A Great Day in Harlem (photograph)

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A Great Day in Harlem or Harlem 1958 is a 1958 black and white group portrait of 57 notable jazz musicians photographed in front of a brownstone in Harlem, New York City. The photo has remained an important object in the study of the history of jazz.

Art Kane, a freelance photographer working for Esquire magazine, took the picture around 10 a.m. on August 12 in the summer of 1958.[1] The musicians had gathered at 17 East 126th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues in Harlem. Esquire published the photo in its January 1959 issue. Kane calls it "the greatest picture of that era of musicians ever taken."

Jean Bach, a radio producer of New York, recounted the story behind it in her 1994 documentary film, A Great Day in Harlem. The film was nominated in 1995 for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.

As of August 2014, only two of the 57 musicians who participated are still living (Benny Golson and Sonny Rollins).

Musicians in the photograph[edit]

A Great Day in Harlem

Children in the picture[edit]

Count Basie, having grown tired of standing, sat down on the curb, and gradually a dozen children followed.[3] Most of the children were neighborhood residents, although the second child from the right, Taft Jordan, Jr., had accompanied his father, Taft Jordan, to the photo session.[3] The photography crew was already having trouble directing the adults, and the presence of the children added to the chaos: one of the children appearing in the window kept yelling at a sibling on the curb; another kept playing with Basie's hat; Taft Jordan, Jr. had been scuffling with the older child seated to his left.[3] Ultimately, Art Kane realized that any further attempt to organize the proceedings would be futile, and he decided to incorporate the subjects' actions.[3]

In cinema[edit]

The photo was a key plot point in Steven Spielberg's film The Terminal. The film starred Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a character who comes to the United States in search of Benny Golson's autograph, with which he can complete his deceased father's collection of autographs from the musicians pictured in the photo.


  1. ^ "Marian McPartland - A Great Day in Harlem". Clarehansson.com. Retrieved 2012-04-12. 
  2. ^ Allmusic Bill Crump biography
  3. ^ a b c d Bach, Jean (2005) [1994]. A Great Day in Harlem (DVD). Event occurs at 34:55. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°48′25″N 73°56′27″W / 40.80694°N 73.94083°W / 40.80694; -73.94083