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Monday, September 21, 2009

A Great Day in Harlem

This is, sometimes, the first thing I see when I wake of a morning - a big mounted print of the iconic Jazz photo taken by Art Kane in 1958, for an article in Esquire magazine.
















Kane was new to photography at that time and had sent out word that he would be doing a shoot at a certain location in Harlem on a particular morning.  Hoping for perhaps a dozen jazzers to show up, he was shocked when almost 60 made it, all for no fee.

It took around 3 hours to shoot, as people who hadn't met in years were reaquainting themselves and trying to wake up, if they had been playing in the wee small hours. This was in the days before 'Red Bull'!
There are some real giants here - Dizzy Gillespie (on the right, sticking his tongue out), Gerry Mulligan behind him, Theolonious Monk looking very dapper beside the ladies, Sonny Rollins in the shades, Lester Young (looking down on his luck), Charlie Mingus dragging on a cigarette and trying to seem hard.

Art Blakey is towards the back - I know someone who looks exactly like him at that age (the Bill Cosby look, I calls it).

The √©minence grise in the middle, front centre is Coleman Hawkins, still dressed up in his suit from the night before. Count Basie would probably have had seniority and occupied that top spot but chose instead to sit on the curb with the young neighbourhood scallywags, as his bunnions were hurting him...

There is a DVD available called 'A Great Day in Harlem' which explains the whole background to the photo shoot and also gives insights into the lives of the lesser known musicians who appear in this picture. Think it won a few awards when the movie came out. Well worth a viewing...

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