Big Apple Jazz Tours: Authentic Experiences

email:      Phone/Text: (917) 863-7854


Gordon Polatnick's Big Apple Jazz Tours

**Would you like to see the Cotton Club, Savoy Ballroom, Apollo and Minton's?
**Would you like to have your students solo at a Harlem jam session?
**Would you like to visit a musician and hear a recital in their private Sugar Hill residence?

We are on the scene nightly and can do what no other tour company can, to make your experience unique and memorable.

Sample Itineraries -below-

Students rubbing Tree of Hope 4 in Harlem with Big Apple Jazz ToursGreat Day In Harlem stoop from Big Apple Jazz Tour

We invite groups of any size on our authentic and exciting immersions deep into the vibrant, historic New York City jazz scene.  Itineraries are flexible; we will easily adjust them to your timing and budgetary needs.  Big Apple Jazz, LLC has been the leader in jazz touring since 1997.  Here are some ideas and associated costs for your consideration. 

The guide fee is $100/per hour with a 4-hour minimum. We can find you amazing soul food dinners that will cost you $20/per person (including drink, tax, tip).  We can also find you authentic neighborhood clubs in Harlem or the Village that will be able to accommodate large groups, and not charge more than $10-$20 per set. Some places will even welcome a handful from your group to sit in at various times. We can arrange for a private quartet show in a prohibition era speakeasy for your whole group at $600, or we can do the same in a legendary Sugar Hill home on the corner of Count Basie Place and Paul Robeson Boulevard.

Think big, because these are just suggestions, and to our way of thinking fresh ideas will make a bigger impact than a quick set at a downtown club.

Call/Text us at 917 863-7854 if you want to brainstorm. Thanks.


Gordon Polatnick - Top Cat at Big Apple Jazz Tours

  "If you want to try to hear the music in the city's bones the way a New Yorker like me does, take a tour like Gordon Polatnick's Big Apple Jazz Tour..."  ~Gene Santoro from Welcome to New York  



Our night with you was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and it is one of the first things the boys talk about when telling people what they did.

I think listening to Jason Marshall and his group was my personal musical highlight.  That is my favorite style of jazz and it was such an amazing atmosphere to be in. I only wish I could've stayed for the last set.  As for the apartment, that was incredible.  What an amazing lady!  So, accepting of the boys playing and such an inspiration. To find such joy in sharing music in the midst of tragedy was something for the boys to learn about.

On the way home on the subway one of the young boys said to me “Mr Kerr, today has made me feel something.”  “feel what?” I asked, he said “I don’t know the word  ummm…….it’s like motivated” I replied, “do you mean INSPIRED?” “Yes, that’s the word….I feel inspired, inspired to play music and practice”

I smiled and told him “that’s what we are here for.”

A great outcome Gordon!

Review from May 2, 2011 Yelp posting by Hylary L.

"My husband's band students recently took a week-long trip to NYC and our first experience was a tour of Harlem lead by Gordon of Big Apple Jazz. What a delightful experience for the group! The students and chaperones all had a great time and learned so much about Harlem, jazz, history and NYC in general.

Our tour began with Gordon personally meeting our group at our hotel in the Times Square area to escort us via subway up to Harlem. The students immediately took a shine to Gordon who has a very natural rapport with teens. Being our first day in NYC, we were more than a little unsure of how to navigate the subway, but Gordon did a wonderful job of getting us up to Harlem. We then took a fabulous walking tour where we saw many things including the Apollo Theater, the Tree of Hope, and the Jumel mansion. Part of our tour took us to the home of Marjorie Eliot who gave us a private performance in her apartment (if you're not sure who she is, Google her. Such a sweet lady!) For lunch, we ate at a wonderful soul food buffet restaurant that we all loved as well.

After our tour of Harlem, Gordon took us back down to Central Park where we saw John Lennon's former apartment, Strawberry Fields, and more. Gordon was very knowledgeable and answered all the questions the students had. At the end of a long and fun day, Gordon saw us "home" to our hotel.

I cannot say enough good things about Big Apple Jazz Tours. Very professional, very informative, very enjoyable, and very reasonably priced. The students and chaperones all had a wonderful time and it was the perfect way to begin our exploration of NYC. I highly recommend this company for groups visiting the area! You will not be disappointed!"


Fees in more detail:

Tour/immersion options:  Prices start at $400 for a rich 4-hour tour

Great Day in Harlem Tour:
  Take a stroll on the Blvd. of Dreams and rub the lucky Tree of Hope.  This tour includes sightseeing of all historic and current jazz venues within Harlem’s famous jazz neighborhoods from Jungle Alley in Central Harlem to Duke’s Place up on Sugar Hill.  See the sites of the Savoy Ballroom, Cotton Club, Small’s Paradise, Connie’s Inn, and Minton’s Playhouse.  This tour can be customized to include live music, clinics, the Apollo Theater tour ($18 per ticket 20 minimum), and all meals.

