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Mon Mar 11, 2019, 09:07 AM

Is This the Greatest Photo in Jazz History?

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Is This the Greatest Photo in Jazz History?

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/08/nyregion/thelonius-monk-charlier-parker.html?fallback=0&recId=1IJEmQHWYmLt782CGytbBFmAgn7&locked=0&geoContinent=NA&geoRegion=TX&recAlloc=top_conversion&geoCountry=US&blockId=most-popular&imp_id=326733285

A quiet Sunday night in 1953. The Dodgers had just won the pennant. J.F.K. and Jacqueline Bouvier had just married. And four titans of bebop came together in a dive bar for a rare jam session.

A friend gave Bob Parent a tip: be at the Open Door on West 3rd Street on Sunday.

Mr. Parent, a photographer with a knack for showing up at the right time and place, didn’t need much encouragement. He arrived at the jazz club early in the evening of Sept. 13, 1953. It was unseasonably cool for late summer. The New York Times front page detailed the marriage of Senator John F. Kennedy and the glamorous Jacqueline Bouvier in Newport, R.I. The Brooklyn Dodgers had just clinched the pennant in Milwaukee.

The show that night was billed as the Thelonious Monk Trio. Monk, 35, was already a prolific composer and piano innovator, yet it would take a decade for his brilliance to be fully appreciated by mainstream America. The trio was rounded out by Charles Mingus, 31, on standup bass and the youngster Roy Haynes, a 28-year-old hotshot drummer everyone called “Snap Crackle.”

The Open Door was a dark little joint that Mr. Haynes would later characterize as “a dump.” The jazz historian Dan Morgenstern was slightly more generous in his description: “It was a strange place but had great music.” There was an out-of-tune piano in the front room that was presided over on most nights by a woman known as Broadway Rose. She sang popular songs of the day.

<snip>

With Monk, Mingus and Haynes, he had certainly booked a top-shelf trio, reason enough to make the trip downtown. The word on the street that afternoon — and what a savvy Bob Parent already knew — was that there was a good chance Charlie Parker would sit in with the trio.

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Charlie Parker.CreditBob Parent

Parker, the saxophone bebop pioneer, still only 33, had been trying to shake off a bad stretch in his tumultuous career. For reasons unclear, possibly drug- related, Parker had his cabaret license pulled. Without that card he was not allowed to perform in New York clubs where alcohol was served. This ban forced him on the road for some time. Now he was back in the city and living in a rowhouse in Alphabet City with his longtime girlfriend Chan Richardson and their three children. He was eager to get his card back.

Monk was also working without his cabaret card. It would be four more years before he was able to recover his. The cabaret laws were a biased and punitive system that capriciously caused financial suffering for scores of musicians. Any police officer in the city could pull a musician’s card, and there was little they could do about it. On this night, Parker and Monk were taking a chance.

There are no known audio recordings of this gig. The only record of the occurrence of this particular quartet was captured by Bob Parent’s Pressman Speed Graphic camera. Mr. Parent developed a signature technique that allowed him to work without flashbulbs, which performers found distracting. It gave his work a dark and intimate feel.

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Roy Haynes.CreditBob Parent

One photo from the Open Door that night has since become a jazz icon. It shows Parker standing out front, wearing a light suit, two-toned loafers, his arms thrust forward, blowing what appears to be his famous King brass alto saxophone. To Parker’s left is Monk on upright piano, microphone slung over the instrument. Two drinking glasses and a dinner plate perched on top. At Monk’s right is Mingus, slouched over his bass. Along the back wall is Mr. Haynes, his eyes fixed on his bandmates, himself under the gaze of the two mysterious mermaids painted on the wall behind him.

It has since been called by many “the greatest photo in jazz.”

