The National Jazz Museum is one of Manhattan's newer museums, opened in 1997. The passionate curators present the history of Jazz with a particular focus on the role of Harlem-based musicians and nightclubs in the development and popularization of America's most unique musical style. What the museum lacks in size it makes up for with a passionate and informed staff, a thorough collection of rare music, and weekly events featuring contemporary Jazz artists and scholars.
In those days it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live
What You Will See
A handful of artifacts from the golden age of Harlem jazz from the core of the exhibition, supplemented by photographs, listening stations, maps, and sheet music. See Duke Ellington's piano, Lockjaw Davis' saxophone, and a recreation of a 1920's Harlem living room complete with piano and phonograph. While you can see and read just about everything on display in an hour, the massive catalog of music, particularly from the Savoy Collection, can keep you exploring for days.
Why You Should Go
Harlem's most-famous export is famous for this informality, and this casual and friendly feels as perfectly improvised as Cotton Club trombone solo. It may take you longer to get here than to explore the museum, but it is well worth the trip to see glimpses of Harlem in its prime. Admission is a suggested donation, but the best way to experience the collection is through one of the museum's frequent concerts, lectures, lessons, or jam sessions.