Uptown / Downtown Tour: All the greats made their mark on the Big Apple Jazz scene and on this tour we’ll show you where it’s at!  Tour includes sightseeing from Thelonious Sphere Monk Circle and Swing Street in Midtown, down to Charlie Parker Place in Greenwich Village and on up to Duke Ellington Blvd. and Nat King Cole Walk in Harlem.  We’ll also stroll on the African American Walk of Fame and stop at plaques for Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Tito Puente and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson - the Mayor of Harlem. 
This tour can be customized to include live music, clinics, the Apollo Theater tour, and all meals.

Clinics:  $30 per student or $600 minimum
We specialize in bringing established working musicians of New York City together with jazz music students for informative and enjoyable learning experiences tailored to your group’s interest and level.  Q and A sessions can also be added so a dialogue can take place, wherein students get advice on how to get their careers started after school.

Live Jazz (Private Setting):  $30 per person or $600 minimum
This is an exciting opportunity to have your group be the exclusive guests in a neighborhood Harlem apartment, brownstone speakeasy, or members’ only club.  You call the tune: This can be experienced only through Big Apple Jazz and it is available any day or night at any hour.  This includes 1-hour of live music and a half hour of Q and A with the musicians and hosts.  Meals and drinks can be arranged at your request starting at $20 per person.  (For two sets of music the price is $40 per person).

Live Jazz (Public): Club rate (rates vary) + 10% service fee.  
New York has living legends and unsung masters of jazz performing nightly on and off the beaten path in clubs of all sizes and styles.  We will help you choose the venue and performance appropriate for your group’s size, budget and musical preference from among the 300 jazz venues in the city.  (Club prices range from a "two drink minimum" to over $50 per ticket – enough variety to suit any budget).  Clubs include: Birdland, Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Dizzy’s, Minton's, Smalls, Showman's and many, many more.  Meals are available at an additional fee – please ask.  Meet and greets with the performers may be arranged at variable cost – please ask.

Historic Apollo Theater Tour: $20 per ticket 20 guest minimum
Apollo historic tours connect the past, the present and the future of this legendary venue, revealing the significant contributions of African-Americans and Latinos to the birth of global popular culture. The tours are educational, entertaining and inspiring. Tour director Billy Mitchell discloses little-known facts about the theater and the legendary people who performed here including James Brown, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington. The tours tell the dramatic story of a proud people, an aspiring community and the rapid growth of a small idea, with something meaningful for everyone.

Meals: $20 to $90 +10% service fee. 10 guest minimum
Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Late Night Snacks.  Meal options start at $20 for a soul food buffet, which includes a multitude of savory entrees, side dishes, desserts and a soft drink (tax and tip included).  Group menus are available upon request for any type of cuisine including Caribbean, New Orleans, Italian, Sea Food, Soul Food, BBQ, or any others you may desire.  Live jazz with dinner or brunch can be offered together.  Let us know your preference and budget and we’ll work out the menu and reservation.

Guide service: Minimum fee: $400
Guide service in English: $100 per hour, 4-hour minimum. 
(Add $100 per hour for groups larger than 25 guests)
Guide service in other language: $125 per hour, 4-hour minimum
(Add $125 per hour for groups larger than 25 guests)

Transportation: Minimum fee: free if walking
Touring bus: (56 seats): $200 per hour, 4-hour minimum
Mini-bus (20 seats): $150 per hour, 4-hour minimum
Van (10 seats): $125 per hour, 4-hour minimum
Limo (6-8 seats): $120 per hour, 4-hour minimum
Subway/Bus weekly pass: $33 each

Reservations:   Email: 

 Phone: (917) 863-7854

  • Student groups are also encouraged to book online for a special 5-hour Sunday Jazz Tour of Harlem for only $149.00.  

Great Day in Harlem Tour

  • Or an evening immersion into Greenwich Village or Harlem's jazz scene for $99.00 per ticket.

