Best Of

Best Place to Channel the Harlem Renaissance

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On Sunday afternoons since 1992, Marjorie Eliot’s Sugar Hill apartment has been the scene of some of the most intimate gigs in New York. Once buzzed in, guests take seats on cushioned folding chairs in Eliot’s living room, where she plays the piano and a diverse array of jazz musicians accompany her on bass, saxophone, and sometimes vocals. Eliot, a seasoned (she doesn’t reveal her age) musician with a theater background, has had a successful run with her parlor jazz events almost entirely through word of mouth: Her home fills to capacity every week, often with European tourists and new-to–New Yorkers. True to Harlem rent-party tradition, the event is free, with a bucket passed around for “no pressure” donations. Most Sundays, Eliot opens with a spiritual, then she and her band — which one recent week included local talents Sedric Shukroon, Kouichi Yoshihara, and Gaku Takanashi — go where the mood takes them. With all the venues the city has to offer, why does Eliot open the doors of her own home to strangers? Her hospitality, she says, is a response to the days when African Americans were turned away from musical spaces. “There were a lot of doors closed,” she says. “So concerts in the home — that’s just a given…With us, it’s almost like yesterday that you couldn’t go to Carnegie Hall. It’s the journey of being with people who really want to be with you. That’s what I find here.” 

555 Edgecombe Avenue, Apt. 3F

212-781-6595

Sundays, 4–6 p.m.