In 1958, photographer Art Kane was working for Esquire Magazine. He was asked by the magazine to assemble as many jazz musicians as he could for a photo to accompany a special edition commemorating the “golden age of jazz”. That photo, seen here, became known as “A Great Day in Harlem”, and features an amazing collection of 57 of the top jazzers of the day, including Count Basie, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins and Mary Lou Williams, among others. This photo has become one of the iconic images in jazz and even spawned an Academy Award nominated documentary, also called “A Great Day In Harlem.”
In May of 2007, trumpeter Thomas Marriott put the call out to every Seattle jazz musician he could find that he was going to recreate the historic photo. Nearly 300 musicians turned out to be photographed by Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Daniel Sheehan. I was one of those 300 and I have to say, it was a glorious day! To be surrounded by that many of my peers and idols alike was truly humbling and inspiring. And what’s more, it was all for a good cause, as the proceeds from the sale of the photo are all donated to The MusiCares Foundation, which provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need.
Why am I writing about this now? Because I finally got around to have my photo framed and it brought back all the good feelings from that day. I wanted to share it with you to show you what we can do when we come together as a community. I wish there were more opportunities to bring our community together on a regular basis. Everyone I know who was there that day has talked about the same warm feelings that I had.
I am going to do my best to figure out more ways to bring the jazz community in Seattle together. What have you done in your town to foster community? I’d love to share some ideas that can help us all!