Art Kane attributed his famous photograph to being young and naïve. In August 1958 he was hired by Esquire magazine to come up with a photo to open an article about jazz. He figured he would contact every major jazz musician in New York to show up on 126th street in Harlem at 10am to take a group portrait. Getting jazz musicians anywhere together at 10am seemed impossible, but to everyone's surprise 57 musicians showed up. It was Art Kane's first professional photograph.
Perhaps the most famous jazz-related photograph, Art Kane's image has been reproduced in countless books and posters. Art Kane's work is collected into a wonderful book.
Jean Bach's 1994 film, "A Great Day in Harlem" is one of the best documentaries about jazz music. It is filled with anecdotes, history and clips of classic performances. The film shows how jazz is a musical language that a network of artists developed together. While individuals had iconic personalities (such as Charles Mingus or Thelonious Monk), everyone in the portrait performed and recorded with each other.
If you're already a jazz fan this living history of the music is required viewing. If you are new to jazz, the film is a great place to start learning. Get a copy of the DVD and then use the website to jump around to learn more.
The first version of this site was produced in 1995. Since then it has been redesigned, millions of people have visited, but the premise is still simple: explore jazz history through a single photograph. Feedback in any form is appreciated.