Updated: Feb 27
“It’s A Great Day in Harlem,” a black and white photograph by Art Kane taken in 1958, is a national treasure. It’s also the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary in 1994 and the children’s book Jazz Day: The Making of A Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo in 2016. The photo was taken in front of 17 East 126th St. between Fifth and Madison. Kane chose this particular address because it was near both rail and subway stations, and it looked like a typical street in Harlem where the black jazz musicians of the day might live. Rents were inexpensive and the neighborhood was friendly. The 33-year-old Kane put out a call for musicians to show up for the photo that would appear in Esquire magazine at every venue he believed would attract them. The early call for 10 AM probably posed a hardship for the notorious night owls, but they showed dressed in their finest, 57 in all. Among those who stood on the curb and stoop were Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Mingus. Count Basie sits on the curb with an even dozen youngsters from the block. Mary Lou Williams chats with Marian McPartland and three younger children observe from a window of the brownstone. If you have not already studied Kane’s image at least once, you need to check it out. A picture that tells many thousands of words or none at all excepting “awe.”
And I bring this up because…
…the cover of a new album by The Ed Palermo Big Band, A Lousy Day in Harlem. There Palermo sits, in a Lewis Black-ish pose, on the curb in front of 17 East 126th St. Alone. Spiffy suit, straw hat, but no band members. Maybe it was just too early for them. In any case, the album gets great reviews for its musicianship and Palermo’s sense of humor shines through.
Satchmo, Dodo, Pharaoh, Philly Joe,
Chico, Django, Dolo, Hi De Ho.
Snakehips, Hot Lips, Jeru ‘n Chu,
Eubie, Baby, Chubby, Tubby and Bu.
Plenty Kings, Queen just one, deuce of Jacks,
Gardens of Buds, pair of Boots and Sax.
Duke, Count, Baron, and Papa Jo,
A palette of Reds, Rosy ‘n Blue Lou.
So many Kids, Big Mama, ‘n Fatha,
Frog, Fox, piece of Cake, Maharaja.
Cag, Hog and Jug, Keg and Ragbaby,
The Senator, Guvnor, Pres and First Lady.
Cornbread and Fathead, the Judge ‘n Captain,
Bounce, Flip, Leap Frog over your Hammond.
There’s Tram, Slam, a Slim and a Ham,
Beaver, Mousie, Hawk, Hootie ‘n The Lamb.
Jaco and Guido, Dink, Chink, and Yank,
Spike, Punch, and Corky, Tex, Mex and Hank.
Brownie and Deedles, Bird and Crane,
Keter, Klook, Big Chief, Bubber and Trane.
The High Priestess of Soul, Professor Longhair,
Ol Blue Eyes, The Prince of Darkness, Papa and Bear.
The Divine One, Lord, God, and Tain,
Even The Great Dane with the Never-Ending Name.
The Fantastic Nicknames of Jazz - The real names
Louis Armstrong, Michael Marmarosa, Farrell Sanders, Joe Jones
Earl Freeman, Jean Baptiste Reinhart, Charles Mitchell Coker, Cab Calloway
Ken Johnson, Oran Page, Gerry Mulligan, Leon Berry
James Hubert Blake, Warren Dodds, Greig Stewart Jackson, Alfred Hall, Art Blakey
Buddy Bolden, Peggy Lee, Truman Eliot Jenney & Weldon Teagarden,
Earl Rudolph Powell & Bernard Rich, Clifford Douglas & Henry Mussulli, Oett Mallard
Edward Ellington, William Basie, Charles Mingus, Jonathan David Samuel Jones
Kenneth Norville, James McHargue, Lou Marini
Avery Howard, Willie Mae Thornton, Earl Hines
Ben Webster, Maynard Ferguson, Al Wichard, Oscar Peterson
Ernie Cagnolatti, Leroy Cooper, Gene Ammons, Frederic Johnson, Joe Stephens
Eugene Wright, Ken Colyer, Lester Young, Ella Fitzgerald
Hal Singer, David Newman, Milt Hinton, John Handy
George Mraz, Joseph Edward Filipelli, James Joseph Bennett, Johnny Smith
Frank Trumbauer, Leroy Stewart, Bulee Gaillard, Leonard Davis
William Harris, Elmer Alexander, Coleman Hawkins, Jay McShann, Donald Lambert
John Pastorius, Nicholas Krolak, Ollie Johnson, Martin Abraham, John Lawson,
Edward Bertholf Robinson, Ernest Miller, Edward Cornelius, Gordon Lee Beneke,
Paul Gonsalves, Bernie Ross Crawford
Clifford Brown, Diane Schuur, Charlie Parker, Dave Burns
William Thomas Betts, Kenny Clarke, Russell Moore, James Miley, John Coltrane
Nina Simone, Henry Byrd,
Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Louis Tio, Eddie Costa
Sarah Vaughan, Chauncey Westbrook, Art Tatum, Jeff Watts
Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen