Today, black-and-white photos of the legends who once performed there line the walls: Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Benny Goodman (Kenny Clarke and Thelonious Monk once helmed the house band). “When I got the job, man, I thought I died and went to heaven,” says Hill Greene, who played bass in the Minton’s 2.0 house band from 2014 to the beginning of 2016. “I was playing with world class musicians every night. We were existing with history.”
Throughout the 1940s and ‘50s and into the 1960s, Minton’s was where modern jazz came into its own. It was the epicenter of a lively, creative scene; the who’s who of Harlem could be found on the stage or at the tables. Over time, however, jazz became less cutting-edge, and much more of a niche scene. Clubs that were once standing room-only played to smaller and smaller crowds. Jazz clubs shut their doors. Still, Minton’s continued to operate as usual -- that is, until 1974, when a fire ravaged the building. Not much of the original interior has survived, with the exception of the colorful 1948 mural behind the stage which depicts four jazz musicians and a woman passed out on a bed. Rumor has it that the woman is Billie Holiday, sleeping off a wild night.