A Great Day in Harlem Evokes the Jazz Age

By Comer, Brooke | American Cinematographer, February 1995 | Go to article overview

A Great Day in Harlem Evokes the Jazz Age


Comer, Brooke, American Cinematographer


Jean Bach's hour-long documentary A Great Day in Harlem, slated for a theatrical release this spring, recaptures a lost time in jazz history. Bach, a former journalist and radio producer, was an insider on the jazz circuit during its golden age and has counted among her friends Duke Ellington, Bobby Short, Billy Strayhorn, Lena Horn and Artie Shaw. New Yorker jazz critic Whitney Balliett devoted an entire chapter to her ("The Fan") in his book Barney, Bradley and Max; 16 Portraits in Jazz. "That sums up my role in this film," says Bach. "I'm the enthusiast."

Bach's film was inspired by a 1958 photo for Esquire magazine by Art Kane featuring a gathering of jazz legends. Kane's shoot was an ambitious project, especially considering that it was his first professional photograph. Then a young magazine art director, he assembled the group by putting the word out on the street for all New York jazz musicians to meet him in front of a certain Harlem brownstone at 10:00 a.m. one summer morning. Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Marion McPartland, Milt Hinton, Gene Krupa, Art Farmer, Sonny Rollins, Count Basie, and Thelonius Monk were among the crowd that appeared in the photo. Beginning in 1989, Bach interviewed as many of the surviving group as she could find; the result is A Great Day in Harlem.

Bach decided to make her film while talking to Milt Hinton about his memories of the day the photo was taken. He told her he'd had his wife Mona shoot the gathering with an 8mm movie camera. "A light bulb went on in my head," says the producer. "That's when I decided to make the film."

Bach considers A Great Day in Harlem a tribute to her husband, TV producer Bob Bach. She originally chose to shoot the memorial on videotape. Later, when she realized the potential that the big screen offers, she decided to transfer the 60-minute tape to film. She plans eventually to use the hours of tape that didn't make it into the film for an educational television series.

Steve Petropoulos, a cameraman with a background in documentaries and news for NBC and ABC, was chosen to shoot interview segments. Co-producer Matthew Seig, says Bach, "is the brains of the show." Editor Susan Peehl spent a year and a half making notes under pictures, "then braiding all the information together," says Bach. "I had overshot, and had some 30 hours worth of tape."

Bach began to work on her project before she even saw Milt Hinton's 8mm movie. "I felt like a detective," Bach recalls. "I was constantly trying to find clues and track down elusive musicians. In the case of one man, I was always one woman behind. Every place I called, a woman would tell me he'd left."

In the photo, a line of children sit on the curb in front of the musicians. Bach placed an ad in the Amsterdam News, an African-American newspaper in Manhattan, asking anyone who'd been in the photo to contact her. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Great Day in Harlem Evokes the Jazz Age
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.