August 12, 1958: A Great Day in Harlem

One evening early in August 1958, Nat Hentoff rushed into the Hickory House jazz club in Midtown Manhattan and told Marian McPartland  “You’ve got this date to have this picture taken at 10 o’clock.”


Marian didn’t particularly want to get up that early the next morning, but she did. So did a lot of other cool cats. On Aug. 12, 1958, at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m, fifty-seven of the hippest jazz musicians of the be-bop era gathered on East 126th Street to have their picture taken for Esquire magazine.

As the neighborhood gathered and gawked, the hipsters met and joked with friends, family, scatted about, and even blew a few jazz riffs. Freelance photographer Art Kane bunched them together in front of the steps of two brownstones. Some neighborhood kids plunked down on the curb alongside pianist-bandleader Count Basie who had grown tired of standing, waiting for the shoot to begin.

Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Gene Krupa, Gerry Mulligan, Sonny Rollins were there.  So were Red Allen, Buster Bailey, Emmett Berry, Art Blakey, Lawrence Brown, Scoville Browne, Buck Clayton, Bill Crump, Vic Dickenson, Roy Eldridge, Art Farmer, Bud Freeman, Tyree Glenn, Benny Golson, Sonny Greer, Johnny Griffin, Gigi Gryce, Coleman Hawkins, J.C. Heard, Jay C. Higginbotham, Milt Hinton, Chubby Jackson, Hilton Jefferson, Osie Johnson, Hank Jones, Jo Jones, Jimmy Jones, Taft Jordan, Max Kaminsky, Eddie Locke, Marian McPartland, Oscar Pettiford, Rudy Powell, Luckey Roberts, Jimmy Rushing, Pee Wee Russell, Sahib Shihab, Horace Silver, Zutty Singleton, Stuff Smith, Rex Stewart, Maxine Sullivan, Joe Thomas, Wilbur Ware, Dickie Wells, George Wettling, Ernie Wilkins, Mary Lou Williams, and Lester Young.

At the sight of this august gathering, even the angel Gabriel must have been blowing his trumpet in heaven.

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