2013 could end up being a banner year for Harlem institutions. Just last week, as all evidence suggested the Lenox Lounge was gone for good after closing on New Year's Eve, news broke that owner Alvin Reed was going to be able to reopen it just two blocks away. It should reopen this summer. And now the Times reports that the old-school jazz club Minton's Playhouse?which the Grey Lady calls the "cradle of bebop"?is set to reopen, as early as this June.
A businessman named Richard D. Parsons has applied for a liquor license for the reborn Minton's Playhouse. Parsons touts his jazz cred?he grew up in Bed-Stuy and used to play trumpet, and is quick to note that he took his senior prom date to a Billy Taylor show?and is a former exec with Citicorp and Time Warner. He's tapped Harlemite Alexander Smalls to be the executive chef.
According to the Times, the project is actually going to be a two-parter. Located in the former Cecil Hotel at the corner of West 118th and St. Nicholas, there will be the Minton's Playhouse in the hotel's original dining room, while it will also have a smaller dinner club facing St. Nicholas Avenue. The former will be an upscale restaurant and jazz house with Southern revival cooking, while the latter?called The Cecil?will be a lighter brasserie featuring foods from the African diaspora. Parsons and Smalls also hope to include a nonprofit hospitality-training component.
Minton's Playhouse has had a long, kind of tumultuous, history. It was originally opened back in 1938 and was the home to jam sessions with Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gilespie and others, before being seized by the city in the '70s. In the mid-'90s a group of investors that included Robert Deniro and Drew Nieporent looked into reviving it, to no avail. And Earl Spain, of St. Nick's Pub in Harlem, reopened it in 2006, closing it again in 2010.
· Hoping a Good Meal Revives a Harlem Jazz Spot [NYT]