone can write a song like this.  When you listen to Leon’s version, you can almost hear the song “visually” through his humble conviction and the sincerity in which he sings it.  A timeless song transcends through all musical styles.  The final video is a duet with Roberta Flack, 3) You Are My Heaven, which was co-written by Stevie Wonder for Donny Hathaway.  He had a lot of angels in his corner.  A very sad ending for an incredible talent.  As one of the commenters writes in the comments section below, “this is music at its best.”

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September 8th, 2013 by harlemhouse

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Duke Ellington’s last words were, “Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered”.  He was an American composer, pianist, and jazz-orchestra leader with a career that spanned more than 50 years.  Ellington led his orchestra from 1923 until his death.  He was born  April 29, 1899 and passed along on May 24, 1974.  He was known as a key participant of  the Harlem Renaissance era and his legacy lives on in Harlem and all around the world.

For this post I chose two video performances “Take The A Train” live in Harlem 1964, and a video of Ellington and his band performing “It Don’t Mean A Thing” back in 1943.

Duke Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918, when he was 19.  Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington.  Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife and son in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated.  According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was “homesick for Washington” and returned (she died in 1967).  In 1938 he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice “Evie” Ellis, who with with him during his Cotton Club years in Harlem.  The relationship with Ellis, though stormy, continued after Ellington met Fernandae de Castro Monte in the early 1960s. Ellington supported both women for the rest of his life.

At his funeral, attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Harlem, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, “It’s a very sad day. A genius has passed”.  He was laid to rest in the Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City.  His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.

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Duke Ellington in 1973

VIDEO: Duke Ellington Live in Harlem “Take The A Train” (1964) features Ernie Shepard on vocals.

VIDEO: Duke Ellington – It Don’t Mean A Thing (1943)

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September 1st, 2013 by harlemhouse

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Ella Fitzgerald was known as the “Queen of Jazz“.   An American jazz vocalist with impeccable diction, phrasing and a vocal range spanning three octaves.  She would create and change the notes spontaneously with an effortless improvisational style in perfect pitch while we all watch and listen in awe.  There was no auto tuning here.  There were no simple three note melodies.  This was the real deal.  Ella set the bar high for everyone to follow.  Whether you are a lover of jazz or not, it would be difficult not to recognize her God-given talent.

Listen and witness a master at work giving off a joyous smile as she makes it all look so simple.  Especially with her style of scat singing.  I wonder who can sing like her today out of all our new singers?  I hope that there is someone, or that a young talent will grow and meet her expertise someday.

She really had something special and gave us everything, every time with every recording and live performance.  Take a minute to read a bit of history on this musical genius Ella Fitzgerald.

Here she is performing a live 7:00 minute uptempo version of “The Man I love.”

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August 30th, 2013 by harlemcondolife

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These new long awaited restaurants will take Harlem up several notches this fall.  Cecil is opening in September and Minton’s Jazz Club will open in October.  Minton’s as many may remember goes way way back to the 30’s in Harlem.  It has been restored and updated and definitely will play a part in bringing Harlem back!  We have been waiting for both of these for a long time and are very happy that they are just weeks away from opening.  We will be there for both Grand openings and look forward to this addition to classic Harlem.

In the meantime you can follow both on facebook and twitter (see below).  Stay tuned for upcoming dates and more information.

Cecil Facebook
Cecil Twitter
Minton’s Facebook
Minton’s Twitter

Posted in Art and Culture, business, Celebrity, Central Harlem, Community, Drink, Entertainment, Food, Harlem, History, Menu Harlem Hot Spots, Menu Harlem Restaurant Row, Music, New York City, Restaurant Reviews, Restaurants Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,