Heres a review about a book about the stories about the movie about the most famous jazz photograph of all time. The book also contains stories about the people in the photographs and stories about the people who made the photograph. It also features some related photographs and stories about those people. It wraps up with still more detailed biographies of people in the photographs just for good measure.
Sounds like a crazy runaway freight train of a book doesn"t it? Remarkably it is not. The Great Jazz Day is a unique collection of memories connected to a moment in time August 1958. The book begins with an eye-witness or photo-journalistic tone but builds steadily into a whole-hearted memorial. The Great Jazz Day in all of its manifestations was and is a joyous celebration of music. There is much for these great jazz musicians to be proud of and it shows on all their faces.
Charles Graham former editor of Down Beat magazine collaborated on this book with Dan Morgenstern director of the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University. As if that wasn"t enough jazz journalism genius Ralph Ellison and Gary Giddins. Jean Bach the unassuming little white woman (and life-long jazz aficionado) who directed the documentary film summarized her attraction to this project "I"ve said nothing about the social matters in discussing the black music makers. I don"t like dwelling on painful subjects. So many jazz movies today are such downers. It's always raining the guys are always strung out on dopeà" Though the topics of race and addiction are not entirely avoidable (e.g. the Charlie Parker biography) The Great Jazz Day is impressively upbeat especially considering the number of perspectives involved.
Remember when your professional wedding photographer painstakingly arranged each shot while your aunt Shirley kept sneaking around behind to snap the same pictures with her point-and-shoot? Thankfully Art Kane allowed several musicians and wives to do the same. The Gillespies and the Hintons supplement this historical day with their own quality photos. Not that he had much control over the massive crowd mind you. This was his first photo shoot ever and none of his subjects had ever heard of him.
The Great Jazz Day could double as a reference guide for jazz fans critical of Ken Burns for his tightly-focused narrative. Readers will enjoy matching names with faces and filling in gaps with biographies on literally dozens of famous jazzmen. With each turn of a page the additional essays reveal anecdotes not found anywhere else.
The photograph itself is an authentic work of art as demonstrated by its cultural impact and enduring media presence. What's more the very gathering of so many phenomenal musicians at such a seminal point in music history is nothing short of an artistic summit. Never before or since have so many jazz greats been gathered in the same place at the same time. Thanks to a labor of love for aficionados by aficionados The Great Jazz Day is now a magnificent book as well.
David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in Saint Louis Missouri USA.