|August 25, 2011
On a warm summer morning in 1958, Esquire magazine editors arranged a meeting of jazz musicians to pose for a “class photo” in front of a Harlem brownstone for the [...]
On a warm summer morning in 1958, Esquire magazine editors arranged a meeting of jazz musicians to pose for a “class photo” in front of a Harlem brownstone for the January 1959 special issue entitled “The Golden Age of Jazz.” This emblematic image was taken by Art Kane, an Esquire design editor who had never worked as a professional photographer before.
Zooming in and out of the photograph, director Jean Bach combines archival black-and-white footage, home-movie color footage of the photograph being taken, as well as interviews with Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Dizzy Gillespie, Marian McPartland, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver and others who were present that day. Other prominent interviewees include the photographer Art Kane, and the Esquire graphics editor, Robert Benton.
In addition, the film offers brief portraits of Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Maxine Sullivan, Mary Lou Williams and Lester Young. Finally, several of the neighborhood kids who snuck into the photograph tell their stories. Narrated by Quincy Jones, A Great Day in Harlem masterfully recalls what was most likely the reatest assembly of jazz musicians ever at one place. A must- (or should-) see for jazz fans, this film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.