Harlem Juke Joint Tour

Greenwich Village Jazz Crawl

Jimmy Heath at Jazz Mobile in Harlem  - Big Apple Jazz Tour
Free Concert by Jimmy Heath

Alex Layne - Big Apple Jazz Tour 

A Special Guest Review:  “Dear Gordon, Thanks a million for the fabulous Harlem jazz experience you mastered so wonderfully! I wish all my colleagues from the UN could hear your charming stories and insights, or the fantastic jam sessions you gave us the chance to enjoy in some cool clubs. My stay in New York would have been much poorer without this tour! Thanks for opening my eyes to the places where I can have the most authentic and thrilling jazz experiences!!! I’ll be back!”  ~ Ambassador Simona Miculescu,
Permanent Representative of Romania to the UN


Ravi Coltrane visits Gordon Polatnick at Big Apple JazzBig Apple Jazz Tours offers you the chance to experience the most vital and impressive jazz scene in the world through never before available tours and jazz immersions exclusively designed by Gordon Polatnick for your groups to enjoy.  We built our international reputation on introducing groups of all sizes to the authentic and diverse jazz scene that could only exist in New York City: home to all the legends from Duke Ellington to John Coltrane; and all the most famous clubs from the Savoy Ballroom and Minton’s Playhouse up in Harlem, to the Vanguard and Blue Note down in Greenwich Village.


The highlight of any trip to New York is the chance to visit an intimate, off-the-beaten path neighborhood club to hear the top jazz players go at it, and then have members of your group join in the session as welcomed guests.  For a comparable price, many non-performing tour groups have also valued this interactive experience high above their night as passive observers of a Broadway show – and a night of jazz includes dinner as well!


Imagine going up to Harlem for a vocal workshop and stepping back in time by stepping down into a brownstone speakeasy from the 1930’s that once featured Billie Holiday at the start of her career.  Or imagine entering a luxury apartment building in Harlem overlooking Yankee Stadium for a private recital which may include players from Dizzy Gillespie’s band.  Your imagination to design the jazz experience of your dreams is all that’s needed to actually make it happen, or choose from our selection of jazz nights, sightseeing tours, clinics, and jamming opportunities to create a customized itinerary, tailor-made for your group at affordable and competitive prices.


Pat Metheny and Gordon at the BeaconBig Apple Jazz Tours provides the guide service and organization that you can trust will deliver the kinds of experiences groups come back for year after year. 
For more information please call or email Gordon Polatnick for a private consultation: (718) 606-8442 or All age groups are easily accommodated.


Live Jazz A to Z  (dinner included).  Compare this experience to the price of a Broadway show.

For $100 per person*, we can arrange a customized Harlem jazz tour that will include:
-- A private jazz recital in a Sugar Hill apartment with refreshments and opportunities for the students to sit in.
-- A Hammond B3 organ soul jazz session in an historic members-only military veterans' club. (Other club may be substituted)
-- A soul food dinner and soft drink including tax and tip.
-- A walking tour of Harlem's Historic jazz districts including sites associated with Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Ella Fitzgerald; with visits to see the world famous Apollo Theater, legendary Tree of Hope, and the "birthplace of bebop," Minton's Playhouse.
-- Subway transportation to and from Harlem.
-- 6 to 7-hours of licensed guide service.

(* Based on group size of 15 - 24 guests.  Call for price quote if group falls outside of that range).


Step-on guide: Sunday Gospel service, Soul Food brunch, plus meet the Picasso of Harlem

For $75 per person*, we can arrange a customized Harlem jazz tour that will include:

At 9am your Big Apple Jazz Tours guide will pick you up at the hotel to start your Harlem gospel church and jazz history tour of the neighborhood. 

Before church we'll explore 125th Street, home to the world famous Apollo Theater; Bill Clinton's Office; and Magic Johnson's movie theater.  Then we'll meet the Picasso of Harlem - Franco the Great - who single-handedly turned this boulevard into an art gallery with his unique and colorful murals.

Rather than visit a large touristy church, we will be invited to participate in an intimate neighborhood church service.  The gospel choir, bishop, pastor and entire congregation will elevate your soul to experience a beautiful way to worship and feel the holy spirit.

 Brunch will be at one of Harlem's famous soul food restaurants or buffets, serving the best in southern cooking - certainly as memorable an experience as the church service!

We will spend any time left at the exclusive bookstore of author and elite librarian, Kurt Thometz, who has curated private book collections for Diana Vreeland, Calvin Klein, Brooke Astor, the Lauders, Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, Steven Ross, Felix Rohatyn, S.I. Newhouse,  and Diane von Furstenberg.  His private collection is centered around African American culture with a majority of books focused on Harlem and jazz.

Throughout the tour and on the way back to your hotel, we will pass and discuss other sites of general interest in Harlem’s rich jazz and cultural history including Jungle Alley, Savoy Ballroom, Cotton Club, Minton's Playhouse, Tree of Hope, and Great Day In Harlem photo site..

