carousel club

New York: Neon signs advertising jazz clubs at 52nd street, 1948.

Following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, 52nd Street replaced 133rd street as “Swing Street” of the city. The blocks of 52nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Seventh Avenue became renowned for the abundance of jazz clubs and lively street life. The street was convenient to musicians playing on Broadway and the ‘legitimate’ nightclubs and was also the site of a CBS studio. Musicians who played for others in the early evening played for themselves on 52nd Street.

In its heyday from 1930 through the early 1950s, 52nd Street clubs hosted such jazz legends as Miles Davis, Harry Gibson, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday, Nat Jaffe, Marian McPartland, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Louis Prima, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, Trummy Young, and many more. Although musicians from all schools performed there, after Minton’s Playhouse in uptown Harlem, 52nd Street was the second most important place for the dissemination of bebop; In fact, a tune called “52nd Street Theme” by Thelonious Monk became a bebop anthem and jazz standard.

Photo by William P.Gottlieb.