On West 119th Street, just off Frederick Douglas Avenue in Harlem, you might notice a string of blue lights snaking down a staircase to a short alley. A door is simply marked with the numbers 623. Founded by singer, songwriter and actor Marcus Goldhaber, ROOM 623 speakeasy offers what few others have: high quality live jazz, in addition to cocktails and other fare.
ROOM 623 is inspired by the likes of St. Nick’s Pub, The Lenox Lounge and even the old Sugar Cane Club. Goldhaber tells us that he really wanted to capture the ambience of those places: “There was a pulse, whenever you went into those clubs. It was just a
welcoming vibrancy that was full of spontaneity. You never knew who was going to come in and everyone seemed to know each other or was comfortable getting to know each other.”
Goldhaber happened upon the space in the holiday season of 2018, stopped by a sign outside the restaurant B2 Harlem that asked “Are you naughty?” There he met the owner of B2, Adriane Ferguson, who mentioned that they used to do music in the restaurant and wondered if he might be interested in seeing a space downstairs called ROOM 623, because it was purchased on June 23rd.
Goldhaber says when he went downstairs, “I fell in love with the spot. I saw everything appear before my eyes. It’s this beautiful speakeasy. Really a modern day feel to it, nothing kitschy or cliché. There’s no phone booth or any kind of added Disney-ified elements to play at the fact. You know it’s not Prohibition anymore, we know that, but it is downstairs, you do go down a metal staircase, between two buildings and there’s no real sign out front. Just a blue light above the door, it just says 623.”
Inside, ROOM 623 is very intimate. The walls are covered in velvet patterned wallpaper and exposed brick. There are small tables with chairs and couches, and you are seated right next to and in front of the band. The ball is small, by speakeasy standards, to give more space to the audience.
ROOM 623 has become a new home in Harlem for jazz fans, receiving top notch musicians from around the world and around the corner. Coming up, Untapped New York Insiders will be offered free entry (no cover) to ROOM 623 on March 8th at 6 PM with the Frank Senior Trio (Vocal Jam session hosted by Jocelyn Medina to follow, instrumentalists welcome) and March 11th at 8pm for THE HARLEM JAZZ SESSION featuring The Peter Brainin Quartet (jam session to follow). Please note that there is a $15 minimum spend on food and beverage once inside. Registration will open today at noon for these events.