Dallas-area organizations have put together a calendar of events to celebrate April as Jazz Appreciation Month. KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports they started, not with a concert, but a famous photo.
KERA radio story:
Expanded online story:
In 1958, Esquire magazine gathered together a remarkable group of jazz greats. From Thelonius Monk and Count Basie to Gene Krupa and Coleman Hawkins, they all posed on the front steps of a Harlem brownstone for a photo. The legendary photo is often called A Great Day in Harlem after the Oscar-nominated 1994 documentary about the shoot. That summer morning, not every invited musician showed up. The camera assistant Steve Frankfurt explains in the film:
Frankfurt: “I think most of these guys had never seen early morning. Somebody, I forget who it was, said they didn’t realize there were two 10 o’clocks in the same day.”
[crowd noise starts, continues under]
That’s one reason Arlington Jones planned this photo shoot in downtown Dallas for 2 in the afternoon. Jones is the artistic director of the jazz program at the Sammons Center for the Arts.
Jones: “So we tried not to be too early but then not too late. And thankfully, a lot of people seem to be available at this time.”
The idea was to create a local version of A Great Day in Harlem as a way of promoting D’JAM, which stands for Dallas Jazz Appreciation Month.
The Smithsonian began celebrating April as Jazz Appreciation Month ten years ago. This year, Joanna St. Angelo, executive director of the Sammons, thought organizations like the Sammons, the University of North Texas jazz studies program and the South Dallas Cultural Center could do a little something to show people there is jazz in North Texas.
St. Angelo: “And I called, you know, a bunch of my colleagues who were doing jazz. We thought, well, maybe we could string together a week of things that were already happening.”
That week became a solid month of concerts, master classes and exhibitions. The Great Day in Dallas photo shoot was the idea of John Murphy, chair of the UNT Division of Jazz Studies, Stan Levinson of the public relations firm, Levinson & Brinker, but it was up to Arlington Jones and the rest of the D’JAM committee to get the word out and invite every jazz artist they could think of.
[crowd noises return]
On Canton Street, the artists started showing up an hour early, greeting and mingling. The 50 musicians included newcomers and veterans, such as Wendell Sneed, who heads up the Dallas Museum of Art’s Jazz in the Atrium series, and retired professor Paris Rutherford, who was instrumental in building UNT’s jazz program.
Carla Norris-Hopkins (left, talking with Arlington Jones) is a be-bop singer from Louisiana who’s lived in Dallas since 1986.
Norris-Hopkins: “It’s like a reunion in a lot of a ways because some of these guys I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve worked with a lot of them. It’s just good to see them all in one place.”
With police officers directing traffic, photographer Jesse Hornbuckle (right) climbed a ladder in the middle of the street to get a better angle. Some musicians brought their instruments, and as they waited in the sun, Jason Davis entertained the crowd [saxophone playing]
And then it was over [we hear Jesse on the bullhorn: 'OK, everyone let's make some history.’]
Roger Boykin, for one, hopes it’s not over. Boykin is the longtime Dallas producer, musician and jazz teacher at Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet High School. He says jazz has changed over the years, and now it could use an expanded range of support from efforts like D’JAM.
Boykin: “You’re gonna have to have some kind of effort to keep it alive, whether it be some kind of public subsidy because the nightclub scene is not what it used to be. And since jazz has become concert music more so now than dance music, it ought to be respected and revered the same way that classical music is.”
Plans are to sell the Great Day in Dallas photo as a poster at D’JAM events — and for D’JAM to be an annual celebration.
[we hear Davis (below) riffing on ‘The Saints Go Marching In’]