(* Based on group size of 10 - 24 guests.  Call for price quote if group falls outside of that range).

     Call or email Gordon Polatnick to book these Big Apple Jazz Tours: (718) 606-8442 or 




Ravi Coltrane visits Gordon Polatnick at Big Apple JazzTariq ShahCraig HaynesBill Saxton Melvin Vines

Gordon Polatnick, Tour Guide    Marjorie ElliotDonny McCaslin Quartet at 55 BarJohn Marshall on trumpet at SmallsPat Metheny and Gordon at the Beacon

Gordon Polatnick's  REFERENCES

"I look forward to answering all your questions and am committed to helping you get the most out of your visit to New York."

Reservations:   Email:    Phone: (718) 606-8442

Blues Clubs are also an option on a Big Apple Jazz Tour



"If you want to try to hear the music in the city's bones the way a New Yorker like me does, take a tour like Gordon Polatnick's Big Apple Jazz Tour..."  ~ Gene Santoro from Welcome to New York

Gene Santoro is the author of Myself When I Am Real: The Life and Music of Charles Mingus and Highway 61 Revisited: The Tangled Roots of American Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Country Music. He covers music for the New York Daily News and is a columnist for Chamber Music. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Post, the Village Voice, New York, the New Yorker, Discover, the American Scholar, the Atlantic Monthly, People, Entertainment Weekly, DownBeat, and Billboard.

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"Thanks so much for putting together an unforgettable jazz evening in Harlem .  The group loved being able to take the A Train into Harlem (made them feel adventuresome) as well as the outstanding dinner and music.  I’m really glad I stayed and had a chance to enjoy the speakeasy.  Both places, the dive and the speakeasy, sure had a great atmosphere and I loved being able to hear such great music in such a small close-up setting." ~ Catherine J. Heeg International Professional Speaker and Trainer - Calgary, Alberta, Canada

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"...thank you for last Monday night and the invaluable tips which you gave us. I was a bit suspicious at the outset of our contact as I thought I could find out most or all things from the internet. But, there is in fact, nothing which surpasses local knowledge...There are venues around town that are tourist traps and there are other venues that involve the real thing presented by real people...I want to tell you about our experiences because I am so excited by them..." ~Mark Blumberg - President Jazz Action Society SOUTH AUSTRALIA Inc. "Promoting Australian Jazz and Jazz In Australia"


"Thank you so much for guiding me to that fantastic Monday Night Harlem Jam.  Without your help I could have never been exposed to such a wonderful true jazz experience like that in my life. I now know what is the real jazz , the music and the atmosphere." ~Osamu - Chiba, Japan.

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"It was a dream come true for Matt as he ably played his sax with the outstanding musicians assembled. He will never forget  his many solos and especially the extremely warm reception." ~Jim Kane (Matt's Father) - Auburn, MA


"In addition to meeting and listening to some great characters the evening had a real bonus in that I enjoyed your company so much. Thanks again for a great night." ~Brain Mate Stoke on Trent - England

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"Your tailor-made tour of jazz clubs was the indisputable highlight of our visit to New York." ~Kees Broekhof  Trombonist and jazz enthusiast,  Oegstgeest, The Netherlands


"When I tell people about the tour, I find that I am talking about you and your style as much as the music." ~Nat Carney, York, PA


"These places we went to...there is no way we would have seen these places without you. We want everybody to know that this tour is a must." ~Adrian Stoppelman  and Graciela Rodriguez  Buenos Aires, Argentina

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"...Gordon proved to be so thoroughly knowledgeable of jazz locales and players that he could attune the tour to our personal tastes and experience with jazz...The others in our group of Philadelphia doctors, lawyers and professors thoroughly subscribe to the above." ~Dr. Jack Dobbyn - Philadelphia, PA


Reservations:   Email:    Phone: (917) 863-7854

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This is a unique opportunity for seasoned fans and for the curious.  New York City is the undisputed world capital of jazz.  The New York music scene offers the world's top players in several clubs seven nights a week.  N Y jazz fans are treated to an assortment of outstanding choices nightly: From the upscale Village venues such as Blue Note, to the vintage Harlem night clubs such as Lenox Lounge.  You can experience the excitement of catching many performances around town in a single night -- often finding top players at after-hours jam sessions till 4:00 AM or later if you know where to go.  Our service provides the guides and solves your transportation needs -- from individuals to large groups.  Our expert consultants can also advise you where to go and how to get there if you're on a tight budget.


Consultations -- for the do-it-yourselfers who seek advice.
Terms and Conditions -- Payment options, cancellation policy, refunds.

Big Apple Jazz Tours
Authentic Experiences  

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