Eye-Opening Jazz at Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Entertainment Harlem

By Dee Cohen | Photographer and Contributing Writer

5 mins read

I recently went to an eye-opening jazz performance in Harlem, New York thanks to the wonderful photography department and my professor, Richard Choi. The 555 Edgecombe Ave. apartment in Harlem may just seem like a beautifully articulated building to the ordinary eye, but on the third floor of the early 1900s old-style New York apartment lives a boisterous jazz fanatic, Marjorie Eliot. 

For anyone that craves authentic jazz, the apartment is open every Sunday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and accommodates 50 people. Eliot’s decor creates a universe with red-cushioned chairs lining the entrance hall and living space. Eager listeners face the back of the apartment where the ensemble of Eliot, her friends and her family play their instruments and sing their hearts out. 

Photo courtesy of Dee Cohen.

The joy they experience while performing is infectious. They make sure to sprinkle a little bit of themselves and their humor into every show, making the wait outside her apartment to be let in incredibly worth it. 

Given the outstanding performance you are witnessing, it would be understandable to be worried about the price. Well, there is no need to worry, because it’s free. All you need to do to give back for the astounding performance is enjoy the tunes, clap when the performers are finished and tip the performers a few bucks when they come around with the tip bucket. 

I believe that our generation has lost touch with the swinging music of the past. Jazz is not just a style of music but rather a creative outlet for emotional expression that can bring a variety of diverse groups together despite their differences. Kids need to be exposed to the roots of the music they hear today on the radio in order to understand where the culture from which the music originated. Jazz was a fundamental component in the creation of modern-day music. For instance, rock, pop and country music were heavily influenced by the 19th-century jazz boom. 

It truly was an amazing and refreshing experience to encounter raw jazz in such an unlikely venue. Visiting Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Entertainment and listening to its exquisite combination of trumpet, vocals and piano has rekindled my adoration for the genre. 

After more than ten years of performances, the idea for this outstanding concert in her own apartment came from Eliot herself in memory of the death of three of her four sons. She hopes that by letting strangers enter her home and join together in clapping and singing along to both familiar and foreign songs, she can create a family between frequent visitors. 

During the latter half of the performance, Eliot spoke about the meaning behind the creation of Parlor Entertainment and the personal importance of the community it has built. “I’m not alone. I’m not alone. This vast family, it’s holding me. I am filled with so much love for you,” Eliot said. 

Eliot opens the door to her house and her heart as she lets people in with the utmost hospitality, offering scrumptious snacks and drinks during the performances. She treats every guest that enters the threshold of her small, homely apartment like her own children. Everybody needs that second home away from home that will welcome indiscriminately with wide open arms. 

My time at Eliot’s was heartwarming, and I felt like I belonged in a place I had never before visited. For any musical or lyrical nerd like me who adores a bopping jam along with catchy lyrics, Marjorie Eliot’s Parlor Entertainment is the place to visit. Whether you grew up a jazz kid, only recently discovered your love for it or have never even heard a single song of swing, it is undeniable that jazz created an entire culture that needs to be more thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Drew students need to reconnect with their roots as innately musical creatures. I mean, why else would you be at a liberal arts college? So I urge you to empty your Sunday schedule, travel down to 555 Edgecombe Ave. and reconnect with jazz in the Marjorie Eliot way.

Dee Cohen is a first-year majoring in English with a potential minor in French.

Featured image courtesy of Dee Cohen.

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