WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The Morris-Jumel Mansion is known for honoring New York’s Revolutionary War history — but this weekend museum visitors will instead be transported to the Jazz Age.
A six-piece jazz ensemble will perform classics by Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and more during the 23rd annual Jazz at the Mansion, held on the historic property's front lawn.
The free event is organized by Marjorie Eliot, who is known Uptown and beyond for the concerts she has held in her Edgecombe Avenue living room every Sunday for the past 23 years.
She promises to have Jazz at the Mansion attendees “tapping their toes, nodding their heads, and feeling, for a few hours at least, fancy free,” she said.
An accomplished pianist, Eliot started the concerts as a way to honor the loss of a loved one.
“It’s a dedication to my son Philip who passed away in 1992,” she explained. “That’s really the idea behind it. He passed on a Sunday and this is what I do.”
Eliot, who lives a few blocks away from the mansion, said she thought about planting a tree in her son’s honor. But then she had a better idea: Why not bring the music she loved outside into her community.
She has played a concert on the lawn of the Morris-Jumel Mansion each summer since then, often to an audience made up of both locals and visitors from all over New York.
“The community really comes out,” she said. “Being out-of-doors is just exciting in and of itself, and the mansion is gorgeous.”
Eliot will be joined by five musicians this weekend, as well as by five actors who will read monologues that she wrote.
The goal, she said, is to offer a complete musical and theatrical experience for attendees.
The concert runs from 2 to 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The mansion will provide some chairs, but visitors are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets to the event, which does get crowded, a museum spokesman said.
For her part, Eliot enjoys connecting with others who love jazz as much as she does.
“I always knew there were people like me who need the live experience of the music,” she said of the audiences. “They bring the best of themselves and they really share it with the artists.”