Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

Sunday Sounds – A Great Day In Harlem


The above picture “A Great Day In Harlem” is perhaps one of the most iconic photographs in the history of music.

Art Kane, a freelance photographer working for Esquire magazine, took the picture around 10 a.m. 12th August 1958. The musicians had gathered on 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues in Harlem.

Esquire published the photo in its January 1959 issue. Jean Bach, a radio producer of New York, recounted the story behind it in her 1994 documentary film, A Great Day in Harlem. The film was nominated in 1995 for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

The photo was also a key object in Steven Spielberg’s film, The Terminal. The film starred Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a character who comes to the United States in search of Benny Golson’s autograph, with which he can complete his deceased father’s collection of autographs from the musicians pictured in the photo.

Only four musicians in the photo are still alive: Benny Golson, Marian McPartland, Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver.

Musicians in the photograph

  • Red Allen
  • Buster Bailey
  • Count Basie
  • Emmett Berry
  • Art Blakey
  • Lawrence Brown
  • Scoville Browne
  • Buck Clayton
  • Bill Crump
  • Vic Dickenson
  • Roy Eldridge
  • Art Farmer
  • Bud Freeman
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Tyree Glenn
  • Benny Golson
  • Sonny Greer
  • Johnny Griffin
  • Gigi Gryce
  • Coleman Hawkins
  • J.C. Heard
  • Jay C. Higginbotham
  • Milt Hinton
  • Chubby Jackson
  • Hilton Jefferson
  • Osie Johnson
  • Hank Jones
  • Jo Jones
  • Jimmy Jones
  • Taft Jordan
  • Max Kaminsky
  • Gene Krupa
  • Eddie Locke
  • Marian McPartland
  • Charles Mingus
  • Miff Mole
  • Thelonious Monk
  • Gerry Mulligan
  • Oscar Pettiford
  • Rudy Powell
  • Luckey Roberts
  • Sonny Rollins
  • Jimmy Rushing
  • Pee Wee Russell
  • Sahib Shihab
  • Horace Silver
  • Zutty Singleton
  • Stuff Smith
  • Rex Stewart
  • Maxine Sullivan
  • Joe Thomas
  • Wilbur Ware
  • Dickie Wells
  • George Wettling
  • Ernie Wilkins
  • Mary Lou Williams
  • Lester Young
“When I found out there was going to be this big meeting for a picture in Esquire,” Dizzy Gillespie recalled, “I said to myself, ‘Here’s my chance to see all these musicians without going to a funeral.'”
The subjects caught in Kane’s lens spanned the stylistic range from New Orleans to Chicago to Swing to Bebop to Modern. The oldest, Harlem stride pianist Luckey Roberts, was 71.
The youngest, Sonny Rollins, was 27. Yet the concept of cliques was alien to all. Rollins, for example, viewed his onsite elders Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young as personal heroes, direct inspiration for his own calling as a musician.
“Body and Soul” – Coleman Hawkins
“Plain Jane” – Sonny Rollins
For more information visit the Official Art Kane website by clicking HERE
All of the above is a mere drop in the ocean that is jazz.
To buy the music of Sonny Rollins click HERE
To buy the music of Coleman Hawkins click HERE
PS Art Kane was also responsible for this photograph of The Who which was edited for use as the cover of the film soundtrack “The Kids Are Alright”

June 20, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Interesting Fact, Jazz, Old Music, Photography, Video | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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