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Haynes at his home in Baldwin, N.Y.CreditJohnny Milano for The New York Times

Mr. Haynes is now 93, the only living member of the quartet that night. He still has memories of that performance. “It was beautiful, man,” he said recently. “I was at a very young age. So I was enjoying it. Playing with great people. “

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A photograph thought to show Jack Kerouac in the audience.CreditBob Parent

That brings up an interesting question. A lesser-known photograph shows a glimpse of some audience members. In the background, at a front table, there sits a dark-haired man in a dark shirt smoking a cigarette. It has been speculated over the years he may very well be Jack Kerouac.

It was at this time that Kerouac was researching the underground jazz scene for a book that would later become “The Subterraneans.” And according to Joy Johnson, the author of a Beat scene book, “Minor Characters,” and Kerouac’s girlfriend for a time in the late 1950s, it would have made sense for Kerouac to have been at the Open Door. His devotion to Charlie Parker was well known.

“It’s certainly possible,” she said. “He was in New York at the time the photo was taken.” She has seen the photograph, and she said it looks enough like him. “There is no way of knowing for sure,” she added. “Also I question whether he would have been sitting at a front table, given how broke he was at the time.”

<snip>

A version of this article appears in print on March 9, 2019, on Page MB5 of the New York edition with the headline: Four Titans of Bebop, and ‘the Greatest Photo in Jazz’.

14 replies, 1016 views

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Arrow 14 replies Author Time Post
Reply Is This the Greatest Photo in Jazz History? (Original post)
marble falls Mar 2019 OP
MyOwnPeace Mar 2019 #1
MuseRider Mar 2019 #2
marble falls Mar 2019 #3
Ohiya Mar 2019 #4
Ohiya Mar 2019 #5
marble falls Mar 2019 #10
Ohiya Mar 2019 #13
Tactical Peek Mar 2019 #6
dixiegrrrrl Mar 2019 #8
Brother Buzz Mar 2019 #14
marble falls Mar 2019 #9
progressoid Mar 2019 #7
marble falls Mar 2019 #11
Mr Tibbs Mar 2019 #12

Response to marble falls (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 09:41 AM

1. Fascinating!

Thanks for the post!!

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Response to marble falls (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 09:48 AM

2. Good God that must have been something! n/t

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Response to MuseRider (Reply #2)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 10:06 AM

3. It would have really been something. Especially if there had been a recording.

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Response to marble falls (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 10:25 AM

4. I was thinking of this one..

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Response to Ohiya (Reply #4)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 10:27 AM

5. A Great Day in Harlem

Musicians in the photograph
Red Allen
Buster Bailey
Count Basie
Emmett Berry
Art Blakey
Lawrence Brown
Scoville Browne
Buck Clayton
Bill Crump[2]
Vic Dickenson
Roy Eldridge
Art Farmer
Bud Freeman
Dizzy Gillespie
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
Gene Krupa
Eddie Locke
Marian McPartland
Charles Mingus
Miff Mole
Thelonious Monk
Gerry Mulligan
Oscar Pettiford
Rudy Powell
Luckey Roberts
Sonny Rollins
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
Lester Young

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Response to marble falls (Reply #10)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 07:59 PM

13. Thanks,

I remember seeing the documentary about this photo on PBS.

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Response to Tactical Peek (Reply #6)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 11:49 AM

8. ty for the names in the pic...


Would love to know the background story that got them to pose together.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #8)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 09:04 PM

14. You can start here:

Basically inexperienced leading the inexperienced, not realizing nailing Jello to a tree was easier then getting all of them together at one time. But it happened, and even the sleepy musicians realized it was magical morning in history.



https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/amazing-photograph-jazz-history/

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Response to Ohiya (Reply #4)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 10:33 AM

7. Nice!

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Response to marble falls (Original post)

Mon Mar 11, 2019, 07:55 PM

12. My father was stationed in NYC at that time

 

He was in the Army and stationed in Manhattan for a year in 1952 - 53. His barracks were on Staten Island. He was a hardcore jazz aficionado, so he spent every possible minute in the jazz clubs in Manhattan, watching many jazz legends performing in their prime.

He was lucky as hell.

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