The title of this post is misleading; indeed, the name of the museum itself is misleading. Because as of yet, there is literally no such monument to be found, physically, in New York City. Sadly, in spite of its rich jazz history, New York City does not have a jazz museum. Even with the present dismal state of the NEA this is a really egregious set of circumstances. NYC and jazz are in some minds almost synonymous. Dating back to the Harlem Renaissance, informal jazz monuments abound – the Cotton Club, The Blue Note, Lennox Lounge, Birdland, and the Village Gate are just some of the iconic houses of jazz that have come to represent the smoky, bluesy tones of New York City’s rich music history. So the absence of an official home to celebrate, perpetuate and commemorate the city’s jazz was, to say the least, surprising.
Happily, that’s about to change. After a prolonged search, the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is now scheduled to be housed in the soon to be renovated and refurbished Victory Theater in upper Manhattan. Explains founder, Leonard Garment,
In 1996, Art D’Lugoff, then proprietor of the Village Gate, the historic Greenwich Village jazz club, suggested the idea of a jazz museum to his friend David Levy, who is director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, a sometime saxophonist and a lifelong jazz enthusiast. The two of them enlisted me. Before entering the practice of law, I had spent some time as a jazz musician; my performing career was brief, but my love of jazz proved permanent. Daryl Libow, a Washington lawyer and amateur jazz historian, joined us. We had lots of enthusiasm and no funding. We soon discovered the limitations of the former and the importance of the latter.
Founded in 1998, the museum has since worked as a virtual entity. In the absence of a true edifice, it has, through its business office and website, successfully sponsored educational and community jazz programs at neighborhood venues. Board members include jazz luminary Wynton Marsalis and other New York business and community members dedicated to establishing a true house of jazz in New York City. Expected to be complete in 2012, the museum has been greeted with great fanfare and welcome by jazz aficionados and local people alike. Finally, New York City will have its own jazz museum. Check it out here: http://www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org.