375 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027
Showtime Hours: Mon-Thu 8:30p, 10p, 11:30p, Fri-Sat 9:30p, 11:30p, 1:30a
Subway: A,C,B,D to 125th St
Written by: Mark Osborne
Located in the heart of Harlem, Showmans honors the age-old structures of jazz: hospitality, respect and great music. Once a next-door hangout for performers at the Apollo Theater, Showmans has moved several times since it opened in 1942. Folks continue to frequent the small joint for its long-standing values and sense of community.
Step off the street and into a time warp. This is the Harlem of Coleman Hawkins, T.S. Monk, and Sonny Rollins. The wood paneling and exposed brick give the impression the place has not been updated for decades, and frankly why should it? Loyal customers frequent Showmans, yet they refrain from conducting themselves proprietarily. This interesting mix of older locals is extremely welcoming; seemingly proud to introduce tourists and first-time visitors to their slice of life, seldom found now in the city. The crowd interacts, drinking and dancing together in reflection of the multicultural ‘new’ Harlem.
Showmans is a long narrow room, with the bar and seating filling up one entire side. The stage is located at the back of the room, and is raised enough for decent visibility throughout the bar. The sound, like the atmosphere, is very warm, and not overpowering.
Mona, Showmans manager and part owner, has been booking the bands since 1978; and not just any bands: saxophone great, Jerry Weldon, performs there every Wednesday. Mona is the consummate hostess, offering anecdotes, and appetizers for free. Within the first few minutes of arriving you can see that Showmans is her labor of love and one of the reasons people return.
Take a rendezvous uptown and check out this jazz jewel; you will meet good people, and hear great jazz, with enough money left over for a cab fare home.