This morning, I learned that today is the 55th anniversary of this — one of my favorite photographs of all time. I have had it up at pretty much every desk/cubby etc. I’ve worked in.
In many ways, this shot — which came to be known as “A Great Day in Harlem” — is a time-capsule of a shifting moment, something forming/barely stilled — 57 of the jazz world’s architects and luminaries — among them: Colemen Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Lester Young, Charles Mingus, Gene Krupa, Pee Wee Russell, Art Blakey Dizzy Gillespie, Marian McPartland and Sonny Rollins (the latter two, still living).
The image, shot by Art Kane — midmorning , mid-August — just outside a Harlem brownstone at 17 East 126th Street, would eventually be published in Esquire magazine’s January 1959 issue. He would later call the photo: “The greatest picture of that era of musicians ever taken.”
In 1994 radio documentarian Jean Bach’s film documentary, A Great Day in Harlem, recounted the much-like-herding-cats affair. A document that is great and essential in its own right.
Below is a poignant 1996 re-enactment image of the survivors by Gordon Parks:
and here is Jean Bach’s lovely documentary: