Mardi Gras Rent Party

Helen Daley

Most people are familiar with Mardi Gras and know all about the Carnival celebration beginning Twelfth Night (last night of Christmas and the start of Epiphany), traditionally January 6 and ending on Shrove, or Fat, Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Since the ending date is tied to Easter, it changes every year.

You may not be familiar with Rent Parties. Tenants would hire a pianist or band to play in their apartment and pass a hat in an effort to raise money to pay their rent. The custom started in Harlem in the 1920s and is considered a major factor in the popularity of jazz and blues music. Many of the popular pianists of the time, including James P. Johnson, Willie “the Lion” Smith and Fats Waller, played at these parties.

The word shin-dig – a kick in the shins – originated from rent parties because that was often the result of dancing in the close quarters of someone’s living room. Besides great music, these parties were well known for the food, specifically fried chicken, potato salad and ethnic foods common at that time.

The Arizona Classic Jazz Society plans to combine Mardi Gras and a Rent Party right down to the chicken and potato salad on February 24, noon to 4:00 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza San Marcos Golf Resort, One San Marcos Place, Chandler. Cost is only $25.00 per person. There will be a bar where you can purchase legal alcohol rather than bootlegged liquor. Two dance floors will hopefully eliminate the shin-digs.

Music will be provided by Cheryl Thurston’s Vintage Swing and Nicole Pesce on piano. Nicole was rated one of the top 10 musicians in the Valley by The Arizona Republic. She is considered “the human iPod” because she has a repertoire of over 12,000 tunes. She’ll bring the Rent Party to life. Cheryl Thurston is also a popular pianist and vocalist, and her band will provide the Mardi Gras music. Everyone is welcome.

For more information, go to or call 480-620-3941.