Portraits of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and other jazz greats looked down from the walls as Marjorie Eliot played piano in her cozy Washington Heights apartment. The trumpeter Koichi Yoshihara called the tunes, and Ms. Eliot recalled almost every song from memory during their hourlong rehearsal on May 29.
They were practicing for a concert that was to be held in Ms. Eliot’s living room, which she calls her “parlor.” The room has no furniture except for a piano bench and folding chairs with cushions. The chairs are for as many as 60 jazz lovers who find their way to her apartment at 555 Edgecombe Avenue, where she has hosted free Sunday concerts since 1994.
“I need it,” Ms. Eliot said of her weekly tradition. “I could rehearse in here forever, but how do I really know that I’m capable of connecting with somebody? You can’t know that without the live experience.”
Her guests, many of them too young to have heard Coltrane or Davis in concert, filled her kitchen and living room and spilled out into the hallway. Ms. Eliot and Sedric Choukroun, a multi-instrumentalist, kicked off the set with the traditional gospel hymn “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.”
Ms. Eliot’s delicate piano playing commanded complete attention. When the last note rolled off the piano, you could have heard a pin drop.
Afterward, Gaku Takanashi, a bassist, and Mr. Yoshihara joined Ms. Eliot and Mr. Choukroun and played jazz standards such as “Misty” and “How High the Moon.” Halfway through the show, a friend passed out free granola bars and cups of juice.
Divya and Andreas de Barros sat in the back of the living room and bobbed their heads quietly. This is the fourth time they have come to see Ms. Eliot, and this is the closest they have gotten to the piano, even after arriving more than an hour early along with nine others.
“I love the vibe here,” Ms. de Barros said. “It feels like home, and we are among friends.” Which is exactly what Ms. Eliot wants to accomplish through her concerts.
The concerts, she said, are an opportunity for her to bring the community together and to celebrate the life of her second-oldest son, Phillip, who died in August 1992. At first, Ms. Eliot intended to plant a tree in his memory, but instead she settled on weekly concerts.
She is considered by many to be a Washington Heights institution. Her weekly concerts are reminiscent of the days when anyone could walk through the neighborhood and hear people playing jazz in their living rooms.
“It’s not about me,” Ms. Eliot said. “It’s not ‘I’m going to wear a pretty dress and be the star.’ It’s about us,” referring to the band members and the listeners.
The band closed out the two-hour set with “Take the A Train,” written by Billy Strayhorn for the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Fitting, considering Mr. Ellington used to live in the building.
Some stayed behind to meet Ms. Eliot, who greeted them with with hugs and handshakes.
Ms. Eliot describes herself as a cockeyed optimist and said she hopes to keep playing music as long as she can. “It defines me,” she said.