Jazz fans and musicians alike consider St. Nick's Pub in Harlem's Sugar Hill section their place to cut loose and rub elbows with jazz history. Six nights a week (excluding Tuesdays) starting at 9:30 pm, and blowing hard throughout the night, St. Nick's treats us to a weekly roster of musicians who've come to play. And in this historic jazz haunt, the ghosts of Harlem past are ever-present to make sure that jazz in its purist form stays alive in the neighborhood that nurtured its evolution from stride to hard bop.
In this no-frills pub, owner Earl Spain collaborated with the reigning queen of Harlem jazz promoters, Berta Alloway, in 1993 to create a Monday night jam session that recalls the heyday of Minton's Playhouse, the renowned birthplace of bebop. Thelonious Monk, the house pianist for Minton's, would not have tolerated the lack of a suitable piano at St. Nick's, but current musicians (Bobby Forrester, Marcus Persiani, Rahn Burton, Patrick Poladian, and Oliver von Essen) make the best of the electric keyboards and organs that take a righteous pounding nightly. The players themselves keep the spirit alive, even if their electric instruments fall short of paying homage to this club's deep associations with the piano.