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The Great Jazz Day by Charles Graham, etc.

This large-format paperback is a homage to jazz group photos, and as such it provides visual images of more musicians per page than any other jazz book. It is primarily the story of the famous 1958 Art Kane photo originally published in Esquire and the subject more recently of Jean Bach’s superb short film, A Great Day in Harlem. In addition to Kane’s famous image, the book presents what might be considered “alternate takes” of some or all of the assembled luminaries, as captured by Kane, Milt Hinton and Mike Lipskin. After reminiscences from several who were there (including Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver) and capsule biographies of everyone in the photo, there is a section devoted to the Life magazine photo that reconvened the survivors 40 years later.

There is also the equally memorable, if lesser-known, 1961 Herb Snitzer photo of trumpet players in Central Park that appeared in the final issue of Metronome. Dan Morgenstern, who was Metronome’s last editor, recalls the shoot, and there are more concise bios. The volume is completed by a section on “The Golden Age” with a map of Harlem jazz spots and a Ralph Ellison essay; extended bios on eight jazz immortals by Whitney Balliett and Gary Giddins; Milt Hinton’s reminiscence of touring with Louis Armstrong and a final group shot from the 1956 book party that celebrated the publication of Marshall Stearns’ The Story of Jazz.

While many of the essays are available elsewhere, the wealth of images, and the overall organization of the volume, make The Great Jazz Day one of the most intriguing recent books devoted to the music.

Originally Published