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Hank O’Neal: Chasing Ghosts

Interview with author and photographer Hank O’Neal about his book The Ghosts of Harlem

Hank O'Neal
Hank O'Neal
Dizzy Gillespie (1990)
Cab Calloway in 1986
Cab Calloway in 1986 (photo: Hank O'Neal)
Andy Kirk

The term “Renaissance Man” hardly does justice to the life and work of Hank O’Neal. Born in Texas, O’Neal served in the U.S. Army, worked for the CIA, ran a record label with the legendary producer John Hammond and another on his own (Chiaroscuro), created and developed the jazz cruise concept, owned a recording studio, produced records, assisted noted artistic photographers, became a prolific photographer himself and finally wrote and compiled numerous books. We may have left something out, but O’Neal’s reputation as a creative polymath has been sufficiently buttressed.

His latest project in print is a massive volume called The Ghosts of Harlem (Vanderbilt University Press), in which O’Neal looks nostalgically at the Harlem jazz scene through the eyes of the musicians who created it. He spoke at length with JT about his life in and around the world of jazz and photography.

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