Among jazz fans, the classic 1920s Harlem rent party remains the stuff of legend: all-night social affairs that on a given evening might feature appearances by stride piano masters like James P. Johnson, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Fats Waller, and more.
Although most jazz enthusiasts are aware of how the post-war Great Migration led to the emergence of rent parties in Harlem, the significance of Prohibition can’t be understated in its contribution to this social phenomenon. As Frank Boyd, an FDR-era Federal Writers’ Project contributor, noted in a 1939 report:
The party givers were fully aware of the conditions under which the majority of these boys and girls lived and decided to commercialize on it as much as possible. They began advertising their get-togethers on little business cards that were naive attempts at poetic jingles . . . . They were careful, however, to give these cards to only the “right” people. Prohibition was still in effect and the police were more diligent about raiding questionable apartments than they were about known “gin mills” that flourished on almost every corner. . . .
Although rent parties continued beyond the end of Prohibition, the atmosphere wasn’t ever quite the same:
With the advent of Repeal [of Prohibition in 1933], the rent-party went out, became definitely a thing of the past. It was too dangerous to try to sell whiskey after it became legal.
This Tuesday, July 8th, The Jazz Gallery invites you to join us as we hold our very own rent party fundraiser—replete with refreshments and intimate live music. Saxophonist Chris Potter, who has recently been on tour with guitarist Pat Metheny and his Unity Band, returns to the Gallery stage to convene a band of long-time collaborators: guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Fima Ephron, and drummer Nate Smith. Each of these artists has worked with Potter as part of his Underground band (pianist Craig Taborn also plays Fender Rhodes as part of the band, appearing on each of the band’s three releases).
We hope that you’ll join us this Tuesday in honoring a time-tested jazz tradition with the Chris Potter Group.
This Tuesday, July 8th, 2014, The Jazz Gallery presents the Chris Potter Group as part of a special “Rent Party” fundraiser. This performance, which marks a rare NYC appearance by Chris Potter in recent months, features Potter on saxophone alongside Adam Rogers on guitar, Fima Ephron on bass, and Nate Smith on drums. Sets are at 9 and 11 p.m., $40.00 general admission. Purchase tickets here.