Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

by Roxanne Orgill

illustrated by Francis Vallejo

In 1958, a graphic designer named Art Kane had an idea: gather as many jazz players as possible in Harlem and take a photograph of them—for free. He put out the word and waited to see what would happen. The result is an iconic photograph published by “Esquire” magazine, now famous around the world. Jazz Day uses poems to tell the story of how the photograph was taken. These poems focus on particular aspects of the famous jazz musicians and of the not-so-famous kids living in the blocks of Harlem. Most of the jazz greats are represented here, including Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Maxine Sullivan. The poems are mainly in free verse, and their rhythms echo the tempo of jazz. So do the illustrations, which are realistic and richly hued (do not forget to take off the dust jacket and admire the artwork on the hard cover). The book includes an “Author’s Note,” explaining the inspiration for the poems, biographies of some of the musicians, the legacy of the photograph in books and film, source notes, and a bibliography. A copy of the original photograph is included. The author and illustrator have managed to combine a great, true story with the poetic and visual arts to produce a book that will become a collector’s item for readers young and old.

Reviewer: Leona Illig