“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.
“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-nomi...
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